From cold plunges to waking up at the crack of dawn, health optimization trends have caught the attention of the masses and grown in popularity.
However, Andrew Huberman, a professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology at Stanford School of Medicine and host of The Huberman Lab, suggests we quiet the noise and return to the basics. Prioritizing five daily things is crucial for staying physically and mentally healthy, he recently shared—and they’re easier to implement than you may think.
The most important step toward robust mental & physical health is when we realize that no single protocol, program supplement or Rx* is alone going to solve it & we instead initiate a series of *daily actions toward persistent wellbeing*. Those actions are (& always will be): 1)…
— Andrew D. Huberman, Ph.D. (@hubermanlab) August 30, 2023
“The most important step toward robust mental & physical health is when we realize that no single protocol, program supplement or Rx* is alone going to solve it & we instead initiate a series of *daily actions toward persistent wellbeing,*” Huberman wrote in a recent tweet.
To feel mentally and physically strong while simultaneously searching for the renowned Fountain of Youth, Huberman says to intentionally bolster the following into your day: sleep, sunlight, movement, nutrition, and social connection.
As conventional wisdom has told us for centuries, getting enough sleep helps us feel better mentally and physically. General guidelines recommend adults get at least seven hours of sleep each night. It helps decrease stress, regulate the body’s internal systems, and improve mood (as we know, grogginess and crankiness go hand in hand).
In a previous podcast, Huberman says sleep is the best stress reliever, trauma releaser, immune booster, and emotional stabilizer.
Establishing a wind-down routine for 30 minutes to an hour before bed, going to bed and rising at the same time, and sleeping in dark, cool environments can also bolster the quantity and quality of your sleep.
Getting sunlight first thing in the morning signals to the body that it’s time to wake up; it also helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm, which will, in turn, signal it’s time to sleep later that night.
And more, getting sunlight is the best way to absorb vitamin D, or the sunshine vitamin—long championed for improving bone and immune strength. Research suggests vitamin D may also improve brain function and memory.
Another pillar we are far too familiar with is the importance of exercise. Huberman advises incorporating resistance, mobility, and cardio into your routine, albeit not all on the same day. National guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise (think a fast walk or cycle) or 70 minutes of intense exercise (think running or cardio) each week, along with at least two days of strength training.
Movement can help the brain stay strong, improve cardiovascular health, and reduce stress. One CDC expert calls walking “the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.” As our muscles atrophy with age, consider upping your strength and resistance training.
We often hear that the best way to keep an exercise routine is choosing something you love and can keep up.
Yes, eat healthy. But Huberman points to the importance of the type of food, the amount of food, and the timing of meals.
A diet rich in many kinds of whole foods, from fruits and vegetables to nuts, seeds, and legumes (cue the 30-plants-a-day challenge) can strengthen the gut microbiome. A diverse gut microbiome can improve immune and brain function. Maintaining a diet rich in plants, protein, and fiber can ensure you get the right amount of food that keeps you feeling full and energetic for longer (highly processed sugary foods can cause you to crash and get even hungrier).
While it may not work for everyone, Huberman has previously recognized the benefits of intermittent fasting. It may reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. With an eye on living longer, C-suite executives and longevity researchers alike have committed to intermittent fasting. Dr. Mark Hyman, the founder and senior advisor for the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine and author of Young Forever: The Secrets to Living Your Longest, Healthiest Life, previously told Fortune he fasts overnight between 12 and 16 hours.
We are in a loneliness epidemic. Feeling socially isolated has health consequences comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes daily. Moreover, loneliness can increase the risk of developing dementia, depression, and anxiety, among other health conditions. This year, the U.S Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a national advisory warning on the health effects of loneliness. Many are calling for ways to reimagine socialization through structuring environments collaboratively and creating space for intergenerational friendships to be the bedrock of a community.
Beyond the health benefits of feeling connected, the power of our social relationships largely determines the level of our happiness. Keeping and making friends from childhood to middle age and beyond is an integral part of staying healthy. Volunteering, or joining activity groups or hobbies—to name a few—can help grant people a sense of connectedness. A recent survey from the AARP found a vast majority of adults (87%) view play as a pillar of their health, with many saying it helps them stay connected to others.
While Huberman notes those with the means and the time can expand their routine to incorporate additional ways of strengthening their health, he calls his five key strategies “a robust and reliable foundation.”