4 ways to increase healthspan

At any given moment, your social feeds are likely littered with fast fixes for persistent problems. Too often, they act like Bandaids, covering up issues rather than solving them. “There’s a drive to achieve wellness through the quickest means possible,” says Matt Berenc, director of education at the Equinox Fitness Training Institute in Beverly Hills. “If you don’t address the underlying reason for a lack of energy, for example, you relinquish the responsibility of taking care of yourself."

While Instagrammable bubble baths full of tonics and elixirs can certainly be a part of your routine, lasting wellness requires holistic nourishment, movement, sleep, interpersonal connection, and self-reflection, says Pamela Peeke, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland in Baltimore and member of the Equinox Health Advisory Board.

“The goal isn’t to get as old as you can, but to age with the highest level of function possible,” according to Berenc. Wellness is about keeping your physical, metabolic, cognitive, and behavioral systems strong. Wellness is about the long game. Wellness is about healthspan. Here, how to truly achieve it.

The issue: Musculoskeletal pain or muscle soreness

The trendy quick fix: CBD creams and lotions

The true wellness fix: CBD could help with inflammation that contributes to soreness, but the long-term approach should be a more effective exercise and recovery plan. “Take a look at overall stress [from things like work, relationships, exercise, and lack of sleep] and plan bouts of recovery accordingly,” suggests Michol Dalcourt, San Diego-based founder and director of the Institute of Motion and member of the Equinox Health Advisory Board. During recovery, train joint-stabilizers such as the rotator cuffs and hip muscles through ground-to-standing drills like Turkish get-ups. This will ensure joint health, he says, which in turn will prevent muscle pain and soreness in the first place.

You should also reassess your exercise routine. More than three HIIT workouts per week is too many, says Matt Delaney, New York City-based national manager of innovation for Equinox. Balance intensities, like an interval class with an easy distance run or Vinyasa flow, to develop all energy systems and avoid overuse.

The issue: Exhaustion

The trendy quick fixes: Weekend sleep-ins, matcha lattes

The true wellness fix: Commit to a regular sleep-wake cycle. “The more it varies, the harder it is for your body to establish a consistent circadian rhythm,” says Delaney. “When your rhythms are out of sync, your sleep patterns will be disrupted, leading to exhaustion.” Prioritizing a set routine honors your body clock, something that’s inherent to humans, Peeke adds.

Another habit to adopt: midday workouts. A quick walk, run, or ground-based bodyweight movements like those typical of yoga and Animal Flows increase circulation and wake up the central nervous system, Delaney says. Do them outside or get a post-workout dose of sunlight, nature’s most potent regulator of the circadian rhythm, for the biggest benefits.

The issue: Stress

The trendy quick fix: A half-bottle of wine

The true wellness fix: A regular meditation practice. Feeling out of control can lead to a messy living space, calendar, and mindset, which increases cortisol levels. In turn, your performance will suffer in all areas, says Peeke. Alcohol may relax you in the moment, but it’ll backfire since it disrupts sleep and leads to even more cortisol release. Instead, meditate and think about what you need in order to achieve success, like a grab-and-go gym bag and dedicated recovery time, so you can plan highly effective, wellness-focused days. 

The issue: An imbalanced diet

The trendy quick fixes: Supplements

The true wellness fix: Make small, sustainable changes to your diet. Vegans, for example, are likely low in iron and calcium. They should eat at least one or two extra daily servings of dark leafy greens, lentils, beans, or almonds, Berenc says. (Pair these foods with vitamin-C rich ingredients like red bell peppers and broccoli to increase nutrient absorption.) On the other end of the spectrum, paleo eaters probably need more iodine from foods like seaweed, cod, and potatoes with the skin on, he adds. Set a new rule for yourself, follow it at least 90 percent of the time, and track your success. “This is the ongoing process you follow to make wellness as a lifelong endeavor.”