How to live to 85: Germany’s attempt to find answers

Written by Staff Writer

Since ancient times people have hoped they could live to a ripe old age. No one is certain of how old people have always lived; obviously some have survived, but some might have slipped through the centuries. It is not hard to imagine an old man saying “I’m off to get my little violin, little cello.”

Life expectancy has increased to an estimated 80 years for men and 85 years for women. Even so, the majority of people continue to live in relatively poor health. In many cases people do not realize how sick they are.

More than 9,000 people took part in the Great Gonola project (AKA the Gonola Project) which attempts to uncover how many years of life can be earned through optimal diet and lifestyle changes. Gonola is a Portuguese phrase meaning “good morning, I am fine”. It’s the story of Portugal’s greatest survivor, Alfonso Gonçalves de Ata. He is known as the Portugal Prince or Golola, who lived to be 168 years old and is today still regarded as the person who lived the longest life expectancy in Europe.

The Gonola Project operated in three cities across Portugal: Lisbon, Porto and Madeira. Participants joined a structured lifestyle program for six months that included physical exercise, eating healthily and taking advice on how to keep their bodies going.

Participants even spent a day in the company of a world-renowned nutritionist and fitness expert, who gave them advice on how to improve their lifestyle.

To stop people from putting off their health improvements, motivational videos played in the participants’ homes when they woke up and again at the end of the day. Every day participants were given a “joy note” with a motivational message of how to remain well.

How did the Gonola Project discover its participants’ living strategies? SESL, a leading Portugal-based private health insurance company, chose the participants based on their potential for being healthy. The findings were presented at the Sixth International Nutrition Congress taking place this year.

The group then returned to their home and measured their energy expenditure and weight gain over the six months of the experiment. They discovered that although people had good intentions and ate healthily, they were more active in the remaining days of the Gonola Project than in the first six months. People also lost nearly a third of their weight.

You can watch the video above for further details.

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