25 Small But Mighty Health Habits That Can Add Years to Your Life

health habits to live longer life

Looking for science-backed tips to help you live a healthier, longer life? You’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll share 25 simple but powerful health habits (many of which you’re probably already doing!) that have the potential to add years to your life. Let’s dive right in!

  1. Hydrate Generously: Our bodies are about 60% water, and maintaining hydration is vital for pretty much every bodily function (1). Aim for at least 8 glasses of water a day. Staying hydrated aids digestion, nutrient absorption, and even cognitive function.
  2. Prioritize Sleep: Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night (2). It’s not just about duration, but quality too. Create a relaxing pre-sleep routine, keep screens away, and ensure a dark, cool environment for optimum restorative sleep.
  3. Eat Whole Foods: Fill your plate with fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Whole foods are nutrient-dense and low in added sugars and unhealthy fats, reducing risk of chronic diseases (3).
  4. Meditate Daily: Meditation reduces stress, enhances self-awareness, and promotes emotional health (4). Just a few minutes of deep breathing daily can help. Start by focusing on your breath and progressively increase the duration. Here’s a primer on how to breathe better.
  5. Stay Active: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week (5). Physical activity boosts heart health, bone health, mental health, and more. Find something you enjoy doing and you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
  6. Laugh Often: Laughter boosts mood, relieves stress, and may even strengthen your immune system (6). So, watch a funny movie or show, read a humorous book or magazine, listen to a podcast that makes you laugh, or share jokes with friends.
  7. Avoid Tobacco: Avoid all forms of tobacco, including smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes. They’re all linked to various forms of cancer and other health issues (7).
  8. Limit Alcohol: If you choose to drink, do so in moderation. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a range of health issues, including liver disease and certain cancers (8).
  9. Maintain Healthy Weight: Being overweight increases risk of chronic diseases. Keep your weight in check through balanced diet and regular exercise, aiming for a healthy BMI (9).
  10. Socialize: Staying socially active can improve mental health and longevity. Connect with loved ones, join clubs, volunteer … the key is to engage in activities that make you happy and feel connected (10).
  11. Practice Gratitude: Expressing gratitude has shown to improve mental health, reduce stress, and even improve sleep (11). Maintain a gratitude journal or simply reflect on what you’re grateful for each day.
  12. Limit Processed Foods: They’re typically high in unhealthy fats, sugars, and sodium. Excessive consumption can lead to obesity, heart disease, and other health problems (12).
  13. Floss Daily: Regular flossing reduces oral bacteria, protecting you from gum disease, tooth decay, and even heart disease (13).
  14. Stand More, Sit Less: Prolonged sitting is linked to increased risk of heart disease and early death. Try to incorporate more standing or walking into your day (14).
  15. Control Portion Sizes: This helps manage weight, lower cholesterol, and reduce risk of heart disease. Use smaller plates, check food labels, and be aware of serving sizes (15).
  16. Spend Time in Nature: Studies show that spending time in nature improves mental health, reduces stress, and increases longevity (16). Take regular walks in the park, garden, or simply enjoy a sunset.
  17. Take Regular Breaks: Take short breaks during work to reduce stress and increase productivity. Stand up, stretch, or take a short walk (17), preferably outside in nature (see above).
  18. Limit Added Sugars: Too much added sugar can lead to obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Limit sugary drinks and high-sugar foods (18).
  19. Eat Mindfully: Eating slowly and without distraction can lead to weight loss, improved digestion, and greater enjoyment of food (19).
  20. Have Regular Check-ups: Regular health screenings can detect potential health issues early. Stick to the schedule recommended by your healthcare provider (20).
  21. Cook at Home: Home-cooked meals are often more nutritious and lower in calories, sugar, and sodium than takeout meals (21).
  22. Wear Sunscreen: Protect your skin from harmful UV rays to prevent skin cancer and premature aging. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 (22).
  23. Exercise Your Brain: Activities like reading, puzzles, and learning new skills can keep your mind sharp and potentially ward off cognitive decline (23).
  24. Practice Good Posture: Good posture reduces the risk of back pain, enhances breathing, and improves physical performance (24).
  25. Embrace Aging: Accepting and embracing aging can lead to better mental health and a longer life. Aging is a natural process, so enjoy the journey (25).

The Power of Small Changes

These 25 health habits may seem simple, but their collective impact on your longevity can be profound. Start small, pick a few habits, and gradually incorporate more into your life. Remember, the journey to longevity isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. It’s not about massive changes but about a collection of small, sustainable habits that culminate in a healthier, happier, longer life.

References

  1. Popkin, B. M., D’Anci, K. E., & Rosenberg, I. H. (2010). Water, Hydration and Health. Nutrition Reviews, 68(8), 439–458. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x
  2. Hirshkowitz, M., Whiton, K., Albert, S. M., Alessi, C., Bruni, O., DonCarlos, L., Hazen, N., Herman, J., Adams Hillard, P. J., Katz, E. S., Kheirandish-Gozal, L., Neubauer, D. N., O’Donnell, A. E., Ohayon, M., Peever, J., Rawding, R., Sachdeva, R. C., Setters, B., Vitiello, M. V., Ware, J. C., & Adams Hillard, P. J. (2015). National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep Health, 1(1), 40–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleh.2014.12.010
  3. Tuso, P., Stoll, S. R., & Li, W. W. (2015). A Plant-Based Diet, Atherogenesis, and Coronary Artery Disease Prevention. The Permanente Journal, 19(1), 62–67. https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/14-036
  4. Goyal, M., Singh, S., Sibinga, E. M. S., Gould, N. F., Rowland-Seymour, A., Sharma, R., Berger, Z., Sleicher, D., Maron, D. D., Shihab, H. M., Ranasinghe, P. D., Linn, S., Saha, S., Bass, E. B., & Haythornthwaite, J. A. (2014). Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being. JAMA Internal Medicine, 174(3), 357–368. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018
  5. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. (2018). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://health.gov/our-work/physical-activity/current-guidelines
  6. Bennett, M. P., & Lengacher, C. (2009). Humor and Laughter May Influence Health IV. Humor and Immune Function. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 6(2), 159–164. https://doi.org/10.1093/ecam/nem149
  7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2014). The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health.
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Fact Sheets – Alcohol Use and Your Health. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm
  9. World Health Organization. (2020). Obesity and overweight. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight
  10. Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLoS Medicine, 7(7), e1000316. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316
  11. Emmons, R. A., & Stern, R. (2013). Gratitude as a Psychotherapeutic Intervention. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 69(8), 846–855. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.22020
  12. Micha, R., Peñalvo, J. L., Cudhea, F., Imamura, F., Rehm, C. D., & Mozaffarian, D. (2017). Association Between Dietary Factors and Mortality From Heart Disease, Stroke, and Type 2 Diabetes in the United States. JAMA, 317(9), 912–924. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2017.0947
  13. Mayo Clinic. (2020). Oral health: A window to your overall health. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/dental/art-20047475
  14. Biswas, A., Oh, P. I., Faulkner, G. E., Bajaj, R. R., Silver, M. A., Mitchell, M. S., & Alter, D. A. (2015). Sedentary Time and Its Association With Risk for Disease Incidence, Mortality, and Hospitalization in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine, 162(2), 123–132. https://doi.org/10.7326/M14-1651
  15. Rolls, B. J., Morris, E. L., & Roe, L. S. (2002). Portion size of food affects energy intake in normal-weight and overweight men and women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 76(6), 1207–1213. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/76.6.1207
  16. White, M. P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J., Wheeler, B. W., Hartig, T., Warber, S. L., Bone, A., Depledge, M. H., & Fleming, L. E. (2019). Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 7730. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-44097-3
  17. Schwartz, B. (2016). The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working. Simon and Schuster.
  18. World Health Organization. (2015). Guideline: Sugars intake for adults and children. World Health Organization.
  19. Harvard Health Publishing. (2020). Mindful eating – Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/mindful-eating
  20. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. (2020). Recommendations for Primary Care Practice. https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/recommendations
  21. Wolfson, J. A., & Bleich, S. N. (2015). Is cooking at home associated with better diet quality or weight-loss intention?. Public Health Nutrition, 18(8), 1397–1406. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1368980014001943
  22. Harvard Health Publishing. (2019). Sunscreen: How to Help Protect Your Skin from the Sun. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/understanding-over-counter-medicines/sunscreen-how-help-protect-your-skin-sun
  23. Park, D. C., Lodi-Smith, J., Drew, L., Haber, S., Hebrank, A., Bischof, G. N., & Aamodt, W. (2014). The Impact of Sustained Engagement on Cognitive Function in Older Adults: The Synapse Project. Psychological Science, 25(1), 103–112. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797613499592
  24. Neumann, D. A., & Kinesiology, T. P. (2010). Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System: Foundations for Rehabilitation. Mosby/Elsevier.
  25. Levy, B. R., Slade, M. D., Kunkel, S. R., & Kasl, S. V. (2002). Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(2), 261–270. https://doi.org/10

1 thoughts on “25 Small But Mighty Health Habits That Can Add Years to Your Life

  1. Mark Jones says:

    Hi Scott,

    I like your list with one exception; sunscreen

    This is a peeve of mine. Why would putting chemicals all over our bodies improve our health? The sun is what gives everything on this earth life. Humans lived on Earth for thousands of years without sunscreen. – mostly synthetically produced chemical poisons.

    Instead of applying sunscreen why don’t we take all the garbage out of our diets like sugar and processed foods (food-like products) and we won’t need sunscreen? Maybe it’s the s__t we are eating that is causing the skin cancer, not the sun!

    Just my 2 cents. Thanks for listening, no reply is needed.

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