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Dr. MAO’s WELLNESS CENTRAL: Six Healthy, Life-Changing Goals for 2010

2010 is here, a completely new decade. What are you going to do differently this year? What goals will you make for your health? And how will you ensure that you actually follow through with your goals? For starters, life changes begin with bite-sized steps towards health; you don’t have to change everything in one day!

These 6 centenarian practices will help you live to 100. Start small! Just choose 3 life-changing practices to be your goal for 2010. The trick is to be consistent every day and work your way up to the full goal.

1. Take a 20-minute walk every day

In my two decades of investigating the daily activities of centenarians, I found that every one walked for at least 30 minutes a day, and most walked more than an hour. Aside from the proven benefits to your heart, walking is the perfect gentle exercise for improving digestion and encouraging cleansing of the lymphatic system.

Start small: Start with just 5 minutes and build your way up to 20 minutes or more.

2. Eat 5 vegetables of different colors every day

The countries with the highest number of centenarians generally have very little meat in their diet — and many more vegetables. Numerous studies show that the different pigments in the skins of vegetables are powerful antioxidants crucial for maintaining health, preventing cancer, and protecting against environmental toxins; an estimated one-third of all cancer patients developed their disease as a result of insufficient whole plant fiber in their diets. Get started with this rainbow of produce:

* Green: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and dark leafy greens like kale

* Yellow/orange: carrots, squash, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes

* Red: hot red peppers, red bell peppers, and beets

* White/light: cauliflower, maitake mushroom, and daikon radish

* Dark colors: eggplant, seaweed, and black mushrooms

Start small: Start with just two different veggies, learn some recipes, and before you know it, you’ll be up to five a day.

3. Drink 2 cups of herbal tea a day

To maintain optimum health, drink decaffeinated tea with herbs that help support your liver, lymphatic system, bowels, urinary tract, and skin by cleansing and preventing a buildup of toxins and wastes in the body. Some of the best herbal teas for detoxifying and getting healthy are ginger, dandelion, chrysanthemum flower, milk thistle, hawthorn berry, and turmeric.

Go big: This being a relatively simple practice, you can take on a bigger challenge: drink tea instead of coffee — and get the health properties without loads of caffeine. Even black tea has a third less caffeine, and beneficial polyphenols to boot.

4. Stop eating when you are three-quarters full.

Something that almost all centenarians have in common is that they eat less. Many centenarians had very modest means, and as a result, they were eating less than average. They often stopped eating once they were three-quarters full. Excess animal protein increases the risks of cancer and kidney disease; excess fat leads to obesity and a higher threat of heart disease and stroke. Eating in this way also improves your overall digestion, allowing you to absorb the nutrients from your food.

Start small: Follow the three-quarters rule for just one meal a day. See if you notice a difference between that and eating to full capacity.

5. Commit to a cardio workout.

In many years of clinical practice and research, I have never met a centenarian that lived a physically inactive life. Effective moderate exercises include general calisthenics, racket sports, swimming (with moderate effort), cycling (at a moderate speed of 10 miles per hour or less), canoeing, and rowing (at a speed of about 2 to 3 miles per hour). A gentler overall workout is tai chi, which is also easier on the joints and balances your energy. Find a private tai chi instructor, a class on the West Side or a DVD that can help you learn, contact the TAO of Wellness. Grow your longevity by exercising for 30 minute-session, 4 times or more per week.

Start small: Begin by exercising only five minutes a day, but do it every day. Incrementally increase the time by five minutes each week. By week 6, you’ll be up to 30 minutes.

6. Breathe your way to 100

Many centenarians practice mediation and other special breathing methods every day. Breathing correctly is important for dispelling the toxins and wastes from your body; in fact, it is estimated that we expel only about 30 percent of toxins in our bodies through defecation, urination, and perspiration — the rest is all respiratory. And yet, many of us have forgotten how to breathe and take shallow breaths from the top of the lungs, accumulating toxins and wastes in the body. Practice deep, slow, rhythmic, breathing daily to detoxify and de-stress: three times a day, close your eyes and breathe slowly for 10 counts.

Go big: One of the most effective ways to reduce stress, protect your heart, and lengthen your years is to meditate. Find a meditation practice that works for you and begin with 5 to 10 minutes a day. For a guided practice you can check out my CD, Meditations to live to 100.

Dr. Maoshing Ni is a bestselling author, international speaker and doctor of oriental medicine. He has practiced acupuncture, nutrition and Chinese medicine for 25 years at the TAO of Wellness in Santa Monica. He is also the co-founder and Chancellor of Yo San University in Venice/Marina del Rey. For more information please visit www.taoofwellness.com. You can contact him at [email protected] or call 310.917.2200.

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