Dr Michael Mosley’s top tips for living longer and better

As Michael Mosley prepares to go on tour with his wife Dr Claire Bailey, we look at his top tips for staying healthy for longer.

We are all searching for ways to live longer and better, so we spoke to none other than Dr Michael Mosley, a leading health expert.

Not only has he met some of the longest living people in the world through his television work, but he’s also reduced his own risk of death by reversing type 2 diabetes and, though he’s 66, he’s maintained the spine of a 30-year-old.

But boosting longevity is no easy task, otherwise we’d all be living for a century or beyond. The key involves targeting each aspect of your lifestyle, from healthy eating and fitness, to mental wellbeing and sleep. And there are things you can do to make it feasible and enjoyable, whatever your circumstances. 

Dr Michael Mosley standing in a kitchen holding a bottle of olive oil with Mediterranean-style foods in front of him.Credit: Positive Communications

1. Identify your motivation

Make your motivation visible

Whether your goal is to reverse type 2 diabetes (as Mosley did), lower your blood pressure, eat healthier or move more – all of which could contribute to living longer and better – what’s crucial to achieving it is being motivated, he says.   

To help with this, Mosley suggests writing a reminder and putting it somewhere you’ll see it every day.

For example, if you want to improve your diet, you could place it on the fridge. If you want to exercise rather than watch TV, you could place a prompt on the TV remote to encourage you to do a video workout or go for a walk instead. Or place a note in your diary reminding you to do a mindfulness exercise if mental health is your focus.  

Being specific about your goal and why you want to achieve it can help to identify your motivation. Perhaps you want to eat healthier or move more so that you have the energy to play with your grandchildren? 

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Discover more  tips for understanding and maintaining your motivation from The British Heart Foundation.

2. Remove temptation

Ditch the junk food

The second tip from Mosley for living longer and better is something he lives by himself. In terms of healthy eating, he says it’s important to “clear the junk food out of your cupboards and fill them with healthy alternatives. If it’s there, you’ll probably eat it, I know I will. Out of sight, out of mind.”  

He laughs about his wife, GP and author Dr Clare Bailey, hiding chocolate from him in the house. But this trick helps him to eat more healthily.  

I think that willpower is grossly overrated. The important thing is to create an environment in which you don’t have to wrestle with temptation,” he adds. 

It works for other things, too. If you want to spend less time on your phone, place it in another room so you’re not tempted to use it. 

3. Recruit friends and family

Gather a team of supporters

In whatever way you are trying to improve your life for the better, having people who you are close to join in can help you to sustain this long-term. They don’t necessarily need to make the same changes as you, but just having their encouragement can help.  

“It’s really important to have their support,” says Mosley. “If you have a supportive partner or, ideally, if you can do this with someone, you’re much more likely to succeed. In particular, exercise programmes and workouts can be more fun to do with other people.”  

You could do these simple exercises at home by yourself or with a friend, which offer adaptations for complete beginners to fitness pros. Or if you think you’re eating too much salt, for example, you could adopt strategies to reduce your intake, such as taking it in turns to cook at home.

Evidence confirms that having an accountability partner – someone who supports you and helps you stay on track with commitments to reach a goal – increases success rate. 

4. Get outside

Fresh air is your friend

There’s a good reason being outdoors is among Mosley’s tips for living longer and better – something all Blue Zones (regions in the world where people live longer than average) have in common is plenty of natural beauty to tempt people outside into the fresh air.  

Mosley has been lucky enough to uncover lessons from people with a biological age much younger than their chronological age, during filming of the series Secrets Of The Superagers. As a general daily recommendation, Mosley says: “Let some light into your life. Try and get out in the sunshine; it’s a real mood-booster.”  

And the science backs it up. While sunshine isn’t always guaranteed in the UK, studies show simply getting outside regularly, particularly in nature, can have similar positive effects. 

What’s more, a 2021 review, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, shows there are links between exposure to nature and improved brain health, including better cognitive function and mental health outcomes. Why not try doing a physical activity, such as walking or running for mental health, while you’re out there? 

5. Do breathing exercises

And breathe…

Mosley says reducing stress is a huge part of living longer and better. This is because “increased stress and the associated hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and reduce the ability to make healthy food choices”, he says.  

A simple but very effective way to do this is by focusing on your breath. Mosley says slowing your breathing can help you to sleep better too, which in turn can help you to eat more healthily.

“Sleep deprivation has been associated with the consumption of an extra 385 calories, on average, each day.  This is because the areas of the brain associated with reward become more active when deprived of sleep. This motivates you to seek out unhealthy foods to give you quick energy.” 

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Regularly doing breathing techniques can help with this. In particular, Mosley recommends a version of the box breathing technique, because it’s a simple, memorable exercise that you can do any time and anywhere to promote calm. Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Breathe in through your nose for four seconds.
  2. Hold your breath for two seconds.
  3. Breathe out through your mouth for four seconds.
  4. Hold your breath for two seconds.
  5. Repeat the cycle a few times. 

The traditional box breathing technique is slightly different whereby you complete each step for an equal duration of four seconds. You can use whichever version feels best for you.

You can also access guided breathing exercises digitally such as through The Fast 800 app, available for download on Apple or Android devices. 

6. Stand on one leg

Improve your balance

It might sound strange, but it’s been proven that standing on one leg can help you to live longer and better. Mosley is an advocate for standing on one leg to help stability, as he says: “The second most common cause of accidental death worldwide is falling over.”

He talks about it in his Just One Thing podcast, where he says better balance also improves your posture.  

A scientific study, which examined 1,702 people aged between 51 and 75 (with an average age of 61) for 11 years, found that those who couldn’t stand on one leg for 10 seconds were 84% more likely to die in the next decade. People who failed the test tended to be in poorer health, with underlying conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. 

Don’t panic if you struggle with this, as thankfully, there are effortless ways to learn how to improve your balance. You could try building it into your daily routine, like Mosley. “When I brush my teeth in the morning and evening, I stand for half a minute on one leg, half a minute on the other, and repeat. It’s a great way to improve my balance,” he says.  

Doing this along with press ups is what helps to keep Mosley’s spine so healthy – and he’s had a bone density (DEXA) scan to confirm that it rivals those of men more than half his age. 

“You can easily make it a habit as you’re attaching it to something you’re already doing. You always have to brush your teeth.  

“Try it at home but make sure you’ve got something to grab onto, so you don’t fall over. See how long you can stand on one leg for. You might only manage 10 or 15 seconds, but you’ll get better.” 

Also, regularly practising Pilates, yoga and tai chi can help with balancing.  

7. Use technology to your advantage

Don’t dismiss screens

Technology isn’t always great for our health but when used in a healthy way, it can be beneficial. Mosley suggests using a trusted health and wellbeing website or app as a way to do this.

He says finding one that includes professional support will help you the most. There is a wealth available, including the ones already mentioned in this article, to suit your specific interests and goals.  

Here are some others: 

Headspace

Headspace offers science-backed meditation, movement and breathing exercises, delivered by qualified experts, as well as peaceful sounds to help with sleep, stress and encouraging mindfulness.

A monthly subscription costs £9.99, which includes a seven-day free trial. Or you can get an annual subscription at £49.99, which includes a 14-day free trial.

It’s available as an app on both Apple and Android devices. A study showed that just 10 days of using Headspace reduced stress by 14%. 

The Fast 800

The Fast 800 is a lifestyle programme available online or through the app. Its features include nutritionally balanced recipes, guided workouts, mindfulness tools, community support and direct access to health coaches.

It guides you through three separate approaches to achieve a healthy weight and/or diabetes remission. An independent analysis of the programme, by healthcare advisors who work in partnership with NHS organisations, found that 55% of type 2 diabetics with normal BMI reduced their blood sugars to below the diabetic range after three months of following the Fast 800 programme.

The cost is £119 for a seven-day free trial, followed by the 12-week programme and one month membership. After this, it’s £12 per month. 

Couch to 5k

NHS Couch to 5K is ideal if you’re looking to start running or improve your distance. The plan aims to gradually work up to running 5km in nine weeks. Each week involves three runs starting by alternating running and walking (or as we prefer to call it, “Jeffing”), to increase your fitness and stamina.

You can choose to be coached by voiceovers from celebrities including Jo Whiley, Sarah Millican or Michael Johnson for motivation.

Couch to 5K also proves that making a positive lifestyle change doesn’t have to cost you, as the app is available for free on Apple and Android devices. 

Book tickets for Michael Mosley’s tour – Eat Well, Sleep Better, Live Longer – which starts on 12 February 2024.

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Gemma Harris

Written by Gemma Harris she/her

Updated:

Gemma Harris has been a journalist for over seven years and is a self-confessed health and wellbeing enthusiast, which led her to specialise in health journalism. During her career, she has worked with top editors in the industry and taken on multiple high-discipline fitness challenges for certain outlets. She is particularly passionate about nutrition; after being diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome in 2016, she discovered her fascination for gut health and founded thegutchoice.com – a dedicated space for providing a hopeful outcome for people with gut issues. Gemma’s core aim is to help others through her writing.

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