An 83-year-old doctor who does triathlons got fit in his 40s. Here are his 4 longevity secrets aside from exercising and eating well.

  • Dr. Joseph Maroon is an 83-year-old practicing neurosurgeon and triathlete who got fit in his 40s.

  • He's made many changes, aside from eating well and exercising, to improve his longevity and health.

  • These include being spiritual and avoiding stress, alcohol, and tobacco.

An 83-year-old doctor and triathlete who got fit and healthy in his 40s told Business Insider what he believes are his longevity secrets, aside from exercising and eating well.

At the age of 40, Joseph Maroon, a neurosurgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, was so unfit that he struggled to walk up a flight of stairs. After he got divorced and his dad died — meaning he had to quit neurosurgery to take over the family truck stop temporarily — he found himself struggling mentally, too.

So when a friend reached out and encouraged him to go for a run, Maroon was willing to try anything to feel better. It worked — and kick-started a decadeslong fitness journey. Now, at 83, Maroon has completed eight Ironman triathlons since signing up for his first one 30 years ago.

Maroon, who recently took part in Aviv Clinics' Global Aging Consortium, has previously shared his diet principles and fitness advice with BI, but he also swears by the four tactics below for staying healthy.

Avoid stress

For Maroon, a huge part of living healthily is preventing stress.

Maroon tries to balance his four priorities in life: work, family and friends, spirituality, and exercise. He considers the chunk each one takes out of his day and plans so he can fit in all four.

Chronic stress keeps the body in fight-or-flight mode, he said. This can lead to things like depression, anxiety, poor sleep, and headaches. Long-term stress is also thought to be a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Dr. Joseph Maroon raises his fists in victory at the Lifetime Chicago Triathlon.
Joseph Maroon is still completing triathlons in his 80s.Uproar PR

Find room for spirituality

"I bring spirituality into all things that I do," Maroon said, including his care for his patients, his relationships with his family, and his everyday ethics.

By spirituality, he doesn't just mean being religious. "I mean spiritual beliefs that are unfolded in rituals and in various ethics, or a belief in a higher being or that there's something bigger than us," he said. "It can be in nature or whatever you choose."

Research suggests spiritual practices and beliefs can provide purpose and help build psychological resilience, which has been linked to longevity and improved life satisfaction in older people. One 2016 study, for instance, found that attending a religious service one or more times a week was associated with a 33% lower mortality rate.

A longevity researcher previously told BI that Latin American supercentenarians, or people who live to 110 and above, tended to be very religious.

Don't drink, smoke, or take drugs

We've all heard the stories of people who lived long lives despite indulging until the day they died, such as Agnes Fenton, who drank a shot of whisky and three beers every day and died aged 112.

But alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs aren't good for longevity. The World Health Organization has said tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year. And over 106,000 people died from drug overdoses in the US in 2021.

Though some research suggests that drinking wine may be beneficial, the WHO has maintained that no level of alcohol consumption is safe for health.

Get enough sleep

Maroon said that consistently getting enough sleep is also important for longevity.

Quality sleep has a variety of health benefits. It's been linked to a healthier metabolism, which can help ward off obesity, a stronger immune system, a lower risk of coronary heart disease, and other things.

Researchers have found that sleeping well can also help people stick to diet and exercise goals, BI's Gabby Landsverk previously reported.

Correction: February 16, 2024 — This story has been updated to remove an uncorroborated detail about Agnes Fenton.

Read the original article on Business Insider