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  • Published: 14 May 2024
  • ISBN: 9781761049927
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 336
  • RRP: $36.99

The Art of Longevity

Your Practical Guide to Total Mind and Body Wellness


Like most people, I’ve had my fair share of health issues. When I was a kid growing up in Brazil, I couldn’t play sports like my friends. I had bronchitis and had trouble breathing – whenever I tried to exercise, I quickly became short of breath and my heart started pounding. I’d only last ten minutes playing soccer or basketball, skateboarding, doing karate or kung fu. It was frustrating and I became really disappointed with my limitations. Soon I started putting myself down.

I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what to do. And with each passing year, because I couldn’t exercise, I started putting on weight. My mum did everything she could, but she didn’t have much medical or dietary knowledge. The doctors prescribed me anti-inflammatory medications and antibiotics for my bronchitis, but they didn’t really help. They actually seemed to make it worse. As my metabolism slowed, my weight increased even more, and I started losing muscle.

As a kid from a low–middle socio-economic background, we didn’t have a lot of money, but I was lucky enough to meet a great doctor who sent me off to see a group of researchers who were working with kids with similar respiratory problems. They recommended certain physical exercises as well as swimming to ‘open up’ our breathing pathways, increase our lung capacity, improve our overall health and address other associated health problems that might develop over time.

This was a big challenge for me because I had to learn to breathe properly, maintain a good rhythm while swimming and keep my heart rate steady. In time, swimming helped clear my lungs, and allowed me to live the life of a normal kid. After a year or so of hard work, my bronchitis was gone! I couldn’t believe it. From there, I developed new habits and training principles. The results were infectious; I was fast becoming a new person. I learned everything I could about exercise, health, the role of the mind, the philosophies behind martial arts and more. But as we all know, when you become a teenager, things can easily fall apart again.


I started bodyboarding when I was around 16 years old. Before then the ocean was only a thing to dream about: the beaches were far from home, I was a city boy. When I got to university and had my driver’s licence, things started to change – I wanted to learn to surf. I wanted to live and breathe its culture. I had it in my mind to move to California or Australia, but I chose Australia because I was already living vicariously through the photos of beautiful stretches of beaches and waves that I saw in surf magazines.

I remember ads saying, ‘Come to Australia! Learn to surf! Learn English!’ Unfortunately, my parents never had money to send me, but I worked hard in my last year of university, saved and made my surf lifestyle dream come true.

In the middle of 2004, at the age of 27, having lived in Australia for several years, I decided to go travelling. I wound up in London and was pounding the pavement, looking everywhere for a job, trying to make ends meet. One morning I woke up and – boom – I felt a pain in my back so intense that it knocked me out. I had never experienced anything like it before, right in the middle of my back, in the thoracic area. It was hard to do anything – work, train, socialise. I couldn’t even breathe properly. The pain was strong and persistent, and no amount of stretching or exercise could relieve it – or take the edge off my frustration. I decided to slow down and rest. I would keep doing some gentle stretching routines and I added some therapeutic massage. After three months or so I started to see some improvement, but I knew my condition was far from fixed. The pain had dulled but the root of the problem hadn’t gone away – and was still a bit of a mystery.

At the beginning of 2006, I returned to Australia to start the life that I had dreamed of when I first arrived from Brazil, in the place I now call home: the Gold Coast. I was studying and working three different jobs to save enough money to get my permanent resident visa and pay all the course tuition and licence fees I needed in order to practise as a personal trainer. (I already had a degree from university in Brazil in Exercise Science with a specialisation in Sports Rehabilitation.) At the same time, I was training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and surfing. A lot! In short, I was overusing my back muscles, and this was putting pressure on my spine again. That sharp pain was returning, and I was getting down and annoyed because I knew it was related to a bigger problem that had never totally gone away. So I had to ease up on all my training again, but I still had to work to make money, survive, and achieve my goals.

In 2009, I signed a new client – a doctor from an emergency department who was also a Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) lover. I told him about my own BJJ practice and why I wasn’t training as much anymore. I also told him I hated taking painkillers to mask the pain that I knew would soon return.

‘Why don’t you get an MRI done on your spine?’ he suggested.

‘Well, I can’t – no doctor will give me one,’ I said. ‘Also, they cost a lot of money, which I don’t have.’

‘I can help you with a referral,’ he replied, ‘and we’ll find out what’s going on with your back.’

I went to a public hospital for the MRI, and four days later I got the results. It didn’t look good. I had a unique condition that few physiotherapists, osteopaths and chiropractors had ever seen: a bulging disc between the T5 and T6 vertebrae in the middle of my back between the shoulder blades, and a disc tear between the T6 and T7 vertebrae that was being compressed, becoming inflamed. This was what was causing me all that pain. The majority of cases are found in the cervical area of the neck or around the lower back, but rarely in the thoracic area. The doctor took the results to a spinal surgeon who told me I was a definite candidate for an operation, but that I could also try to treat the pain with some special exercises. I thought to myself, I’ll fix this through exercise and a good diet!

And so began my research into all the different ways to train the body. I learned which exercises I could use to treat the pain and also improve my spinal function. I ended up learning a lot about body weight training, movement and core stability, and I began to specialise in these areas with my clients. It was an important step, because I also uncovered a wealth of information about diet and other lifestyle factors that are important to overall wellbeing, like the need for sleep and recovery (healing, regaining your strength and allowing your body and mind to reset), and the effects of meditation and breathwork.

Life rolled on – I continued my research, studying more and more cases, always thinking of ways to improve my body and mind with the aim of continuing to do those activities I loved for as long as possible, without limitations, and help others too. Of course, the journey wasn’t without its frustrations. There were times when I plateaued, when my training wasn’t yielding any results, and when my body wasn’t improving.

At this stage, I decided to look into alternative treatments. For one, I found out that my gut wasn’t working as it should. I couldn’t digest protein properly or absorb its nutrients. On top of that, I had an allergy to dairy and eggs, and I couldn’t digest gluten. Actually, I found no shortage of things I had to work on to improve my health and make my body function as it should! I knew that in order to achieve my goals I would have to find the right diet – basically, I needed to completely re-educate myself about food.

So I started spending time with naturopaths. I read all kinds of books about functional medicine, checked out all different types of diets, like the metabolic diet, the blood type diet and countless others. I had blood tests done to see what my body chemistry would respond to. I did an ancestry DNA test and a hormone test and studied how they could potentially influence mood, chemical imbalances, fatigue and more. I will share some of those findings later in the book, including questions that you might consider asking your own health professional.


In 2008, doctors found a small cyst in my mum’s lung. This was a shock as she’d always seemed so healthy in my eyes and had never been a smoker or a drinker. She was a beautiful Spanish lady who had escaped from Spain at the beginning of World War II with her mum and brother. My grandfather was already in Brazil waiting for them to arrive. The crazy thing, she told me, was that they were meant to travel to Argentina, where people spoke Spanish, but my grandfather had other ideas and sent them to São Paulo. They were so confused when they couldn’t understand anyone around them! At the time women couldn’t work outside the home; only men could study and have meaningful careers. My mum married my father when she was twenty-five years old and worked very hard in the home her entire life, and later in a bookshop, selling books, pencils, pens and uniforms. Also, she was looking after us and the house. (She has always been my biggest inspiration for her hard work and determination.) But back in 2008, when the doctors found that small cyst, I kept asking myself, How on Earth did she get lung cancer?

Looking into her past, I found out that she had contracted the ‘white plague’ – tuberculosis – back in 1940. Tuberculosis is a serious and infectious bacterial disease that mainly affects the lungs. The treatment was very harsh at the time, and she nearly died. She probably carried some vestige of the illness for many, many years afterwards. She developed high blood pressure from the emotional stress and started to take a heavy dose of medication to regulate it. Always a devoted wife and mother, she was sleeping less and less in order to look after her family. There was never much food around and clean water was scarce, so it was hard to drink the right amount to keep the body properly hydrated. I quickly realised those factors in her early life – compounded by her lifestyle in later life – had increased her chances of developing cancer.

She had surgery to remove the cyst in her lung, but the doctors found another small one on her spine that they didn’t want to risk operating on. A year later, that small cyst grew and began to put pressure on her spine, close to her heart. She underwent more surgery, which was now even riskier. She was worried and scared but, as a strong Spanish lady, she survived and made a good recovery. Ten months later in 2011, at the age of seventy-seven, she got a manager’s job in a shop. But soon her immune system deteriorated and the cancer spread.

By this stage, I had done a lot of research into health and the human body and I wanted to know what had happened to Mum, and more importantly, how I could help her.

She came to stay with me in Australia for five weeks and I encouraged her to change her diet, rest and sleep well, and walk every day for thirty to forty-five minutes. She initially panicked but in time came to enjoy it. After a couple of weeks of this new routine, there was another problem – she was running out of her blood-pressure medication.

She said to me, ‘What am I going to do after it’s finished? I’ll get sick. I might have a heart attack.’ After five days without medication, I took her to a doctor to reassure her and check if everything was okay.

It turned out she had lost five kilos in three weeks. Her blood pressure was normal. Her mood had improved. She was so happy, and at the same time, she couldn’t believe it. Tragically, as soon as she returned to Brazil, she got back into her old routines and everything fell apart again. Her health deteriorated, the cancer took hold, and the doctor told us there was nothing more he could do. She tried to go back to the routine we’d established in Australia, but it was too late. We could only hold on to her for another six months.

My beautiful mum passed away in January 2013. I couldn’t keep her alive and I was understandably devastated. But it was another defining moment for me – I became even more passionate about health, performance and longevity. And I became even more determined t o help people become who they wanted to be – to wake up to the life they were truly meant to live.


It’s crazy to think that what happens on a microscopic level can have a massive impact on our health and wellbeing. Take something like simple bacteria, for example.

In 2015, after a trip to Japan, I came home drained of energy. I told myself, I’m just tired from the trip – a lot of walking, flights, sleeping poorly, long hours coaching. I’ll be okay in a few days. I’ll get better. I just need a good rest, plenty of water and organic food. A few days later I started to get back into my training routine – weights, movement, surfing and cardio. But after my first session, my body became very sore – more than usual – and I felt even more fatigued. The next day when I got up I couldn’t eat. I didn’t feel like going for a surf or training. I was dragging myself around, which is very strange for me. I decided to push myself to train again, but my energy levels plummeted further, and it took me several days to recover from even my most basic routine. My brain was foggy, but I’m stubborn, so I kept pushing.

After three weeks in the same lethargic state, I was at a loss. I began to think about what was missing in my life. Diet, rest, supplements, water, the right food . . . it all checked out. But obviously something wasn’t right. So I went to the doctor for some blood tests, and we found that my immune system was compromised, my neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) were very low, and I was depleted of protein. The doctor didn’t have an answer; he told me it could be cancer, but he couldn’t confirm it or say which type it was.

He referred me to a haematologist who specialised in cancer. Before the haematologist said anything he sent me for comprehensive blood and breathing tests, checking for almost every imaginable disease (HIV, hepatitis A, B, C . . .) as well as all types of harmful bacteria. Two weeks later I got the results. Needless to say, I was scared, and I was praying continually. The doctor went through everything. To my relief, my blood was okay – I didn’t have cancer – but they’d found a lot of a type of bacteria in my gut called ‘heliobacteria’. And too many isn’t good. You usually contract heliobacteria from contami­nated food, water or utensils. It’s more common in countries or communities that lack clean water or a good sewerage system. You can also pick it up through contact with the saliva or other body fluids of infected people. My partner had to do some tests to check if she had heliobacteria too. We found that she did, but not in the same number I had, or to the same degree.

The heliobacteria were contributing to my fatigue by significantly altering my ability to extract nutrients from food. If I didn’t treat the bacteria, they could cause gastritis – an inflammation of the stomach. Gastritis can also become peptic ulcer disease or stomach cancer if left unchecked. Luckily for me I’d found the heliobacteria in time.

I started researching if I could heal myself in a natural way, and visited three different naturopaths. I took away valuable information from each, but all three said the same thing: I couldn’t escape taking antibiotics, but I could combine a specific diet, supplements and antibiotics to try to lower the amount of heliobacteria in my system. The interesting thing was that my partner had to take the same antibiotics as me: two different types – and heavy ones – for two weeks.

We did as we were instructed and after two weeks my partner got better, but I stayed the same. Nothing had changed! The antibiotics hadn’t killed off the heliobacteria, so I had to take another two different courses of antibiotics, even stronger than the first two. I was still weak and tired, the bacteria having damaged my gut. Everything was going downhill, even my hormone levels. The healing process was long, and it took me seven months to get back to normal. The second lot of antibiotics had worked, but I also had to restore everything from the inside out – my levels of vitamins, minerals, hormones – using the right supplements, a strict diet, meditation, gentle exercise and a sauna to aid recovery. What an experience! I learned so much from my research into bacteria and parasites, the gut lining, hormones, depression, blood performance and the liver. Most importantly, I learned how not having the right balance in the body’s chemistry can ruin your life, even when you think you’re living as healthily as possible.


We all experience good and bad cycles throughout the year. And these cycles repeat themselves across our entire life. They come and go with such regularity that many people don’t recog­nise or even know what this circle of life – this journey – we’re all on is like. We just think, I’m just getting old – it’s normal! I have to work harder and make money – there’s no time for myself! I’m married with two kids and don’t need anything! I’m forty and I deserve to have my big belly! I’m fifty and have been successful – I can drink every day! I’ve earned it!

Over the years, I’ve heard every imaginable excuse from my clients for why they can’t change their health. Instead of living a balanced life incorporating a good diet, exercise, breathwork and meditation, it’s much easier to take your foot off the accelerator. But we must never stop learning. And we must never stop improving. I’ve found that the best master is the one who knows everything, but doesn’t know anything; the one who still keeps learning from life and sharing those experiences with others.

For all these reasons, I decided to start The Art of Longevity workshops to share what I’ve learned and open people’s eyes to their potential. I complemented the workshops with insights my good friend, two-time world surfing champion, Tom Carroll, has shared with me, along with the benefits that regular medi­tation and breathwork can have on the mind and body. It’s been a pleasure and privilege to have Tom on this journey.

For those who don’t know me, my name is Rodrigo Berthona Perez, but everyone calls me Rod here in Australia. I migrated from Brazil in 2001 after I finished my university degree in Exercise Science. I was chasing a dream of living close to the beach, continuing to improve my surfing, and coaching people from the amateur level all the way up the ranks to the top pros. My life has been all about setting goals to get to where I want to be – as an athlete, as a partner and father, and as someone who wants to keep pushing my limits until I no longer can. I still have a lot more to achieve, but having dreams is how I maintain my focus on the present, stick to my routines and continue to finetune my methods.

Over the years, I’ve helped and trained countless surfers, from pro-tour champions, to groms, to regular weekend warriors. I’ve also worked with runners, hikers, cyclists and martial artists – basically anyone who is committed to improving themselves, no matter their discipline or interests. The Holistica Movement Method I’ve developed has helped them all to enhance the way they move. They’ve become more aware of their body, they’ve improved their nutrition and their training, and ultimately, they’ve become more durable and better able to live a long and healthy life.

The Art of Longevity is a wake-up call, a book filled with practical, easy-to-understand principles to apply across your life – what you eat, your daily habits, your exercise goals, your meditation and breathing practices, how you recover, your lifestyle choices and much, much more.

The Art of Longevity Rod Perez

The Art of Longevity is a simple wake-up call, filled with practical, easy-to-understand principles to apply across your life – in your habits, exercise goals, nutrition, meditation and breathing practices, lifestyle choices and much, much more.

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The Myth of Normal

In the most health-obsessed society ever, all is not well.

Finding Calm

ecades of research overwhelmingly shows that the number one factor that helps us adapt to challenging circumstances is social support.

The Power of Fun

When is the last time you had fun? I’m serious. Think about it.

Let It Go

Welcome to an experience that could be one of the most rewarding times of your life.

Everything is Figureoutable

My mother has the tenacity of a bulldog, looks like June Cleaver, and curses like a truck driver.

Use It or Lose It

‘I’ll tell you one thing,’ says Mum, distracting me as she scoops up the last of the chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream. ‘I don’t know much about positive ageing, but I’m positive I am ageing.’

Option B

In the early weeks after Dave died, I was shocked when I’d see friends who did not ask how I was doing.

Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?

I’m sitting in my therapy room across from a young woman.


The art of staying young while growing old


Why does the world need another book about longevity?

Show Up

For most people, it’s not easy figuring out what to do with your life, let alone how to turn your passion into a lifestyle.