Everyone knows it’s about how you live your life more than it is about how long you live it.
However, if you have a reason to enjoy– even love– living, you’re compelled with the urge to do everything you can to ensure you live well into your golden years.
Fortunately, a recent Harvard study aimed “to estimate the impact of lifestyle factors on premature mortality and life expectancy in the US population.”
The Harvard metadata study, published in the AHA journal Circulation, was one of the largest of its kind ever performed. Researchers examined the health history of more than 120,000 people.
The results weren’t all surprising or groundbreaking, however, the study serves as one of the most comprehensive deep-dives into what allows us to live a long, healthy life. Specifically, researchers found that those who follow these five points live an average of 12-14 years longer.
So for anyone who prefers to base their actions on research instead of leaning on conventional wisdom, especially when that wisdom is often wrong, this study shouldn’t be overlooked.
Losing weight is not easy, but it is worth it to be fit and healthy to live a longer life.
– Madeline Stuart
Read on to discover the five habits Harvard researchers discovered will add years to your life.
Yes, the study found that it’s unhealthy to drink alcohol in large quantities. Not surprising, right?
Consuming large amounts of alcohol has been shown to cause everything from heart disease to cancer, aside from the increased likelihood that you’ll do something stupid while drunk and get yourself hurt.
However, what is surprising is that researchers have discovered those who drink moderately, no more than one to two drinks a day (preferably something like a glass of red wine), may actually be healthier than those who don’t drink at all.
2. Don’t smoke (or quit!)
Smoking has long been the primary cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S., so it’s no surprise that smoking made the list.
My grandmother died of lung disease from smoking for decades. However, back then, smoking was incredibly popular and the health risks weren’t made public by tobacco companies.
Nowadays, smoking is less popular than it’s ever been with fewer teens smoking and more people quitting. And the fewer people smoking, the easier it is to stay away from the temptation.
It’s little surprise that physical exercise helps you live longer, as it’s been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and various chronic diseases along with helping you maintain muscle strength, which is critically important as you get older.
How long should you exercise? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests 30 minutes a day or:
- 150 minutes of brisk walking / week
- 75 minutes of jogging / week
- 2+ times per week of strength training
It’s important to keep in mind that the latest research on HIIT or High-Intensity Interval Training has shown that it’s less about how long you exercise and more about how long you maintain your maximum heart rate (or how high it is for how long), so pay more attention to how intensely you work out because even 10 minutes can be enough HIIT training daily.
Interestingly, researchers have also found physical exercise actually slows down the aging process in your cells.
4. Stick to a well-balanced diet
Probably the least surprising point on this list, researchers have found that sticking to a well-balanced diet throughout your life will help you live longer.
There’s a lot of information out there about what you should and shouldn’t be eating, but the basic recommendations from that food pyramid they showed you as a kid are still the most relevant and dependable: lots of fruits and veggies (lots of whole foods, really), lean meat and dairy like fish, turkey, eggs, and milk, some grains, and as little processed sugar as possible.
The most important point to remember about this, though, is that you need to stick to a healthy diet. It does you little good to jump back and forth between an unhealthy diet and a healthy one. Try to find a balance between unhealthy and not going too far towards the healthy end, making sticking to your diet impossible.
5. Maintain your BMI
Now we jump over to the least conventional tip Harvard researchers discerned from their study.
BMI refers to Body Mass Index and it mostly refers to your weight, the exact calculation being your weight divided by your height, but you can calculate it without knowing all that using a BMI calculator like this one. Researchers suggest maintaining a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 depending on your own height and weight.
Researchers found that maintaining your optimal BMI helps stave off a long list of diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer.