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Brittany Hambleton
Brittany Hambleton
December 31, 2023 ·  8 min read

10 Simple Habits That Can Prolong Your Life

Scientists are constantly on the hunt for ways to prolong the human lifespan. As a society, we are fascinated with individuals who live well into their nineties and older. We want to know what makes them special? What are their habits for longevity?

Scientists have made impressive progress toward extending life expectancy. They’ve lowered infant mortality rates, developed vaccines to prevent deaths from disease, and believe that one day, we may be able to live to be one thousand years old.

As of right now, however, there still is no magic anti-aging potion, even with some of the latest breakthroughs. The best way to extend your life is by practicing healthy lifestyle behaviors. You can add years to your life- and life to your years- by adopting these ten habits for longevity.

Habits for Longevity

The following ten habits will not only help you live longer, but they will help you to maintain your health, vitality, and energy as you age. This way, you can enjoy your later years to their maximum potential.

1. Eats Plenty of Plants

Consuming a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains may reduce your risk for disease and help you live longer. There are many studies that link a plant-heavy diet with a lower risk of premature death and a lower instance of diseases like cancer, heart disease, and cardiovascular disease [1].

In fact, there are several studies that show a vegetarian or vegan diet can reduce your risk of premature death by twelve to fifteen percent. They can also lower your risk of dying from cancer, heart or kidney disease, or hormone-related diseases by 29 to 52 percent [2].

One of the main reasons why eating a lot of plant-based foods is a good habit for longevity is because of the antioxidant levels in those foods. The specialized chemicals help your body repair some of the damage that occurs as you age. The more antioxidants you eat, the more that will be available for your body to repair its tissues [3].

This doesn’t mean you have to be a strict vegetarian, however. Eating moderate amounts of meat and animal products can be part of a healthy diet. The point is to make sure the bulk of your meals are coming from plants.

2. Stay Physically Active

This is one of the most important habits for longevity. You’ve likely heard the phrase “if you don’t use it, you lose it”, and this couldn’t be more true for your body. As you get older, staying active becomes even more imperative.

A 2015 review found that people who exercised regularly had a 22 percent lower risk of early death, even for those who exercised less than the recommended 150 minutes per week. People who hit the 150-minute mark lowered their risk by 28 percent, and those who went beyond that lowered theirs by 35 percent [4].

3. Don’t Smoke

A no brainer? Ok so this one has been beaten to death, but there is a strong link between smoking, disease, and early death. In fact, studies show that people who smoke may lose up to ten years of their life. They are also three times more likely to die prematurely than those who don’t [5].

If you already smoke, it’s not too late to quit. Research has found that quitting by the time you’re 35 may increase your lifespan by 8.5 years, and quitting in your sixties could add nearly four years to your life [6].

4. Get Enough Sleep

Having regular sleep patterns is one of the most important habits for longevity. This not only means getting an adequate amount of sleep, but also going to bed and getting up in the morning at relatively the same times each day.

In fact, studies have found that getting less than five to seven hours of sleep per night can increase your risk of early death by twelve percent. More, however, is not always better. They also found that sleeping more than eight to nine hours per night can decrease your lifespan by nearly forty percent [7].

Read: Happy ever after: 25 ways to live well into old age

5. Reduce Your Stress

Chronic stress and anxiety can have a profound impact on your life expectancy. In fact, women suffering from stress and anxiety are up to two times more likely to die from heart disease, stroke, or lung cancer [8].

Similarly, men with high levels of stress and anxiety are three times more likely to die prematurely than those with lower levels of stress [9].

Stress can also indirectly shorten your lifespan by triggering negative behaviors. These could include comfort eating, smoking, and not sleeping. For this reason, it is important to actively try and reduce the amount of stress in your life. Removing unnecessary stressors is a good first step. Using relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga, or taking time out for yourself can also help [10]. Try taking an Epsom salt bath, and soak for 20-30 minutes.

6. Engage Your Brain

According to Harvard Medical School, embracing mental challenges is one of the main habits for longevity that separates the super-agers from the rest of us. This means purposefully choosing to do things that you don’t normally excel at.

For example, if you enjoy word-related games like crosswords, give a mathematical game like Sudoku a try. Or attempt to do something you normally would’ve asked for help for- like assembling some IKEA furniture or calculating your income taxes.

The experts at Harvard also suggest pursuing leisure activities you may not have had time for in the past. This could include joining a theatre group, writing poetry, or learning a new language. Of course, any time you try something new you should prepare to be frustrated, but that’s where the benefit comes in. Just like with exercise, the more you push your brain to learn new things, the better you will get at it [11].

7. Drink Moderately

If you choose to drink alcohol, you should do so moderately if you want to improve longevity. Heavy alcohol consumption can increase your risk for liver, heart, and pancreatic disease. It can also increase your overall risk for early death.

Moderate alcohol consumption, on the other hand, can actually decrease your risk for early death by up to eighteen percent [12]. Wine is particularly beneficial in this case, thanks to its polyphenol content.

That being said, there is no need to start drinking alcohol if you don’t already. There is no strong research to indicate that moderate drinking provides more benefits than abstaining completely.

8. Make- and Keep- Your Friends

Staying in touch with your friends is an important habit for longevity.

Although we don’t know exactly why, spending quality time with friends and family appears to increase your lifespan. In fact, research shows that maintaining a healthy social network can help you live up to fifty percent longer [13].

For all you introverts out there, here’s the good news: you don’t need an army of friends to reap the longevity benefits of social connection. A study from 2001 found that even having just three good friends can decrease your risk of early death by two hundred percent [14].

The reasons why having friends improves your lifespan is less clear than the numbers. It could be that friends help you react better to stress. It could also be that you’re less likely to take on risky behaviours, or that you’re more likely to take care of yourself. Whatever the reason, having meaningful connections in your life could help you live longer.

9. Work Hard

According to a study published in the book “The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study”, hard-working people live longer. The study followed over fifteen hundred children from the 1920s until their death. The results showed that the conscientious, hard-working personality trait extended life by an average of two to three years [15].

There are many possible reasons for this, one of which could be that more conscientious children tended to avoid risks. They were also more likely to enter into stable relationships, which can also improve health, happiness, and longevity.

10. Prioritize Your Happiness

This might be one of the most important habits for longevity. Happiness improves your mood and thus can help you live longer. A review of 35 studies found that people who are happier may live up to eighteen percent longer than those who are not [16]. 

Just like with stress reduction, it is important to actively do things to make you feel happier. Getting outside and spending time in nature can really help. Being with friends and family can also make you feel happier. Taking time for yourself to engage in a hobby is another great way to boost your mood.

Take Care of Yourself to Live a Long Life

All of these habits for longevity will not just help you to live longer. They will also vastly improve the quality of your life, no matter how long it is. No one wants to live a long life full of stress, disease, and unhappiness. While there are many things in our lives that we cannot control, these habits are completely up to you, and can improve both the quality and the quantity of your years immensely.

Keep Reading: Our Bodies Age in Three Distinct Shifts, According to More Than 4,000 Blood Tests