The standard advice for how to live longer includes typically vague lifestyle changes that can be challenging for people who have bad habits and busy lives: don’t smoke, drink only in moderation, exercise, lose weight, sleep well. That’s all great advice. But there are also several specific and very simple (and cheap) ways to up the odds that you — or your children — will live longer, healthier lives. Here are five simple longevity tips, all based on recent research:
Get Up: For those whose butts are stuck in chairs at the office or on the couch at home for long periods, breaking the habit can be incredibly healthy. Sitting fewer than three hours a day adds two years to your life expectancy, a recent study found. Other research found a seated culture fuels about 173,000 cases of cancer a year. Sitting also raises risk for diabetes and obesity, two things known to shorten life. If you must sit, consider how to sit healthy, including taking short and frequent breaks to walk around.
Drink Coffee: While coffee can have negative side effects for some people, the most recent research — in multiple studies — finds coffee is generally not harmful. And a report in the May issue of the New England Journal of Medicine suggests drinking more coffee — up to six cups a day — can help you live longer. In the study, death rates for avid coffee drinkers decreased from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke and diabetes and the overall category of “any cause.” [10 Bad Things That Are Good For You]
Add Fiber: Anyone still clinging to their gummy white bread (or white rice) is stacking the odds of a long and healthy life against themselves (or their children). Whole wheat bread and other foods naturally high in fiber, including fruits, vegetables and rice, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, infectious and respiratory diseases, obesity and even some cancers. A study last year found that a diet rich in fiber reduces the risk of death during a given time period. Processed foods purportedly “fortified with fiber” did not exhibit the same benefit. Oh, and for added incentive: Eating whole grains reduces belly fat.
Cut the Fat: But cut the right fat. The human body needs fats to function, but more and more evidence finds a deadly correlation with saturated fats — the fats from meat and other animal products. Polyunsaturated fats — fats from plants, including nuts, avocados and other vegetables — are a basic aspect of the Mediterranean diet, which is also low in meats, and which is behind the healthy lives of centenarians, according to a study in the April issue of the journal Immunity and Ageing. Guys, need further motivation? Saturated fats lower sperm count significantly.
Take a Hike! Walking is good for you. No doubt about that. But can walking help you live longer? Likely. A study in 2006 found that elderly people who could walk a quarter-mile had higher odds of being alive six years later. A study last year reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who walk faster — regardless of age or sex — live longer than others. Plus, it gives you something to do when you're not sitting.
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Robert is an independent health and science journalist and writer based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a former editor-in-chief of Live Science with over 20 years of experience as a reporter and editor. He has worked on websites such as Space.com and Tom's Guide, and is a contributor on Medium, covering how we age and how to optimize the mind and body through time. He has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University in California.