Some women are lucky enough to reach 30 and look like they should still be at high school. For the rest of us, there’s the daily grind of applying endless lotions, dieting and hitting the gym to make sure our bodies stay younger than the number of candles on our next birthday cake.
But aside from the obvious tricks, is there anything else a girl can do to stay looking – and feeling – youthful? Thankfully – yes. Read on for MSN Life & Style’s guide to keeping your body young, inside and out.
Eat the rainbow
Eat your greens… and your reds, oranges, yellows and purples. Nutritionists know that the natural nutrients and chemicals which are responsible for giving fruit and vegetables their gorgeous bright colours protect us from numerous health disorders, including cancer, heart disease, arthritis and premature aging. The hundreds of different antioxidants help to mop up harmful free radicals before they damage cells and make us look old before our time, so always try to eat a wide variety of fruit and veg to reap the benefits.
Keep calm and carry on
If you’re an excessive worrier, or if there is just too much stress in your life, then you could be at risk of making yourself ill and looking haggard before your time. Scientists say there is a direct link between emotional strain and premature aging; chronic stress appears to shrivel the tips of genes inside cells, shortening their life span and hastening the body’s deterioration. Try to tackle the source of your anxiety head on, while meditation, exercise and yoga can also help you to relax.
Eat oily fish
Eating oily fish – such as fresh tuna, salmon and mackerel – can keep you disease-free and your skin from aging prematurely. Fish like these contain long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which experts know can prevent heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Your two portions a week may also protect your eyesight in old age. Boffins from the University of California, San Francisco, found that these fatty acids stop DNA from unravelling, causing cell damage.
Unless you want to arrive at middle-age looking like a prune’s handbag, then it’s not enough just to religiously apply moisturiser every day. Your skin is at constant risk of sun damage, even in the mild British climate where the sun doesn’t often feel hot. Ultra-violet rays penetrate deep into the skin and damage cells, causing the skin to peel away and replenish – though the permanent damage has already been done. Make sure you apply lotion that comes with added SPF (at least 15), especially to your face and neck.
Easier said than done, perhaps, but studies show that having sex regularly while in a happy, loving relationship, helps to keep us looking young. One piece of research, by neuro-psychologists at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital found that couples who have sex at least three times a week look more than 10 years younger than the average adult who makes love twice a week. They claim that this intense form of pleasure triggers the release of a growth hormone in women which slows the aging process.
Eat for your skin
When you get older, the collagen in your skin is produced more slowly, which means skin cells aren’t replenished as quickly as they used to be. Research suggests that a diet that is rich in lycopene and beta-carotene may help to keep skin looking young and glowing. These nutrients mop up free radicals before they can damage – and age – cells. Sweet potatoes, carrots and green leafy vegetables are full of beta-carotene, while tomatoes and watermelons provide the body with a rich bounty of lycopene.
Ever seen a yoga instructor with a body you wouldn’t die for? There’s a reason for that; yoga is one of the best forms of exercise to keep you looking and feeling sprightly. For one thing, it’s low impact, so your joints will thank you for hitting the mat rather than pounding the pavement. Yoga also provides elasticity to the spine and corrects bad posture, firms up the skin and strengthens and tones muscles, meaning you’ll keep burning calories even when you’re not working out. Finally, of course, it’s extremely relaxing, so you’ll reduce stress levels just by going to a class 2-3 times a week.
Switch to whole grains
Despite studies showing that eating whole grains can reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer by up to 30%, many Brits have no idea what they are and how they give their health such a significant boost. ‘Whole grain’ means all three parts of the grain have been used, including the outer-layer, which is full of fibre, and the nutrient-rich germ. Whole grains help stop the heart and artery walls from thickening and stiffening, meaning you’re less likely to suffer from high blood pressure or heart disease. They also provide a steady supply of energy to cells, including the skin, keeping it looking good and controlling oil production. You should aim to eat around 2-3 servings of whole grain cereal, bread, pasta and other products every day to make the most of these benefits.
Get a good night’s sleep
Think the term ‘beauty sleep’ is a myth? Think again. According to one study carried out in Sweden, people deprived of sleep for long periods appear less attractive and unhealthier than those who are well rested. Over time, this has a huge impact on how youthful you look. Sleep is one of the most rejuvenating treatments around. When you’re in the land of nod your cells have a chance to repair and rebuild, whereas sleep deprivation limits this function. Lack of sleep also means you are more susceptible to stress, which can cause the capillaries in your skin to tighten, stopping nutrients from reaching the skin and leaving you looking worn-down and dull.
Get off your butt
We live increasingly sedentary lifestyles these days, but this is all the more reason to unchain yourself from your desk and start exercising regularly. As well as helping you to lose weight, tone up, boost your mood and strengthen bones, there is also a clear link between working out and the aging process. According to the National Institute on Aging, even walking for just 10 minutes a day can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by an incredible 40% – so your brain benefits too.