Late To the Healthy Living Game? 10 Essential Tips Making the Transition to Better Health

By Mark Sisson
30 Comments

Many people get to age 60 or so and, if they haven’t lived a healthy, active life up to that point, assume it’s too late for them. After all, things only get harder the older you get. You’ve got aches and pains. Your doc is always reminding you about your weight. Things creak and crack. You look wistfully at the gym you pass by every day, thinking to yourself, “It would never work.”

At least, that’s how most people deal with getting old: they lament their “inability” to do anything about it as oblivion approaches and overtakes them.

Forget all that. While you can’t turn back the chronological clock, you can “de-age” yourself by engaging in the right diet, exercise, and lifestyle modifications. So—how?

Realize That It’s Never Too Late

The scientific literature is rife with examples of older individuals making changes to their lifestyle, diet, and exercise and seeing great results.

How about 68-year-olds still getting gains from strength training?

Older women switching to high-fatty-meat or high-cheese diets and enjoying better heart health.

Verifiable examples (or “anecdotes”) from people online are also available. Like PD Mangan, who went from this to this. That’s not impossible, or even difficult to achieve. What you need is the will and means and know-how—all freely available.

Know that it’s possible. Know that it’s probable. Know that your efforts will not be in vain.

Realize That It’s Your Fault—And Even If It’s Not, It’s Your Responsibility

I don’t care where you fall on the belief spectrum. It could be that “your body is a temple ordained by God and you’d be remiss to let it fall to ruin and in doing so fail your creator.” It could be that “your body was the work of hundreds of generations of ancestors who fought and suffered and scrounged and died to ensure you’d make it and to fail to maintain your health is a huge insult to their sacrifices.” It could be that “your body is the product of millions and billions of years of evolution through natural selection, a chance byproduct of a process that probability says shouldn’t have even happened, and you’re going to waste it?”

However you approach it, what matters is that you have a remarkable body (and mind) that deserves your attention, care, maintenance and nourishment. Only you can do anything about it. Maybe you were fed bad food as a kid and bad info as an adult (this is most people). Doesn’t matter. You still have to own it and take the steps necessary to improve your condition. Responsibility means ability to respond. Claim it.

Eat More Protein

If you’re over 50, you need more protein than you think.

If you’re over 50, your ability to utilize protein isn’t as good as it used to be.

If you’re over 50, you need more protein to do the same job as a person 25 years younger.

If you’re over 65, the supposed negative relationship between meat and mortality the “experts” are always crowing about reverses, magically becoming a positive relationship.

And if one of your issues is trouble losing body fat, more protein will also help you beat back exaggerated hunger and keep food intake low enough to lose weight. Many people in the ancestral community don’t like acknowledging this, but it’s true for a great many people: protein is the most satiating macronutrient.

Moreover, protein will help you lose body fat and retain (and even gain) the all-important lean muscle mass. Losing muscle when you’re over 50 is harder and harder to recover from.

The only catch is that if one of your “aging-related maladies” is kidney failure, you may have to slow things down and keep your protein intake low to moderate. Emphasis on “may.” Check with your doctor if that’s the case.

Get As Insulin Sensitive As You Can

The relationship between insulin signaling and aging is a bit unclear. What we know is that people with higher insulin sensitivity live longer and healthier lives. We know that insulin resistance is strongly linked to most degenerative diseases, like cancer, diabetes, sarcopenia, and osteoporosis (to name only a few). But researchers are always oscillating between “cause” and “effect.” Is insulin resistance a cause or a sign of aging? Are insulin sensitive people healthier into old age because they’re insulin sensitive, or are they insulin sensitive because they’re healthier?

I’m not sure it really matters. Either way, to become more insulin sensitive you have to do a bunch of things that will also make you healthier and age better like lifting weights, quitting overeating, taking more walks, doing more low level aerobic work, and regulating your carb intake.

I’ve always said that you should burn as little glucose as possible. The more you can rely on stored body fat for energy and daily maintenance, the better. Well, the more insulin sensitive you are, the less insulin you’ll have blunting your ability to liberate stored body fat, the more fat you’ll burn and the better you’ll age.

Walk Every Day

One of my favorite predictors of mortality in older people is walking speed: they ask people to walk at their normal speed and then track how fast they go. The slower the walk, the higher their risk of dying earlier. It’s my favorite because it’s so elegant. And no, actively forcing yourself to walk more briskly when you get tested won’t increase your longevity. But if you get up and walk every single day, walking will be second nature. Your walking speed will increase naturally, and it’s the natural increase in walking speed that presages a longer, healthier life.

Walking will also force you to get out and see and experience the world. It’ll lower your fasting blood glucose and postprandial blood glucose (hint: walk after meals). It will introduce novelty to your life and in doing so extend your time horizon.

Eat Tons Of Collagen

Collagen improves skin health, elasticity, and reduces wrinkling. This might sound superficial, but altering those “surface level” signs of aging indicates that you’re also modifying the internal aging markers.

Another reason to up your collagen intake is to balance out the meat you’re eating. As an older person, you’ll need to eat more meat to counter your suboptimal protein utilization. That means you need to process more methionine, which requires more glycine, which comes from collagen.

The easiest way to get collagen and hit a few birds with one stone is to eat lots of collagenous meats—shanks, skin, knuckles, oxtails, ears, snouts, feet, tendons. That way you get your muscle meat protein and collagen protein. Collagen protein powder is another option.

Lift Heavy Things To Build Your Musculoskeletal System

Exercise isn’t just good for your muscles and your heart. It’s also the only reliable way to build and maintain bone mineral density. But in order for exercise to improve bone mineral density, it must satisfy several requirements. It should be dynamic, not static. It needs to challenge you. It needs to challenge your muscles. In other words, you need to lift (relatively) heavy things. You need to progress in weight, intensity, and duration. It should be “relatively brief but intermittent.” No long drawn-out sessions that do nothing but overwork and overtrain you. Keep it short and intense. Also, the exercise should place an unusual loading pattern on the bones. That could be different movements, or increased resistance, as long as you’re introducing something “new” to the body; don’t just do the same old weights forever. Finally, for exercise to improve bone mineral density it must be supported by sufficient nutrition, especially calcium, vitamin D, sufficient protein, and vitamin K2.

Develop Your Balance Yesterday

The number one cause of death and degeneration after age 70 is falling and breaking something. You step out of the shower, slip, and break a hip, then never recover. You step off a curb and fall on your knee, breaking your femur, and never recover. Avoid this at all costs. Improve your balance as soon as possible.

Get a slackline: Keep it low to the ground, have a partner to help, or use something like a walking stick to support you. Focus on simply balancing rather than trying to walk.

Try standup paddling: Not only is it a great workout and a great time, paddling forces you to balance—constantly. And as long as you can swim, falling is totally safe.

Walk on uneven surfaces (carefully): Go for hikes, walk in the sand or in the grass, walk along cobblestone streets, walk on slopes.

Walk along curbs (very carefully).

Wear footwear that is as minimalist as you can handle (or just go barefoot if you’re up for it): The bottom of the foot is loaded with nerve endings that inform you and guide your balance as you make your way through the world. They help you subconsciously make those micro-adjustments to your posture and body position that make up “good balance.” A big clunky rubber sole blocks that out and cuts you off from your body.

Play Every Day

They say that when you stop moving, you start dying. I say when you stop playing, you start dying. We see this in dogs; once a dog no longer wants to play, chase the ball, roughhouse, or do the things he or she used to love doing, they’re on the way out. I firmly believe the same is true for people—just spread out across a longer timeline.

So have fun. Play sports. Try Ultimate Frisbee (my favorite).

Don’t forget about the mental games. Game nights. Crosswords in the morning (that’s what I do). Play cards. Do a weekly poker night with friends and make it a potluck.

What I’m not saying is that doing the crossword will stave off Alzheimer’s or make you smarter. What it will do is send the message to your brain and body that “this person hasn’t given up.” Ideally, your physical play will train your muscles, bones, and balance—that way you can satisfy all those requirements and have fun doing it.

Don’t Do It Alone

If you’re an older person reading this and actually preparing to make the changes necessary to be healthy and vigorous, you are a rare bird. Most of your peers have given up. Most have resigned themselves to being less healthy and less vigorous with every passing day. Don’t let that happen. Enlist a friend, a loved one, a peer. Not only will it give you another person to play, train, and walk with, but it will help you stay the course and enjoy doing it. It will also save another person—or at least give them the best chance they’ve got.

Those are the big tips. There are others, though. And for anyone interested in better health and longevity and more life in the years you have, Keto for Life, offers more information than I could fit here. All the points I covered today and many more are fleshed out and expanded upon twenty-fold.

But if you just focused on these 10 tips, you’d be pretty far along on your way to health (no matter what age you are).

That’s it for today, folks. Take care, drop your own tips down below, and have a great Thanksgiving!

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30 thoughts on “Late To the Healthy Living Game? 10 Essential Tips Making the Transition to Better Health”

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  1. Hi Mark. Another great MDA entry. In 2017 you were using and singing the praises of FIR and the Clearlight IR sauna.
    Do you still use it? Or it remained in Malibu. I ask because I am seriously considering the purchase soon of a Clearlight Sauna and am wondering if you still feel the same about the sauna and FIR therapy. Thank you Mark.

    1. Yes, Clearlights are great w/low emf’s, but if you want to compare see Matt Justice’s utubes on a host of them that he has purchased and checked out. He does not sell them.

      1. Thank you Suzanne. And Brian. Yes, I’ve checked out Matt Justice’s reviews. Although he recommends Radiant Health as his #1 due to lowest EMR and body voltage(and Clearlight’s #2), I’m going with the Clearlight Premier. I believe the carbon-ceramic heating elements are better than the straight carbon for heat and FIR. And the EMR and body voltage is not immensely higher than Radiant Healths….. Radiants heaters stack higher than Clearlights because they need to to warm the sauna. A Radiant rep told me if the room is in the 60’s or lower that the sauna will only reach 115 degrees. Not a problem for Florida but it speaks to me of the heaters output….And Clearlight gives a lifetime warranty on everything.

    2. I bought a Clearlight premier and have had it for a week. I’ve used it daily and have seen improvements in my skin and energy. I have dry skin and I suspected poor blood flow to the skin. After I sweat in the sauna, I feel great.

  2. This is the reason that I follow you! Your posts are so intelligent, well researched, and amazing! I turned 70 this past summer and last month I participated in a Strongwoman competition of approximately 65 women – all lifting heavy weights for cancer awareness month. This was my 10th competition and I competed with women in their 20s, 30s and 40s. I was the oldest competitor. Training and lifting heavy weights as well as a good diet are the best thinks one can do. So happy that you not only support this but are educating people. Doctors are the ones who need the education and in turn tell their patients.

    1. Way cool! I’m about to turn 65 — thanks for being an inspiration! I walk 40+ miles every week but I know I need to ramp up strength training.

    2. Plus 1 for the inspiration! I turn 51 on Saturday and have been doing crossfit, which I’ve been bad about lately and have been feeling a little older than my age so appreciate the inspiring post!

  3. I myself am only 37 but I train a ton of folks over the age of 65 and I agree with all of this. One point I would add and I am sure Mark just did not want to keep writing but add some mobility work in most days. Motion is the lotion.

  4. Thanks again Mark for just the right topic, knowledge, and info at the right time. I too was vegetarian from my mid thirties to my mid sixties. Nothing cultural or religious…had to find something to fight arthritis while managing three kids under five! I reintroduced fish into my diet fifteen years ago but no other meat/fish. I exercised, in and out of gyms but never to excess. Probably turned out to be a good thing.
    I converted to KETO starting last April (2019). Got an active puppy. He’s driving me crazy but also constantly moving. Started with beef bone broth. I had to get used to the smell of meat in the house. Long story short…feel great. Lost extra pounds but that wasn’t a great need. Followed your reset plan, journal and all. Thank you for giving me the info and continuous motivation like the article above to keep the motivation going. Now 78 yrs old female and feel like 60. No question about this lifestyle keeps my quality of life great.

  5. Thank you! The link to this will be a present I will give to my loved ones for this holiday season. It pretty much covers the major points of belief upon which I base my daily life…

  6. Thanks mark, as 64 year old woman who’s peers have mostly given up (even on walking regularly) I appreciate the Age appropriate pep talk. Can’t remember The movie reference, but never give up, never surrender! Happy thanksgiving to the primal community.

    1. Hi Donna greetings from Manchester England
      I think the film you’re thinking of is Galaxy Quest Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman ? It’s a great mantra to hold on to I’ve had it in mind for a good few years now. Great article Mark as ever very timely for me just gone 68. Got a bit bored with free weights recently so tried kettlebells under supervision and enthusiasm restored!

  7. Spot on Mark! I started Olympic lifting at 60, I am now 63 and train with another female Masters lifter who is 72. We both compete, though she has been for 10 years, me for one year. If you would have told me when I was 55 I’d be wearing a singlet on a platform with a barbell in my hands I’d have said you were nuts! I encourage all my friends to keep moving, and my female friends to lift weights. No matter what shape you are in, one can always improve their physical body! And, have fun!

  8. I’m a 66 year old woman. At 63 I started aerial acrobatics. I had never done anything athletic in my life-zero, zip, nada. Now I can stand on my hands, do a back bend, lots of tricks on the trapeze, balance on my back and front, hang from my knees and ankles and hands, do a pullover, climb a rope, etc. etc. I’m strong, flexible, and my body is better coordinated than ever. It took me 2 years to really get my basic strength and coordination working. My advice? Do it now.

  9. Mark, you crushed it with this list. After discovering your program 4 years ago, looking forward to crossing the 60 year ribbon in a few months.

    I hit the gym a little less these days, lift heavy and try and get outside more. Rediscovered the joy and challenge of hiking with elevation and the mountains when time permits.

    Working out and just being around younger people is motivating and keeps one looking and feeling young.

    I try and follow your intuitive training and eating. It really works. Forget the dam lists, just listen to your body that day. The intermittent fasting was also a game changer that I started a couple years back.

    Keep up the great work. Hoping 60 is the new 30!

  10. Any thoughts on Ron Rosedale’s ideas on eating super low protein to downregulate MTOR . He suggests as low as 3gm protein per KG of lean body mass.
    I’d have to eat 90% fat to get that low.
    I am 67 and have consequently increased protein .

    1. How much protein is too much probably depends on the individual and various other factors going on in that person’s body. I’m not saying Rosedale is wrong, but it’s very likely that he’s not completely right either. It’s exactly the sort of thing that gets moderated or totally debunked as time goes by and new information is uncovered.

      The thing about protein is that I find it to be self-limiting. In other words, I lose interest in eating more protein when my body has had enough. This might not be true of everyone, but I suspect it’s true of a good many of us if we’re paying attention.

      I’m over 50. I don’t have any health issues, I’m strong, active, and I feel good. I also eat some type of high-quality protein with almost every meal and have done so for years and years. If you feel good on the amount of protein you eat, then my suggestion would be that you not worry about it.

      1. Yes, completely agree with this Shari. Protein is self limiting. My body knows when it’s had enough. But lately I’m wanting a lot of it, especially eggs. Once you clear out the processed carbs and all the crap it becomes a lot easier to listen to your body.

    2. He has addressed this from his perspective before. It’s somewhere on this site!

      I ramp protein way up and then ramp way down periodically. I wish I could give you solid cites behind why I do this, but I honestly can’t. Feels right to me, though.

  11. Any collagen recommendation should mention the possibility that it can deplete serotonin and cause depression, anxiety and/or poor sleep. I ate collagen every day a few years ago, during a super-stressful time and wonder how much worse that made life. Today I find I can eat it once a week as long as I take some 5-HTP (tryptophan) with it. So many are recommending collagen and so few mention the serotonin issue.

  12. I’m so disappointed that I cannot do Keto. I have ulcerative colitis and after a few months of high fat and erythritol – I had my worst attack ever. Research showed me I brought it on myself. So I’m doing lower carb and gluten free. Any suggestions? I’m 72

  13. Thank you Mark Sisson for all your informative information. Iam 69 and have tried to follow all your steps with a Keto inspired diet and your vitamin and mineral packs which I take every day. I sometimes veer off my diet and need to start excercise program besides occasional walks. I still work but will be retired next year . I do so believe in your ways to live my life. And have read all yours books. It was very interesting about all the primal histories. Can’t wait to get your new book at the end of December. Iam going to start slow with excercise program and sticking to the correct diet. Again thank you for all your help and ideas. Elaine

  14. Hi Mark,

    I love this!

    In the past when discussing keto, you have mentioned modifying carb intake when someone has thyroid issues such as hypothyroid. I can’t find that information now. This post caught my eye since I’m over 50 and revisiting my current diet. I currently keep my carb count around 100-and feel pretty well most of the time, but also have a diabetes 2 diagnosis I manage with consistent lower carb intake, medication and activity. I would love to ditch the medication.

    Does Keto for Life address such issues as well?

    Thanks!

  15. Hi Mark, I’m 65. I have had bad hips and a bad knee for a last few years (no diagnosis yet… doctor appt in Dec since I’m finally on Medicare!). I can’t walk fast nor far without extremely frequent stops and much limping and pain. Your prognosis for slow walkers is distressing as I come from a very long living bunch! I mean over 100! Any suggestions… besides obviously following your other tips? Thanks, Lydia

    1. Lydia, try dropping all wheat!

      I’ve been (almost) entirely off wheat for a couple years. I notice that when I break and go face down in the carbs (oh pasta: My first, best, and life-long love!!) my carpal tunnel comes roaring back in about a half hour and stays for a day or two; and my hip arthritis returns and hangs around for a week or more! Then — whssstttt! Completely gone again till next time I roll in carbs…

  16. Thanks–this is a motivating post! perhaps there’s hope for me as i get ready to turn 61. One question–what is the source of your collagen peptides–what part of the animal does it come from? thank you