It pretty much goes without saying that smoking cigarettes and frying your skin in the sun make you older, so kudos for quitting and slathering on the sunscreen religiously. But if you're trying to turn back the clock—or at least slow it down a little—don't overlook these other habits that may be sabotaging your efforts.
Late bedtime: The problem with this is that too-little sleep is proving to be really, really bad for your health: Research links it to high blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain, and even just looking tired and older. You don’t need a perfect 8 hours every single night, but make sleep a priority more often and your body will thank you.
Soft spot for sweets: A sugar-packed diet can take its toll on your waistline, of course, but now experts also believe it can make your skin dull and wrinkled, too. These aging effects start at about age 35 and increase rapidly after that, according to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology. It's not easy to eliminate sugar completely, but limiting added sugar to no more than 10% of total calories can help.
You're stressed often: Stress increases the concentration of the hormones cortisol and norepinephrine in the bloodstream, kicking up blood pressure and suppressing immunity. Over time, stress that doesn't go away can delay healing, harden your arteries, and possibly shrink areas of your brain involved in learning, memory, and mood—you feel older.
Stress will never go away completely, but how you manage everyday blips can keep hormones on a more even—and healthy—keel. Deep breathing is the top anti-stress picks that you should make time for at least twice a day.
Don’t Exercise often: Exercise is one of the best turn-back-the-clock agents around, but too many of us don't reap its full benefits. Research shows that vigorous exercisers have longer telomeres—cellular biomarkers that shorten as we age—compared with healthy adults who rarely work out. Being active consistently can help fight brain fog, reduce inflammation, and prevent type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions that crop up over time.
Choose any activity you enjoy—be it walking, cycling, or dancing—and aim for a minimum of 20 to 25 minutes a day. Slowly increase the frequency, duration, and intensity in small increments. If you miss a day, don't let it become a habit; just pick up again the next day.
Don’t eat veggies daily: You've likely heard that antioxidant-packed fruits and veggies can help you stay young. These powerful compounds fight free radicals that would otherwise wreak havoc on your body and skin, damaging cells that can lead to cancer and make you look older. However, antioxidants remain active for only a few hours and need to be continually replenished, so to truly maximize their age-defying benefits, aim to eat antioxidants every 4 hours or so or with every meal.