5 Unconventional Ways to Extend Your Life

Inline_Extend_Life_04.26.17I’ve written about extending your life by slowing down the apparent passage of time. I’ve written about some interesting predictors—but not necessarily causes—of longevity, and the common characteristics of centenarians. Today, I’m going to describe several unconventional causal means of extending your life.

I’m talking about cold, hard days, weeks, and months. Ticks on a clock. Objective measurements of time. Not just the perception of time, although that matters too.

How to do it?

Live somewhere green, or grow a bunch of plants and trees in your yard.

We’re built to live in nature, amongst trees, rivers, meadows, wildflowers, beaches, and other trappings of wilderness. It’s where we come from. On a fundamental, genetic level, nature is home. That’s why spending brief interludes in forests can reduce stress, improve glucose tolerance, and boost anti-cancer activity. That’s why spending time in green space can make us more creative and less anxious. It’s why even seeing pictures of nature scenes or smelling the organic compounds that trees give off can have effects similar to the real thing. It’s a reset.

What if you were to live in a place like that? Maybe living in a forest isn’t feasible for most people, but having a garden, living near a park, getting a ton of houseplants, or choosing a tree-lined street rather than a desolate one isn’t so unreasonable. Turns out that women who live near greenness (parks, forests, gardens) live longer than those who don’t. The longer they live near the green, the lower their mortality risk.

Yes, it’s observational. But consider that we have the potential mechanisms outlined in the first paragraph and described in full in this post. We have the observation that chronic exposure to greenness predicts lower mortality risks among women even when you control for socioeconomic status, race, and any other variable that could throw off the findings. I think we’ve got a solid strategy for life extension, folks.

Follow your life’s purpose.

Most people have a voice in their heads telling them to take this risk, start that business, pursue this dream, go to school for this subject. Whether you call that your conscience (with or without a cartoon cricket embodying it), a direct mainline to your deity, your higher self, or whatever, that voice is trying to tell you something about your life’s purpose. Having a life’s purpose, and pursuing it, is a very strong predictor of “allostatic load”—the amount of physiological and psychological wear and tear a person displays. Higher loads mean shorter lives, and people with a purpose have lower loads.

If you don’t have a purpose, conjuring one up might not work. But the good news is that everyone in my experience has a purpose. It’s just that most people ignore it, fear it, or doubt their own ability to realize it. Just don’t lie to yourself. Search within and follow your honest calling, not what you think you’re supposed to be doing.

Eat a lot of collagen.

First, glycine, the primary amino acid in collagen, is anti-inflammatory. It counters the potentially negative effects excess methionine has on lifespan. It balances out the muscle meat we eat. In one recent study, people with low glycine levels and high meat intakes were more likely to have diabetes, while heavy meat eaters with higher glycine levels were protected from diabetes. Another study found that low circulating levels of glycine predicted diabetes riskIndeed, a lack of glycine may be responsible for the oft-cited (and criticized) link between meat consumption and various diseases.

All this is why I make a point of emphasizing collagen my own diet—and why I offer a product to help anyone (myself included) boost their collagen intake. (Did I mention there’s a chocolate version now?)

Second, collagen is good for the skin. In middle-aged Korean women, 6 grams of collagen per day reduced skin cracking and increased serum collagen, collagen peptides reduced wrinkling in another study, and collagen has also been shown to improve skin elasticity.

Why does this matter for longevity? Having “youthful-looking skin” isn’t just cosmetic. It indicates the health and longevity of the person who possesses it. Apparent age of face actually predicts longevity better than many objective markers. If collagen improves skin quality and strength, reduces wrinkles, and makes you look younger, it might actually make you younger.

Get really, really cold and really, really hot on a regular basis.

People are crazy about cold exposure. It has many benefits and, perhaps most importantly, it takes a lot of guts and toughness to submerge yourself in really, really cold water. The simple act of facing that fear and bearing the shock is rewarding and signals the type of person you are. At least in animals, it also seems to improve longevity.

Don’t forget about getting really, really hot. It might be easier. It might be downright pleasurable. But there’s considerable evidence that it, too, can extend lifespan—in humans. A recent paper looked at sauna usage and mortality. Those who used saunas the most on a regular basis had the lowest chance of dying from all causes. This supports the recent study where exposing flies to heat activated heat shock proteins—hormetic pathways that sauna usage and other types of heat exposure trigger in humans—extended their lifespan.

Keep your spouse as healthy as you are.

Everyone knows someone, maybe a grandparent, who lost their spouse of many decades to illness and then died soon after themselves. This isn’t just anecdote. Study after study shows that mortality risk sharply increases after the death of a spouse. That’s true if you look at cardiovascular disease, infection, cancer, or almost any other cause—losing a spouse increases the chance that you’ll lose your own life. There are many factors, including the long-term cascade of stress-induced changes. But at the heart of the increased mortality is the initial death of a dearly loved one.

You can’t prevent people from dying of course. You can enlist them in your path to health. You can convince them to work out with you. You can go for walks after dinner, hikes on the weekends, eat a salad instead of that pizza. Your life may depend on it.

If I could bottle all this up in a single ridiculous package, here’s what I’d do:

Pursue to the ends of the earth the animal parts with the highest concentration of gelatin—the Achilles tendons of Himalayan mountain sheep, Turkish water buffalo tails, domestic-turned-feral hog ears from the bogs of the southern U.S., emu feet—and make it your life’s purpose to produce the world’s most gelatinous bone broth. Serve this broth to your spouse, whom you’ve placed in a protective bubble that filters airborne pollutants and infectious microbes and can withstand extreme trauma, including gunshots. Get into a sauna that can accommodate you and the bubble, crank up the heat, and place in the scent diffuser a golf ball-sized chunk of resin derived from five hectares of Oregon rainforest, creating a vapor that provides the same amount of volatile organic compounds you’d be exposed to living in a forest for a year. After that, hop in the shower and turn on the cold water for 15 seconds.

As for me, I’m trying to boil all that down to a supplement. Hopefully by next year.

Jokes aside, these are 5 legit methods I’m confident have a strong chance of extending your life by at least a little. They won’t make you a centenarian if you’re not genetically disposed. They won’t cure disease or add five, ten, fifteen years. They may do nothing, in fact; these are just my educated guesses and extrapolations. There are no guarantees. But at the very least, following these suggestions will result in more exposure to nature, more delicious soups and sauces, better cold and heat tolerance, a reason to live, and more time with your spouse.

That’s pretty good. Sounds like a good life regardless of years.

What do you think, folks? What are you doing in the hopes of living a little longer?

Thanks for reading. Take care.


About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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62 thoughts on “5 Unconventional Ways to Extend Your Life”

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  1. I love my green yard. We’ve rocked in a few small areas to cut down on water consumption, but I refuse to give up on my grass, trees, bushes, etc. I don’t know if these things will help me live longer, but I do know they contribute to my sense of wellbeing. A desert-like landscape just doesn’t cut it for me.

  2. For years, my wife has been telling me to not die. It looks like she’s got to not die first — the joke’s on her! Bwa ha ha!

  3. I have a question on the natural flavors in the collagen products. I have food allergies so this is important to me. I want to know where its manufactured. I can give more details where should I do that?

    1. Connie, let me set you up with someone who can answer all your questions. I’ll give my team your email, and they’ll be in touch. Thank you!

  4. #6 – Read Mark’s Daily Apple daily, and put the things you learn there into practice.

    1. Is dry sauna at 150F (12% RH) Monday – Friday for 30-40 minutes too much? I started this a few weeks and have been feeling better, but maybe placebo/hawthorne effect….

  5. Great really encouraging simple powerful tips. I thought, but I don’t want to drive to the ocean every day for a cold dip. Didn’t think of a cold shower.

  6. I just love these words of advice! My husband and I are in our eighthys have been following marks wisdom for years!

  7. That’s it, no more delays: time to implement my WinHof device (patent pending)
    1. Get ice cubes from freezer (contents of two or three trays of ice)
    2. Fill one plastic supermarket bag with above ice after making some small holes in bag
    3. Tie it to the shower
    4. Place yourself under the shower, let the water flow!

      1. I can imagine. I can relate (visited relatives in Missouri, tested my WinHof resolution there with the shower) (not easy)
        But I live in Miami Beach, so I need my invention !

  8. Is dry sauna at 150F (12% RH) Monday – Friday for 30-45 minutes too much? I started this a few weeks ago and have been feeling better, but maybe placebo/hawthorne effect…. I only exercise intensely twice weekly for an hour (MMA).

  9. Joke apart, this is my main drive
    “Keep your spouse as healthy as you are”

  10. My mother recently gave me a container of glycine that she had lying around. Could I supplement simply with glycine and have it count towards collagen intake?

  11. Awesome information! I truly enjoy your common sense approach to overall health!

  12. Love this post and totally buy into all of these ideas…except getting cold. Can totally do the sauna thing though. And honestly believe so much in the power of collagen…I honestly look and feel younger at 50 than I did at 40 and I think my collagen intake plays a big part in that.

    1. I’d say, getting cold is pretty darn important… Maybe even most important! We have about 60,000 miles of blood vessels within us that almost never get the movement they need. In the modern world, we just put on some clothes… turn on the heater… turn on the hot water… or we avoid cold altogether by staying inside.

      We need to take our blood vessels for a walk too. We do this by hot and cold exposures. In the process, vasoconstriction and vasodilation (movement) takes place. Those 60,000 miles of blood vessels are lined with smooth muscles that finally get a workout.

      Elizabeth, try cold / hot shower contrasts for 20 or 30 seconds at a time. You will notice that your ability to withstand cold will increase considerably after only a few days. Like any other stressor, we adapt (brown adipose tissue)… it’s gets easier… and it starts to feel amazing.

      1. Agreed Brian. After a post by Mark about cold dips and showers a year or two ago, I’ve been going out for winter walks (28-40 degrees) in shorts without a shirt on every once in awhile. I can handle much colder weather and body temps now.

        1. When I worked outside year round (in Michigan) I could tolerate weather extremes easily. I think we’re designed for it.

  13. I don’t have access to saunas or steam rooms. Do hot showers suddenly switched to cold count?

    1. I believe so! I do this everyone morning, from as hot as possible to coldest setting for about 30 seconds. Great wake-up call.

  14. This is great news! I have been trying to figure out what my life purpose has been and it’s been staring me in the face all this time! To keep myself and my spouse happy and healthy so we can continue to live and play and work on our 10 acre hobby farm/organic garden where we have a lovely natural pond with brook trout where we can swim in the icy cold water (we live in BC)…and we are in the planning stages of building a woodfired sauna beside the pond!
    Thanks, Mark!

    1. This sounds absolutely idyllic! I would LOVE to have a farm/organic garden in beautiful BC.

  15. Number 6 candidate step here:
    Using wires recycled from CAFO cages (which won’t be needed in the future with all animals free-roaming everywhere) construct a big Faraday cage covering your house or building (and some worthy neighbors also) to prevent electromagnetic damage to your cells

  16. Sorry this is offtopic, can anyone tell me how long take to process a order in the primal kitchen shop? I placed my order on April 14th and when I check my order status it still says “processing”. I sent an email to them but they didn’t answer. Thanks and Sorry for my English

  17. I like the last one especially. I don’t think I would have even been able to adopt a more health-oriented lifestyle without the help, support, and example of my wife. It’s all much easier when you’re both on the same page.

  18. What about living somewhere blue, as in by the ocean? What sort of effects does that have? Surely it’s gotta be up there without greenery? Even if not quite as good?

  19. Love the extra encouragement for my daily freezing cold showers / glacial lake dips…and my daily hot yoga practice!

    Also for the scoop of collagen in my morning bulletproof!

  20. Good post. I’ve been putting collagen in my coffee and tea. Hoping it helps skin, hair and connective tissues. Also cold showers are now an everyday habit. Would love to get a sauna or infrared sauna to work that routine in. Now just need to move to a sunny green mountainous area, find a health conscious wife and find a reason to live.

  21. Great article and I can honestly say that I follow four of them…”Follow your life’s Purpose” is the hardest. It took a long time to realize that my job, though enjoyable, is not my life’s purpose. Living purposefully, with confidence and mindfulness, is what I am working on now.

  22. I love my daily bone broth. I use a fresh pork hock and that can set about 2litres of broth ( maybe more, but that’s how much my pressure cooker holds). I think it makes an important place in my meal in terms of satiety too. Like the miso-soup in a Japanese meal, but less salty.
    But … I’m fascinated by your list of best collagen containing animal parts. Are emu feet really high in collagen? And could I bring myself to put a couple of emu feet in a pot and stir?
    Estrogen stimulates collagen production, so, as a menopausal woman who has to take a drug that blocks oestrogen in most of her body, I like to think that by eating bone broth I am helping maintain my collagen. My joints seem to like it, but my face is now very gaunt after 3.5 years of oestrogen deprivation. https://girlvstamoxifen.wordpress.com/2017/04/01/more-on-bones/

  23. I looked up the link under life purpose….the researchers were examining a database of data collected from a psychological wellbeing survey. They examined the responses to questions like , “Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them” (reversed); “I live life one day at a time and don’t really think about the future”; and “I sometimes feel as if I’ve done all there is to do in life”.
    Which suggests that your life purpose doesn’t need to anything revolutionary or earth shattering, but you just need to go about it purposefully, with a goal in mind.
    Well, anyone can do that! I’m going to stop typing now and go start thinking purposefully about my purpose, Thanks!

    1. So interesting, isn’t it!? I love that it’s not difficult and anyone can do it. Thanks for sharing this Samantha!

  24. Lols

    But the character Hamlet, I think, would comment:
    “If it be not now, yet will it come – the readiness is all.”

  25. Hello Mark, following these rules I believe I will live 100! The hard part will be the spouse part 🙂

  26. Hello Mark,
    I agree with your words, “We’re built to live in nature, amongst trees, rivers, meadows, wildflowers, beaches, and other trappings of wilderness”. In the name of development, we are moving far away from nature. I really feel pleasant when walking in the green environment. I hope, by taking quality food, living in tree-lines streets or near parks will surely extend our longevity of life.

  27. I really love this subject our ability to increase our own lifespan. Think what you should add or if you have not heard of it read about telomere length (TL) I believe it will interest you. Research is showing that TL is basically the reason we age and there are ways we can slow it down a study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19671205 found that regular consumers of chinese tea reduced the biological age of the participants by 5 years ! I would really like to hear your thoughts about this subject. and cheers for the amazing articles as always 😀

  28. I’m definitely amping up my homemade bone broth consumption for that extra collagen hit. I’m intrigued by the sauna, but as of right now don’t have access to one. Guess the NC heat will have to be a proxy in the meantime!

  29. My great uncle is currently 99. As far as I know, he spends most of his day down at the yacht club nowadays. Maybe the secret to long life is sailing as a job/hobby?(He did sail around the world a few decades ago) Open Ocean instead of Green Forest? Sounds rather nice.

  30. There is no supplement for green space. One simply has to be or go there. A good can of gelatin soup would be welcome. Joie de vivre that includes friends — that is the good life in a nutshell. Choose wisely.

  31. I love the being outside in the green space too, but my favorite place is the beach. I’m wondering if this counts. 🙂

    I’m doing the sauna thing, but have to admit I despise being cold….need to work on this one for sure! It’s never a good thing when the Missouri winters roll around.

    I’ve been adding collagen to my coffee each morning, but I’m thinking I should amp it up after reading this.

    I think finding your life’s purpose is key. Or admitting and embracing what you know deep down you love to do.

  32. Here are some of my longevity hacks. Carbon 60 in olive oil 1/2 ounce a week. Spermidine in water 2x a week. Both are associated with up to 2x increases in lifespan. Careful with the spermidine, it burns if you get it on your skin undiluted. Also, resetting the respiratory node in the brain to lower respiratory rate to 4x a minute is good as lifespan is inversely related to respiratory rate…

    1. Why, then, do exercise gurus and health nuts encourage us to breath more, and encourage heavy breathing?

      1. That’s a great question. There are a few answers to this. In terms of yoga gurus there is pranayama which is breath control and there are some techniques like kapalabhati that call for heavy breathing, but that is to stimulate certain energies in the body (kundalini). Then there are the exercise enthusiasts that will tell you that if you breath deeply for a minute, you can flush the CO2 (carbon dioxide) out of your body and have more endurance for a bit. Then there are the health nuts that think that oxygen is good and CO2 is bad because we exhale CO2 but if something leaving the body makes it bad, then water is bad since we urinate it out. Truth is that we need a balance of O2 and CO2 in our system and most people are low on both. CO2 is responsible for 40ish% of our ph balancing, keeps our nerves calm, protects proteins, detoxifies ammonia and so on. CO2 is more ‘primal’ in that life evolved with CO2 before O2 so there are plenty of biological processes in our bodies that need it. Personally, I have a tank of CO2 and O2 in my living room and a mixer and breath in 35% CO2 and 65% O2 on a regular basis to reset my respiratory node. More is not always better and breathing is a perfect example.

  33. Yes! I love this! I am extending my life by living in Alaska, where I have access to collagen from wild game, limitless outdoor opportunities, and exposure to extreme cold and extreme heat ( we love to sauna!). I am also following my purpose AND my hubby has taken the primal path with me. Basically, we feel amazing!

  34. Love all of these. I live the green space, the purpose and the keeping my spouse healthy. Don’t love really cold, but do love really hot. The one I need to work on: collagen. I have a new bottle of gelatin capsules in my cupboard. I think I’ll start with those, work my way up to something more sophisticated.

  35. Thanks for the “best of all things” recipe! Having a great sense of humor is one ingredient you left out but which you obviously value.

  36. Why does your wife have to have a creepy hamster ball, while you get to run around free? Do you think you’re immune to air-borne pollutants and infectious microbes? O_o

  37. Natgeo has some stats on centenarians, too. Work and regular exercise remains part of their lives. as well as a robust social life connected to family and church.

  38. Nice Ideas. I think i should be working on following my life’s purpose! It has an added benefit of less loads and extended life. Wao!