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9 Ways to Stay Healthy and Fit on a Cruise Vacation

9 Ways to Stay Healthy and Fit on a Cruise Vacation


It’s summer vacation time, and as they survey destination options, many families look to cruises as the ideal trip.After all, cruises can be significantly cheaper than European vacations, or even a trip to Disney. For those of you that have booked a cruise this summer or want to, one of the most enticing aspects of a sea voyage is the copious amount of food. ​

9 Ways to Stay Healthy and Fit on a Cruise Vacation (Slideshow)

Many cruises offer all-inclusive dining options: endless all-you-can-eat buffets, multiple restaurants to choose from, and unlimited ice cream bars all in one place. But all of that food may be daunting to someone who wants to take a cruise vacation without packing on the pounds.

Even if you’re on a diet or want to fit into bathing suit throughout your vacation, you can still have a sensible time on your cruise without sacrificing the fun. We spoke to a panel of nutrition experts and travel agents and rounded up nine tips for staying healthy and lean on your cruise vacation — even in the face of so much “free” food. You can still eat at the buffet and indulge a little (hey — it is your vacation, after all), but you may want to skip out on the midnight buffets, say no to unlimited ice cream, and become familiar with the ship’s gym before setting sail.

Be All-Inclusive Wary

It’s easy to get excited about the all-inclusive aspects of your vacation, but it’s best to avoid the siren song of endless food. “All-inclusive excursions may sound enticing, but more often than not, you'll be inclined to get your money's worth by overindulging,” says David Glenn, owner of Shoreside Travel in San Antonio, Texas. “Instead, opt for an active excursion with a pay-as-you-go option. Most everything is negotiable, and it never hurts to ask.”

Breakfast Is Crucial

The most important meal of the day on a cruise ship is breakfast. If you skip breakfast, you’ll be more likely to overeat at lunch, and if you cheat at breakfast, you still have plenty of time to swim off those calories. Dr. Joanne Williams, a certified holistic nutritionist, suggests going for power breakfasts like oatmeal, fruit smoothies, egg white omelettes, and Greek yogurt.


9 Helpful Tips To Avoid Weight Gain on a Cruise

My family and I just returned from a 10-day cruise aboard the new Carnival Vista which started in Barcelona and ended in Athens. What an incredible experience sailing and eating my way through the Mediterranean. Like most people, gaining weight on a cruise is incredibly easy. I put on 5 pounds during my first cruise a few years back and losing those pounds was a challenge so I made it my mission this time around not to repeat those mistakes and can happily report that my efforts were a success (I actually lost 1 pound!).

This doesn’t mean I sacrificed enjoying great meals and cocktails while on vacation, after all I was there to taste authentic European cuisine (yes, I ate mozzarella, gelato and pizza in Italy, wine and macarons in France, spinach pie in Greece, etc.) and have lots of fun. If avoiding the dreaded weight gain while cruising is a high priority for you I’ve created a few simple strategies to help you find balance as you navigate the abundant sea of buffets, restaurants and watering holes available during your cruise.

1. Balance is key.

There are certainly lots of temptation on a cruise – buffets, cocktails, dessert, pizza, cheeseburgers, ice cream, lava cake! But there are also tons of healthy options, so it’s about making the best choices and keeping your portions under control. The dining room on most cruise ships usually serves smaller portions, and may even offer a low calorie dessert option. Sharing dessert is also a great way to have a taste without overdoing it. The buffets also offer plenty of healthier options such as carving stations, salad bars, fresh fruit, oatmeal and omelet stations, whole grain breads, eggs, vegetables, soups and more. Load up on salads, veggies, soup and lean proteins. Don’t rush through your meals, relax you’re on vacation! If you eat at a moderate pace while enjoying the company you are with, before you know it you will be full and satisfied and wont be as tempted to go back for seconds.

2. Eat off the spa menu.

Rather than indulging in burgers and fries for lunch I opted for the salad bar. Many ships have a spa menu such as the Vista’s Serenity Salad Bar which had all the fixins such as a variety of fresh lettuce and herb options, quinoa, chia, veggies, etc. Yum!

3. Eat fresh local seafood.

Take advantage of the fresh fish and shellfish both on and off the ship whenever possible. This was easy to do on the Vista, in my travels in Greece at Rhodes and Crete, I ordered grilled octopus and grilled calamari at quaint restaurants. Back on board the ship, the dining room often offered a catch of the day from the Port of Call. Carnival’s Bonsai Restaurant has incredible sushi for a low price and new to the Vista, their Seafood Shack also offers the local catch of the day prepared fresh and served anywhere on board, anytime, any style, any sauce. My oldest daughter loves Bronzino so we ordered this earlier in the day (fresh from Naples) and it was prepared, grilled perfectly and conveniently sent to our dinner table.

4. Avoid the all-you-can-drink package and skip the sugary drinks.

Cocktails are calorie-ridden and they add up quick. When you purchase the drink package, the mentality is that you need to get your money’s worth and chances are you’ll order a drink even if you don’t want one. Many cocktails, especially the umbrella drinks are loaded with sugar, fruit juice, creams, etc. Instead opt for a wine with dinner, and if you really want a pina colada, treat it more like a dessert and stick to just one. For those who love carbonated sugary sodas my husband says the best kept secret is simple….”Get the seltzer with fresh lemon”! All the effervescent, bubbly goodness without all the sugar.

5. Pack your sneakers and your gym clothes.

Again, I do believe in balance so enjoying a cocktail or dessert with dinner isn’t the end of the world. Instead, hit the fitness center and work it out! Where else can you work out while enjoying those beautiful ocean views while sweating off those calories. Take advantage of the on-board gyms and fitness centers.

6. Use the track.

On most cruise ships you’ll find an outdoor track on the promenade deck where you can walk or jog laps. What can be better than a track with an ever changing ocean-view landscape! On the Carnival Vista, 7 laps around the track was equal to a mile.

7. Skip the elevator and take the stairs.

I did a ton of walking on the ship in order to get from my room to the pool, spa, dining, kids camp, shows, comedy clubs, the bars, etc. front to back, bottom to the top. Taking the stairs whenever possible is a great way to get to your destination while burning some calories along the way.

8. Track your steps and set a goal.

Using a Fitbit, pedometer or a phone app that tracks your steps (my iPhone comes with a free Health App that does this) set a goal for yourself and stick to it. Traveling through Europe I did a ton of walking (especially in Rome), so take advantage of excursions that allow you to get in some exercise enjoying your destination.

9. Burning calories while having fun aboard.

Ping pong, the sky course, the pool, sky ride, basketball, mini golf, the sport square – there’s so many ways to stay active while on board, take advantage of everything the ship has to offer and most of all don’t forget to have fun. Bon Voyage!

I hope you find these tips useful for your next cruise! Have you been on a cruise? Do you have additional tips you can share on how you navigate the seas while watching your waistline?

Disclosure: Carnival Cruise invited me as Press to experience their new ship, the Carnival Vista. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Skinnytaste possible. All thoughts are always my own.


9 Ways to Stay Healthy and Fit on a Cruise Vacation - Recipes

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Cruise Ship Travel

Don&rsquot risk spoiling your cruise vacation with an unexpected illness. Follow these tips for a safe and healthy cruise vacation.

For many people, a cruise is an ideal way to relax and see the world. You are surrounded by the gorgeous blue of the ocean, get waited on hand and foot, have activities and events planned for you, and are provided with a seemingly limitless supply of food and drinks&mdashall while having the opportunity to visit multiple countries and destinations.

Although cruising has many obvious pleasures, potential health hazards are also a risk with cruise ship travel. Staying informed and preparing for these potential hazards can help you stay healthy and get the most out of your cruise vacation.

Vaccines

Regardless of your itinerary, you should be up-to-date on routine vaccines, such as measles/mumps/rubella, varicella, and seasonal flu. Crew members and fellow travelers often come from countries where these diseases are more common than in the United States and where vaccination is not routine. Consequently, outbreaks of chickenpox and rubella (German measles) have been reported on cruise ships.

Additional vaccines you'll need depend on where you'll be stopping and what you're going to do there. CDC's general vaccination recommendations, by country, can be found on the Travelers' Health destination pages. However, discuss the cruise itinerary and your specific travel plans with your doctor. If you're stopping in a country only for a short time, or if you don't plan to leave the tourist area around the dock, certain vaccines may not be necessary.

Even if you are not at risk for yellow fever during port calls, some countries in Africa and South America may require proof of yellow fever vaccination if you have previously visited a country with yellow fever. Visit the destination pages for a country's yellow fever requirements. Cruise ship companies sometimes have requirements that differ from those of the countries you will be visiting, so be sure to check with the cruise line about those requirements as well.

Vomiting and Diarrhea

If you are traveling to an area with Zika, be sure to follow CDC recommendations to stay healthy and safe. All travelers to areas with Zika should prevent mosquito bites. Zika can also be passed through sex from a person who has Zika to his or her sex partners, so travelers should use condoms. Condoms include male and female condoms.

Because Zika during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects, pregnant women should not travel to areas with Zika. Couples who are trying to become pregnant should talk to their doctor about their travel plans and see CDC guidance for how long you should wait to get pregnant after travel to an area with Zika.

Even if you do not feel sick, you should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks after returning from an area with Zika. If a mosquito bites an infected person while the virus is still in that person&rsquos blood, it can spread the virus by biting another person. You should also use condoms after travel to areas with Zika to protect your partners. Couples with a pregnant partner should either use condoms or not have sex during the pregnancy.

For more information on Zika and travel, visit the Zika Travel Information website.

Cruise ship outbreaks of vomiting and diarrhea, primarily caused by norovirus, have been reported. The best way to prevent illness is frequent handwashing with soap and water. Wash your hands before eating and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or touching things that other people have touched, such as stair railings it is also a good idea to avoid touching your face.

While on shore excursions, especially in developing countries, follow basic food and water precautions: eat only food that is cooked and served hot, drink only beverages from sealed containers, avoid ice, and eat fresh produce only if you have washed it with clean water and peeled it yourself.

If you are feeling sick before your voyage, ask your cruise line if alternative cruising options are available. Consult your doctor to find out whether it is safe for you to sail. If you feel sick during your voyage, report your symptoms to the ship&rsquos medical facility and follow their recommendations. For more information about vomiting and diarrhea on cruise ships, visit CDC&rsquos Vessel Sanitation Program website.

Other Health Concerns

Respiratory diseases are also common on cruise ships. Frequent handwashing can keep you from getting sick, and coughing or sneezing into a tissue (not your hand) can prevent you from spreading germs. Getting a flu shot is the best way to keep from getting the flu.

Seasickness is a common complaint of cruise ship passengers. If you are (or think you might be) prone to seasickness, talk to your doctor about medicine to decrease your symptoms. Note that many common medications (including some antidepressants, painkillers, and birth control pills) can worsen the nausea of seasickness.

Various stressors associated with cruising&mdashchanges in diet, variation in climate, changes to sleep and activity patterns&mdashcan worsen a chronic illness. If you have been diagnosed with such an illness, you should be prepared to monitor your health while on a cruise (for example, frequently testing your blood sugar if you have diabetes). If you regularly take medicine for a chronic illness, make sure you bring enough for the duration of the cruise, plus extra in case of delays, and take it on the same schedule as you would at home.

For more information on healthy travel, visit www.cdc.gov/travel.

Travel Health Insurance and Evacuation Insurance

You should check with your regular health insurance company to see if your policy will cover any medical care you might need in another country or on board the ship. If not, you can purchase travel health insurance to cover you during your trip.

Also, look for gaps in your insurance coverage. For example, your health insurance might not cover medical evacuation if you cannot receive needed treatment where you are. Evacuation by air ambulance can cost $50,000&ndash$100,000 and must be paid in advance by people who do not have insurance. You can buy medical evacuation insurance to be sure you will have access to emergency care. See more information on travel health insurance.


I Went On A Weight Loss Cruise, And Here's What Happened

Many people think cruises are synonymous with weight gain, thanks to all the lounging around and endless buffets. But I actually love cruises and have found that they're fairly compatible with my healthy lifestyle: It's less than a five-minute walk from my cabin to the gym, and there are always plenty of fresh fruits and veggies at mealtimes. That said, it takes some serious willpower to pass up the dessert buffet, and I don't always return home at my pre-cruise weight.

(Prevention's new program makes eating real food&mdashor, as we like to say, eating clean&mdasheasy! With Eat Clean, Lose Weight & Love Every Bite, nothing is off limits.)

But what if you could board a ship, enjoy a vacation, and come back in even better shape than before? It might sound like a crazy concept, but several healthy lifestyle companies have taken on the challenge and are now offering spa-, fitness-, and nutrition-themed cruises.

I was skeptical but intrigued, so when I got invited to participate in the Weight Watchers Rejuvenation Vacation at Sea, I eagerly hopped aboard. I admit I wasn't sure what to expect. Would being on a diet-themed cruise kill the vacation vibe? Would I feel too restricted? Would the cruise somehow feel like work? Here's how it went.

The cruise sailed from Miami around the Caribbean ports of call were Jamaica, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and the Bahamas, plus there were two at-sea days. Throughout the cruise&mdashand especially on the at-sea days&mdashthere were optional meetings, lectures, fitness classes, and cooking classes. These were all designed to get people to think beyond the scale and to really focus on a healthy lifestyle. (Stay up-to-date on breaking health news, with these .)

I decided to attend the cooking classes, because I hate to cook and thought they might inspire me. I learned how to make some simple food swaps and adjustments, which seemed useful. Instead of deep-frying coconut shrimp, we baked the shrimp but used panko instead of regular breadcrumbs to cut calories while maintaining the crispy flavor. (Here are 9 more cooking secrets that seriously up the health-factor in your food.)

While I enjoyed the cooking classes, what I really loved was having the opportunity to explore some new fitness options. I'm an exercise junkie, and I hit the gym an hour a day at home. But I've always been of the mindset that if you don't sweat a ton, it's not worth it. Yet with several days free to try new things, I found myself signing up for things like Chi Flow, an exercise class that combines meditation, slow-flowing movements, and low-intensity cardio intervals.

It turns out I adore Chi Flow&mdashnot for the physical workout, but for the mental one. I started out a bit stressed (I showed up a few minutes late and the place was packed, so it was hard to find a spot), and yet by the end I felt really good, super chill and relaxed. The "pushing away of the negative energy" and "bringing forward the positive" was definitely a bit woo-woo, but once I let go and really focused on the movement, it was kind of wonderful. I probably didn't burn many calories, but I left feeling healthier and lighter. (If you like tai chi, you'll love this low-impact workout that's a proven inflammation fighter.)

Being on the cruise also gave me the opportunity to tackle weight loss from a social perspective. Studies show that losing weight with a friend or partner increases the chances of keeping it off, but I've always gone down that path alone and wasn't sure how I'd feel about making it a group thing. The cruise included several focus meetings, so I figured I might as well check them out. They definitely felt like group therapy, but that wasn't a bad thing. I was also surprised about how much we discussed that didn't have to do directly with weight: One mom said her family wasn't connecting anymore, because there was too much screen time at home others were dealing with sick relatives and demanding jobs. Most of the topics were pretty relatable, and I walked away feeling like part of a supportive community. And after talking about difficult situations, my desire to eat my emotions via a cookie didn't seem as strong.


Take a lunch break walk

Shutterstock

Research by Mercy Medical Center shows that an overwhelming number of Americans—about 42 percent—are deficient in vitamin D. The vitamin is responsible for not only strengthening your bones but also for helping to boost your mood and immunity. One of the best ways to get more D is to simply step outside. Ever notice some of your coworkers slipping out for 30 minutes during lunch? They've got it right. Getting more vitamin D can help you stick with your fitness plan because you'll likely be happier more often, and sick less often.


4. Fight Jet Lag

You don't want to miss out on the first half of your cruise because you're so jet lagged that you're not sleeping well or sleeping at all the wrong hours. While everyone's body handles jet lag differently, one recommendation is to arrive at a far-away cruise port a day or two in advance. You can spend those early days in port getting acclimated to the time change so you don't collapse on your first day onboard.

Other tricks include not taking a nap on your first day and staying up until a reasonable bedtime spending a lot of time outside to take in as much natural light as possible and choosing a medical remedy, such as melatonin, which helps your body's circadian rhythms adjust to a new time zone. (Just check with your doctor to make sure this option is right for you).

Learn more about how to get the most from your pre-cruise stay.


9 Ways to Handle Nosy People

Nosy questions. We all face them for different reasons. Perhaps while making small talk with an acquaintance you inadvertently confront a topic you’d rather not discuss. It could be a question as simple as the reason your name doesn’t match that of your partner, children, or parents: “Were you married before?” “What was your family’s name before your father changed it?” Or, the question could pertain to some fact about yourself that you’d prefer to keep to yourself: “Why aren't you drinking tonight?" You feel it's no one else's business.

The questions we consider too personal may not come from strangers. Sometimes friends or coworkers discover something about you they didn’t know before, such as how you took five years to complete high school. The reason might have been something very personal, that you rather no one know. You feel obligated to explain, however, because the questioner seems genuinely interested.

In these situations, people commonly fabricate something that’s not quite true that may satisfy and the conversation continues. This strategy may haunt you later, however, if the facts surface. If your partner remembers it, you'll have to continue the pretense from then on out.

Or, you may be talking with a person performing a service for you, such as getting your hair styled or going to the dentist. Your service provider may venture into territory that feels overly personal. You’re unable to move away and faced with an onslaught of probing questions, all you can do is squirm or feign sleep.

Generally, psychologists do not study the problem of nosiness. A concept called "nepotistic nosiness," however, was the topic of a 2007 article published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior by University of British Columbia psychologists Jason Faulkner and Mark Schaller. They addressed how knowing about those we mate with would benefit the species.

Faulkner and Schaller point out that “it is no surprise… that when matters of sex intersect with matters of kinship, people care a lot” (p. 430). According to the principle of “inclusive fitness,” we care (and should care) the most about the people genetically closest to us. It would be appropriate, by this way of thinking, to be nosy about the sex lives of our first-degree kin, because what benefits them benefits us.

Before you regard this as a license to interrogate your siblings, parents, or children about the details of their sex lives, remember that this approach to understanding nosiness is somewhat narrow. You may have an evolutionary right to gain inside information about your relatives, but your nosy questions may not be appreciated. Similarly, these people may have the right to query you, but you may not feel like providing answers.

While there are no empirically-tested prescriptions for how to understand and deal with nosiness, the psychology of communication can help.

Here are 9 ways to handle the unpleasant questions that invade your boundaries:

1. Notice the cues that signal oncoming nosiness.

If you fear the person next to you in a bus, airplane, or waiting room will pry, arrange the situation so that you don’t have to go deeper into conversation. Consider getting something to read or fiddle with your phone. If that fails, politely answer a few questions and shift your attention elsewhere.

2. Tell the truth.

As stated earlier, once you start to lie, you may find yourself inextricably bound to facts that later conversations can’t support. You don’t have to give all the facts, but be honest about what (if anything) you decide to share.

3. Decide what makes the question “nosy.”

The questioner may have no ill will in mind, but is just asking an ordinary question. It may just feel nosy because it relates to something in your life about which you're sensitive. If so, feeling invaded may help you to understand some of your own personal insecurities and concerns.

4. Keep the notion of "inclusive fitness" in mind.

If the survival of our families is our priority, relatives may ask you questions, not because they care about you, but because they care about themselves. The search for information, perhaps on your ability to have children, may fit into this evolutionary framework and not reflect any of your own shortcomings.

5. Practice a socially acceptable way to respond to common questions.

If you repeatedly get the same question, create an answer to use that helps you avoid anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.

6. Use deflection.

Rather than deception, change the subject. The questioner may not be happy, but if you feel that things are getting too personal, shift the focus. If you’re at a social gathering, find a way to move on to someone else (“I need to refill my plate”) or engage someone nearby in conversation and then discretely move on.

7. State your discomfort.

It may not seem socially acceptable to let someone know you feel invaded but, by making your desires known, you do both of you a favor. Because people may not realize that an “innocent” question is too personal, most will respect your desire for distance and appreciate your honesty in communicating this.

8. Realize that some people are “compulsive communicators.”

Some individuals can’t stop talking. A 2015 paper by Oakland University’s Robert Sidelinger and Angelo State’s Derek Bolen described how some students can’t stop talking in class, and some instructors don’t know when to give those students a chance to participate. Some hairstylists and dental assistants repeatedly question their clients or patients because they don’t know another way to interact. You need not be forced to listen to their chatter if it becomes burdensome. Through nonverbal cues, let them know you prefer a little peace and quiet.

9. Don’t be too nosy yourself.

We more often recognize other's failings than our own similar ones. Perhaps your conversation partner is reciprocating the cues you provide through your own questions. Stop and consider whether you inquired a bit too much in the past. If so, reduce it on your end to help maintain conversational boundaries.

Copyright Susan Krauss Whitbourne 2015

Faulkner, J., & Schaller, M. (2007). Nepotistic nosiness: Inclusive fitness and vigilance of kin members' romantic relationships. Evolution and Human Behavior, 28(6), 430-438. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2007.06.001

Sidelinger, R. J., & Bolen, D. M. (2015). Compulsive communication in the classroom: Is the talkaholic teacher a misbehaving instructor?. Western Journal of Communication, 79(2), 174-196. doi:10.1080/10570314.2014.943416


15 Amazing Staycation Ideas That Won't Blow Your Budget

No time or budget for a weekend getaway? These cheap staycations are surprisingly luxurious.

If you just need to get away from it all but don't have the funds or vacation time to take a big family vacation, consider a staycation instead. Sometimes it feels even more luxurious to just languish in your own home, avoiding your responsibilities, foregoing pants, and spending your time however you dang well please. Whether you have a significant other to hole up with or you take some time to really treat yo'self solo, these staycation ideas will help you live your best life even if you're on a tight budget.

Some of our favorite staycation activities cost no money at all, while others are definitely cheaper than a plane ticket or hotel stay. And all of them require just a little bit of creativity, so you'll have a good story to tell your coworkers when you come back to work refreshed and ready to get back into the grind. And best of all, they'll all fit into a day or even a few hours (think at-home spa days and movie nights), so you can string a few of our ideas together for a longer at-home vacay or take a personal day to spend it on yourself. Try a few and you'll have the best spring break recap in the break room.


50 Ways to Live a Longer, Healthier Life

If your favorite vegetable isn't in season, grab a frozen bag of it for the same nutritional value.

The editors at AARP have filtered through numerous medical journals and studies to identify the best actions you can take to achieve a longer, fuller life. We know there are no guarantees. But genetics account for just 25 percent of a person’s longevity. The rest is up to you. With this collection of some of the most important longevity findings, you’ll have the road map you need to get to 80, 90, 100 or beyond.

You can eat a balanced diet even when fresh fruits and vegetables are out of season because frozen can be as good as or even better for life-extending nutrients. British scientists found that fresh fruit can lose nutrients after three days of refrigeration, while frozen fruits don’t suffer the same fate. Another study similarly found that frozen blueberries contained more vitamin C than fresh ones.

2. Cut back on pain pills

Regular use of painkillers such as ibuprofen and naproxen — including over-the-counter brands such as Advil, Motrin and Aleve — may raise your risk of heart attack and stroke by 10 percent, according to a 2014 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel review. (Prescription-strength versions may increase your risk by 20 to 50 percent, even after just a few weeks of use.) Reserve these drugs for severe pain, and use the lowest possible dose for the shortest amount of time.

Consistently sleeping less than six hours a night nearly doubles your risk of heart attack and stroke, according to a review of 15 studies published in the European Heart Journal. Another study found that consistently sleep-deprived people were 12 percent more likely to die over the 25-year study period than those who got six to eight hours of sleep a night. These tips from the National Sleep Foundation can help ensure that you get good quality shut-eye, even if you’re among the half of people over 60 who have insomnia:

  • Make the room pitch-black dark, and set the thermostat between 60 and 67 degrees.
  • Exercise every day. It doesn’t matter what time of day you work out, just so it doesn’t interfere with your rest.
  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day.
  • Shut down your electronics an hour before retiring, as the light from some devices can stimulate the brain.
  • Replace your mattress if it’s more than 10 years old.

4. But don’t always go right to sleep

A Duke University study that followed 252 people for 25 years concluded that frequent sex “was a significant predictor of longevity” for men.

Marriage is good for the heart in more ways than one.

5. Get (or stay) hitched

Marriage truly is good for your health — and your longevity. The prestigious Framingham Offspring Study found that married men had a 46 percent lower risk of death than never-married men, in part due to marriage’s well-known impact on heart health. Indeed, a 2014 study by New York University’s Langone Medical Center found that married men and women had a 5 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

No, you won’t die from eating under-ripe produce, but new research shows that fully ripened fruit has more life-lengthening health benefits. For example, green bananas are low in fiber and high in astringent tannins that can cause constipation. Fully ripened pears and blackberries have more disease-fighting antioxidants. And in watermelon, a deep red color signifies more lycopene, an antioxidant that may reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

7. Don’t sweeten with sugar

A high-sugar diet boosts blood sugar, which in turn plays havoc with your heart by increasing levels of LDL cholesterol while lowering heart-friendly HDL cholesterol, and tripling your risk for fatal cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar a day, and men no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams).

8. Consider extra vitamin D

Vitamin D, a bright byproduct of sunlight, has many health benefits, including a link to longevity. But too much vitamin D increases your risk of dying as much as too little, according to a 2015 Danish study. So you want to get the right amount. Don’t just rely on outdoor time to get extra vitamin D the rate of skin cancer rises as we age, so it’s important to limit exposure. The smart plan: Ask your doctor if you would benefit from extra D in pill form. University of Copenhagen researchers found that the ideal vitamin D level is more than 50 nanomoles per liter of blood, but less than 100 nmol/L.

If coffee’s not your thing, green tea also has proven longevity cred, likely because it contains powerful antioxidants known as catechins that may help combat diabetes and heart disease. In a large study of more than 40,000 Japanese men and women, drinking five or more cups of green tea a day was associated with a 12 percent decrease in mortality among men and a 23 percent decrease among women.

Taking a break from work and going on a vacation is crucial to your well being.

Not taking time off work might, indeed, be deadly. One study of men at high risk for coronary artery disease found that those who failed to take annual vacations were 32 percent more likely to die of a heart attack. And in the long-running Framingham Heart Study, women who vacationed just once every six years were eight times more likely to develop coronary artery disease or have a heart attack than women who vacationed twice a year.

The average American eats one serving of whole grains daily — and that may be just a single morning slice of toast. But eating three or more servings each day can cut overall death rate by about 20 percent, according to a 2016 study from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Have some oatmeal or brown rice, or get adventurous and go for quinoa, barley, even farro.

Eating hot chili peppers may add years to your life. In a 2016 analysis of the dietary habits of more than 16,000 men and women over 23 years, those who reported eating hot peppers reduced their risk of dying by 13 percent. Not a fan of those peppers? Even a little spice can have health benefits. That’s because the body produces endorphins to reduce the heat from the capsaicin in the peppers those endorphins also reduce pain and inflammation.

You’ve been told forever to drink low-fat or skim milk, or go for fat-free yogurt. But research published in the journal Circulation in 2016 concluded that those who consumed the most dairy fat had a 50 percent lower risk of developing diabetes, a disease that can shorten your life by eight to 10 years on average.

Staying adequately hydrated — measured by urine that’s light yellow or straw colored — can also help prolong a healthy life by reducing the risk of bladder and colon cancer and keeping kidneys in tip-top shape. Bonus: It might even help you lose weight. Researchers at the University of Illinois found that those who sipped more H2O ended up eating 68 to 205 fewer calories per day.

A few cups of java a day might keep the doctor away.

15. Say yes to that extra cup

Coffee does more than help you wake up it also reduces your risk of stroke, diabetes and some cancers. And in a 2015 study published in the journal Circulation, Harvard researchers discovered that “people who drank three to five cups of coffee per day had about a 15 percent lower [risk of premature] mortality compared to people who didn’t drink coffee,” says coauthor Walter Willett, M.D. Mind you, a cup is 8 ounces, so your 16-ounce Starbucks grande is really two cups by that measure.

16. Live like the Amish

A University of Maryland study found that Amish men live longer than typical Caucasian men in the United States, and both Amish men and women have lower rates of hospitalization. What are the Amish ways? Lots of physical activity, less smoking and drinking, and a supportive social structure involving family and community.

17. End the day's eating by 9 p.m.

Not only is eating late bad for your waistline — sleeping doesn’t exactly burn lots of calories — it also increases the risk of heart disease by 55 percent for men ages 45 to 82, according to a Harvard study.

In a study of 73,000 adults, most in their mid to upper 50s, vegetarians were 12 percent less likely than carnivores to have died from any cause during the six-year study period. The 2016 study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that mortality rates were lowest overall for pesco-vegetarians (those who eat fish occasionally), followed by vegans (those who eat no animal products), and lacto-ovo vegetarians (those who eat dairy and eggs).

19. Eat like the Greeks

The Mediterranean diet, with its reliance on fruits, vegetables, olive oil, fish and nuts, is one of the healthiest diets for both overall health and longevity. Harvard researchers, reporting in the BMJ in 2014, found that those who followed the diet most closely had longer telomeres, which cap the end of each strand of DNA and protect chromosomes from damage. Even those who only sporadically followed the diet reaped longevity benefits, researchers found.

Cutting your portions helps you cut calories, which aids in weight loss and more.

If you want to reach 100, put down the fork, says Dan Buettner, who studies longevity hot spots around the world, such as Okinawa, Japan. Buettner found that the oldest Okinawans stop eating when they feel 80 percent full. A National Institutes of Health-funded study similarly found that cutting back calories reduced blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin resistance.

21. Drink less (here’s a trick)

More-than-moderate alcohol consumption (generally, more than one drink a day for women or more than two a day for men) leads to a shorter life span. Here’s one way to cut your intake: Pour red wine into a white-wine glass, which is narrower. Studies by Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab found that people poured 12 percent more into red-wine glasses. You’ll also pour less wine into your glass if it’s sitting on the table, instead of in your hand, says Brian Wansink, the lab’s director.

Money might not make you happier, but it will help you live longer. A 2016 study by Stanford researchers published in JAMA found that people whose income bracket was in the top 1 percent lived nearly 15 years longer than those in the bottom 1 percent. The disparity could be attributed to healthier behaviors in higher-income groups, including less smoking and lower obesity rates, researchers say.

23. Or move to one of these states

If you’re not wealthy, consider moving to California, New York or Vermont, where studies show that low-income people tend to live the longest. Loma Linda, Calif., has the highest longevity thanks to vegetarian Seventh-day Adventists, who live eight to 10 years longer than the rest of us. Nevada, Indiana and Oklahoma have the lowest life expectancy (less than 78 years).

24. Ponder a Ponderosa

Experiencing a sense of awe — such as when viewing the Grand Canyon or listening to Beethoven’s Ninth — may boost the body’s defense system, says research from the University of California, Berkeley. “That awe, wonder and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines suggests that the things we do to experience these emotions — a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art — has a direct influence upon health and life expectancy,” says Dacher Keltner, a psychologist and coauthor of the study.

Owning a dog can help lower stress and boost physical activity.

25. Get a friend with four legs

A few studies on the link between pet ownership and health have found that owning a pet can reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, even improve the odds of surviving a heart attack. Now the American Heart Association has weighed in with a report published in the journal Circulation that recommends owning a dog, in particular, for those seeking to reduce their risk of deadly heart disease. Dog owners are more likely to be physically active and are also less vulnerable to the effects of stress, the report says.

Do you wake up looking forward to something? In a 2014 study published in the Lancet, researchers found that those with the highest sense of purpose were 30 percent less likely to die during the 8.5-year study period. In fact, doing something that matters — whether it’s helping your children or interacting in a community of like-minded folks — is correlated with seven extra years of life, according to researchers who study people in “blue zones,” areas of the world where folks live the longest.

27. Embrace your faith

Attending religious services once a week has been shown to add between four and 14 years to life expectancy, according to researchers who study blue zones. Don’t belong to a church? Ask to join a friend at her services, or just drop in at a nearby house of worship most have an open-door policy.

About 3,000 Americans die from food poisoning annually, say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even seemingly healthy foods — like sprouts, cantaloupe, berries and raw tuna — can make you sick or even kill you, says the FDA. Your action plan: Keep your kitchen pristine, wash your hands and utensils before and after handling food, separate raw and cooked foods, refrigerate perishable food promptly, and cook food to a safe temperature to kill deadly bacteria.

29. Consider mountain life

People residing at higher altitudes tend to live longer, a study by the University of Colorado and the Harvard School of Global Health revealed. Of the 20 healthiest counties in America, many are in Colorado and Utah. Researchers think lower oxygen levels might cause your body to adapt in ways that strengthen your heart and circulation.

Eating a handful of nuts five times per week can lower your mortality risk from certain diseases.

In a European study of adults ages 55 to 69, those who ate 10 grams of nuts daily — 8 almonds or 6 cashews — reduced their risk of death from any health-related cause by 23 percent. As for specific ailments, consuming a handful of nuts at least five times per week lowers the mortality risk for heart disease (by 29 percent), respiratory disease (24 percent) and cancer (11 percent), according to a previous U.S. study. Sorry, peanut butter fans: Spreads didn’t show the same benefits.

31. Keep watching LOL cat videos

Laughter really is the best medicine, helping to reduce stress, boost the immune system, reduce pain and improve blood flow to the brain. In fact, laughter has the same effect on blood vessels as exercise, report researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Studies show that loneliness increases the risk of early death by 45 percent. It weakens the immune system and raises blood pressure while increasing the risk for heart attacks and stroke. By contrast, people with strong ties to friends and family have as much as a 50 percent lower risk of dying, according to a study in PLOS Medicine. So visit a friend. And don’t discount your online friends. A 2016 study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego found that those who use Facebook also live longer, but only when online interactions don’t completely supplant face-to-face social interaction.

33. Watch your grandkids

While babysitting every day is stressful, regularly watching the grands can lower your risk of dying by a third, according to a 2016 study published in Evolution and Human Behavior. That adds up to an extra five years of life, researchers say. They speculate that caregiving gives grandparents a sense of purpose, and keeps them mentally and physically active.

34. Try to stay out of the hospital

A 2016 Johns Hopkins University study found that some 250,000 patients die each year in hospitals from medical mistakes, such as misdiagnoses, poor practices and conditions, and drug errors. Sometimes the best way to avoid a grave condition is not to enter the system at all.

Reading gives muscle to your memory.

Sounds like we made it up, but scientific research supports the longevity benefits of reading — newspapers and magazines will do, but books are the best. “As little as a half-hour a day of book reading had a significant survival advantage over those who did not read,” said the study’s senior author, Becca R. Levy, a professor of epidemiology at Yale.

36. Read the ‘AARP Bulletin’

Really. This and other smart publications can keep you up to date on health info. Studies have shown that when people are empowered with information to make important medical decisions, it not only enhances their well-being but also improves a treatment’s effectiveness. So keep reading aarp.org/bulletin and aarp.org/health.

Don’t wait for annual checkups to consider your health. By then, a small problem could have morphed into a life-threatening illness. In one English study, researchers found that less than 60 percent of people who developed unusual symptoms in the previous three months had seen a doctor. Symptoms that might point to cancer include: unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more (this can be an indication of cancers of the esophagus, stomach or lungs) fever extreme fatigue changes in bowel or bladder habits or unusual bleeding. Other unusual symptoms that could signal disease? A patch of rough, dark skin could indicate diabetes, and a strange color on your tongue could signal serious acid-reflux issues.

38. Visit the hardware store

Among the most common causes of “unintentional deaths” are carbon monoxide, radon and lead poisoning, the CDC reports. Make sure there’s a carbon monoxide detector near every bedroom, and be sure to test and replace the batteries every two years. Was your home built before 1978, when lead paint was outlawed? One trip to the store can get you all you need to test for these toxic substances.

39. Practice home fire drills

Just 1 in 3 families have a fire-safety plan, says Robert Cole, president of Community Health Strategies, an injury-prevention education organization based in Pittsford, N.Y. “People underestimate the speed of a fire. Many waste time figuring out what to do, or trying to take belongings with them. Everyone should know what to do and how to get out safely.”

Studies show that female doctors are more effective communicators than male physicians.

40. Find a woman doctor

When Harvard researchers in 2016 analyzed Medicare records documenting more than 1.5 million hospitalizations over four years, they found that patients who received care from a female physician were more likely to survive and less likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. In fact, about 32,000 fewer people would die each year “if male physicians achieved the same outcomes as female physicians,” the researchers said. Previous studies have suggested that female doctors are more likely to follow clinical guidelines and are more effective communicators.

41. Make peace with family

While we often stress about small stuff — the guests are here, and we’re not ready! — it’s the nagging, long-running forms of stress, such as a family dispute, that put your longevity at risk. Chronic stress hastens the cellular deterioration that leads to premature aging and a vast array of serious diseases, according to long-running research from the University of California, San Francisco. This sort of cell death “turns out to be one of the strongest predictors of early diseases of aging and in many studies of early mortality,” says lead researcher Elissa Epel. The remedy: Come to peace with the people in your life. Forgive your family, forgive yourself, put the past behind you — so you can have more life in front of you.

42. Take the stairs — every day

A study by University of Geneva researchers found that taking the stairs instead of the elevators reduced the risk of dying prematurely by 15 percent. What’s more, a daily stair climb shaves six months off your “brain age,” according to researchers at Concordia University who performed MRI scans on 331 people ages 19 to 79. Gray matter shrinks naturally with age, but less so when people stay active.

One of the top risks for falls at home is throw rugs. Those slip-slidey accoutrements send 38,000 older adults to the emergency room each year, according to a 2013 study by the CDC. Banish these rugs from your home, and make sure bath mats have a nonslip bottom.

44. Beware the high-tech dash

Nearly one in five traffic accidents and more than 400,000 crash-related injuries involve a distracted driver, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports. Top distractions, according to a recent Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study, are cellphones. But a less-obvious risk is using the touch screen on your car’s dashboard.

Yes, you can go carless and survive.

In 2014, more than 5,700 older adults were killed and more than 236,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes. Per mile traveled, fatal crashes increase noticeably starting at age 70 and are highest among drivers age 85 and older, a highway safety organization says. If you’re feeling unsafe behind the wheel, it might be time to look for alternative transportation.

What’s the best prescription for a longer life? Exercise. And doctors are literally prescribing it instead of medication. “There is no pill that comes close to what exercise can do,” says Claude Bouchard, director of the human genomics laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana. It benefits your brain, heart, skin, mood and metabolism. Even as little as 10 minutes of brisk walking can help (that’s all it takes to burn off the calories of one chocolate chip cookie). Once you can do 10 minutes, push it to 15. Then 20. Start slow, but just start.

47. Just not in the street

Nearly 5,000 pedestrians are killed annually in the U.S., according to the latest federal figures, and nearly 20 percent of those deaths were among adults age 65 and older. If you walk for your health — and we hope you do — stay safe and consider doing so at the mall, a community health center or a park.

48. And go a little faster

The benefits of a brisk walk are real: A University of Pittsburgh study of adults 65 and older found that those whose usual walking pace exceeded one meter per second lived longer. While researchers say they can’t recommend brisk walking as a panacea for living longer, they did see increased survival in those who picked up the pace over the course of a year.

Never mind what your grade school teachers said fidgeting is good. A 2016 British study finds that sitting for seven or more hours a day increases your risk of dying by 30 percent — except among active fidgeters, who see no increased risk.

Need wheels? Go for a smart car.

50. Trade in Ol' Bessie

High-tech safety features have now become standard in new cars. The government mandates that all have airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability control — “up there with seat belts and airbags in its life- aving benefits,” says one industry leader — and tire pressure-monitoring systems. Carmakers also offer back-up cameras, self-parking features, blind-spot and lane-departure warnings, and forward-collision warning with auto-braking.


How to Eat Healthy and Exercise

This article was co-authored by Kristi Major. Kristi Major is an ACE (American Council on Exercise) certified Personal Trainer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Kristi has over 18 years of personal training experience and more than 90 hours of recertification study in fitness, health, nutrition, and supplementation. She is CPR and AED certified from the American Heart Association and she has a BA in Television Broadcasting.

There are 31 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

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Eating healthy and exercising can seem like a pretty simple and straightforward goal however, there are many different components to a healthy diet and fitness program. For example, you'll need to think about when and where you'll be working out, what foods to eat, how much to eat, and how to prepare them. Starting with a specific goal and detailed plan can help you implement the changes you need to help you eat healthier and be more active.