Longevity. Living a long and happy life is the ultimate goal, right? Many of us think that our genes play a big part in how long we will live. Yes, good genes definitely give us a better shot at a longer life, but science has determined that genetics actually play a much smaller role than originally believed. Genetics accounts for about 25% of longevity while lifestyle habits account for 75%. It turns out that environmental factors like diet and lifestyle make a big difference in extending our life expectancy. Paying attention now to how you treat yourself, both physically and mentally, can help you lead a longer and happier life. But what are some of those things that can really help extend our life expectancy?
Stay Active – Mentally and Physically 🏃♀️🧠
It’s no surprise that staying physically active is important to a long and healthy life but it’s equally as important to stay active mentally.
Staying physically active not only keeps us healthy but can add years on to our lives. Exercise helps us think, feel, and sleep better and even perform daily tasks more easily. In fact, as few as 15 minutes of exercise per day not only helps you achieve these benefits, but can also help with longevity, adding three years of life. And your risk of premature death may actually decrease 4% for every additional 15 minutes of exercise per day.
Based on recommendations from the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adults should be getting at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. The American Heart Association breaks it down further, recommending 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity or a combination of both spread throughout the week. They also suggest adding a muscle-strengthening activity like weights or resistance at least two days per week. Studies have shown people who hit the 150-minute recommendation are 28% less likely to die early and that number goes up to 35% for people who exercised beyond the guidance. Even those who worked out less than the guidance were 22% less likely to succumb to an early death. The real key here is to spend less time sitting. Even light activity can help offset the risks of a sedentary lifestyle.
Both physical and mental activity are known to help fight the effects on abilities such as response speed and memory. So, while physical exercise is super important for our body and our mind, mental activities can help preserve areas of the brain that are involved in memory and reasoning. Embracing mental challenges is another great way to fight aging. Look for activities that make you use your brain in a way you enjoy. If you like crossword puzzles, maybe take on a new type of word puzzle or mathematical game. Take up an activity you haven’t had time for but always wanted to do like learning a new language or joining a local theater group. Maybe you’ve always wanted to play an instrument or paint or write poetry – now’s the time! And these activities will help to keep your brain active and sharp.
Focus on a Healthy Diet 🥗
When you hear stories about centenarians (people who are 100 years old), you often hear reference to their diets. There are references to a Mediterranean Diet which is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil and fish. Some say we should eat like an Okinawan (the people of Okinawa, Japan) who use to live longer than any other group due to their low-calorie diet full of green and yellow vegetables. (Some Okinawans made a habit of only eating 80% of the food on their plate, a tradition younger generations have dropped.)
For a long and healthy life, we should focus on a nutritious and well-balanced diet featuring a wide variety of plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and beans. Plant foods can help decrease risk and promote longevity due to their nutrients and being rich in antioxidants. Studies have linked a plant-rich diet to a lower risk of premature death as well as reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, depression and brain deterioration. It’s ok to indulge once in a while, but for a long and happy life, remember to bring it back to healthy and balanced.
A Positive Outlook 🧘♀️
Having a positive outlook may sound idealistic but it really does have an impact on your quality of life. Studies show that pessimistic individuals have a 42% higher risk of early death than more optimistic people. Laughter and a positive outlook on life can reduce stress and less stress can lead to a happier and longer life.
Try to avoid chronic stress and anxiety. They have significant negative impacts on our health and contribute to premature death. If you’re stressed or find yourself in a difficult situation, try to react in a calm and positive manner. Going back to the centenarians, their habits and surroundings may differ but research shows one of the things they have in common is their positivity. No matter the situation, they are resilient, they adapt and they stay optimistic.
Be conscientious. 💭 Pay attention to detail, think things through carefully and do what you feel is right. An 80-year study found people who are conscientious live longer.
Taking these tips and turning them into healthy habits can set you on the path to a long and happy life.