Harvard researchers studied the lives of 123,219 men and women over 3 decades, to learn exactly how much extra time good habits could add to your life.
None of these habits will be a surprise, but the stunning part is how the Harvard researchers claim to be able to quantify exactly how much more time you’ll likely live: specifically an extra 12.1 years for men, or an extra 14 years for the women.
Their research was published in the journal Circulation.
Harvard researchers accessed the health histories of 44,354 men and 78,865 women, spanning roughly three decades, who had participated in two previous studies: the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Nurses’ Health Study.
So, what were the habits? Again, there are no real surprises, but perhaps seeing them laid out like this, specifically tied to a longer life, will motivate you to try to stick to them.
- Don’t smoke.
If you smoke, quit. If you haven’t started smoking, keep it that way. Other studies have shown that on average, if you smoke, you’ll die seven years earlier than you otherwise would.
- Maintain a low body mass index.
We’ve seen this one many times too. For example, if your waist measures more than 40 inches (men) or 35 inches (women), you need to lose belly fat fast in order to add years to your life.
- Work out for 30 minutes per day.
Again: We’ve seen it before. A short period of jogging each day, for example, can make your body seem nine years younger, according to another study.
- Maintain a healthy diet.
It’s a bit difficult to define a healthy diet by Harvard’s standards in this summary, but they describe it as having “a high diet quality score (upper 40 percent).” Of course, you probably already know what a healthy diet looks like. Start with foods that are high in antioxidants.
It’s worth noting that the study used age 50 as a benchmark, meaning that they looked at how long people could expect to live beyond that age, depending on whether they did or did not adhere to healthy habits.
It’s not clear that this means that you can adopt the habits later in life and still get a similar health outcome. But it does suggest that no matter when you start focusing on your health, you’ll likely have a measurable impact on the total length of your life. (See you at the gym!)