Living comfortably can be a killer and excess comfort can be an accelerant. We require some discomfort to thrive, read on.
In the 21st century our biggest health threat is too much convenience. At its extreme, we can choose to never leave our home, working from our home office, streaming movies or games from the sofa, shopping online, and having ultra-processed meals delivered to the door and even engaging via Zoom and social media. Technology has replaced almost all our outdoor activities and inertia has become addictive.
Our lifestyle has evolved significantly from how our grandparents lived. They had to travel to work, often this was labour intensive, walked to local shops or markets, purchased seasonal local produce, penny pinched to make ends meet, home cooked not to excess, engaged with their neighbours, read and talked in the evening and went to bed with the fading light.
While not suggesting a return to the challenges of life a century ago, there are some valuable lessons we could incorporate today. Our bodies evolved to function optimally under mild stress, or hormesis. For over 150,000 years were effective hunter-gatherers, adapted to survive with limited food and in colder conditions. Our bodies have not yet evolved to cope with the comforts and abundance of the last 50 years.
Studies of Blue Zone regions, where people live to over 100 in good health, show a strong correlation with the lifestyles of our grandparents. Dan Buettner identified nine lessons for longevity, emphasising being active without overthinking, reducing calories, focusing on plant-based foods, spirituality, and family.
So how do we incorporate the best of the past into our modern lifestyle? The key takeaway is that we need to reintroduce hermetic stress, to challenge our bodies. We must adopt specific and actionable rules, or keystone rules, that introduce controlled stress automatically. These are the 20:20 Rules, each providing a clear and obvious insight and taking no longer than 20 minutes twice a day.
There are eight 20:20 rules
20:20 Rule 1: Walk if you can reach your destination in less than 20 minutes, including using stairs instead of an escalator. Add resistance by carrying shopping or wearing ankle and/or wrist weights.
20:20 Rule 2: Reduce overall portion size by 20% and chew your food 20 times before swallowing. This helps with weight control and ensures the extraction of maximum nutrients from food.
20:20 Rule 3: Prepare one meal a day from fresh ingredients if possible in 20 minutes or less. The health benefits of fresh over processed foods are significant. Add organic if possible.
20:20 Rule 4: Consume your last meal before 20:00 hrs (8 pm) and your first after 8 am, ensuring a minimum of 12 hours of fasting. Extending the gap to 16 hours has even greater benefits.
20:20 Rule 5: Cease all social media and emails at 20:20 hrs (8:20 pm) and remove the devices. Spend time face-to-face with family and friends afterward.
20:20 Rule 6: Read a novel or listen to music for at least 20 minutes before sleep. Extend this with up to 20 minutes of meditation for a calming wind-down.
20:20 Rule 7: Stick to a bedtime routine, allowing at least 7 hours of quality sleep, as poor sleep impacts all other rules of life.
20:20 Rule 8: At the end of your shower, include two 20-second blasts of cold water to activate essential brown fat, aiding metabolism and refreshing you for the day ahead. Just 40 seconds is all it takes.
In our modern world of comfort and excess, we need to a few simple black and white rules. The 20:20 Rules recognise our bodies’ need regular stressors and draw valuable lessons from the lifestyles of our grandparents and those living in the Blue Zones. Chose three of the eight and see how this goes. Otherwise, set your own simple life rules that help your body to function optimally.