We asked medical experts for the most impactful things you can do right now to live longer—and stay healthy enough to really enjoy your golden years.
Go for a jog
Of all the things you hear about how to live longer, one of the most critical is exercise. Aerobic activity, like running, is crucial for getting your blood pumping and your heart working. A recent study showed that a one-hour run adds seven hours to your life, up to four hours per week. People who run have a 25 to 40 percent reduced risk of early death and live about three years longer, the study says. Of course, people who run are often healthier in general, but running appears to have its own health benefits. “Running helps burn off or keep blood sugars normal, which is important because they keep your kidneys, eyes, nerves, and blood vessels healthy,” says Jennifer Kuca Hopper, MS, an exercise physiologist and director of employee wellness, worklife, and fitness at Piedmont Healthcare. Running also regulates blood pressure, increases lung capacity, reduces stress, and increases bone density, she says.
Eat more plant protein
A recent study from Harvard found that people who ate a diet high in processed meats like sausage and hot dogs were at a higher risk of death—but those who got their protein from plants had a lower risk, especially of heart disease-related deaths. “The study said that for every 3 percent increase in calories from plant protein there was a reduction in risk of death by 10 percent,” says Shayna Komar, RD, a dietitian at Piedmont Healthcare. Plant proteins supply all nine amino acids the body can’t make on its own, and “unlike animal proteins, plant-based proteins can help lower blood pressure, lower risk of heart disease, and decrease risk of cancer,” she says. Find out the top 10 sources of plant protein.
Get more sun—but not too much
Anyone wondering how to live longer needs to hear the benefits of vitamin D, “the “sunshine vitamin.” It has been shown to fight disease, improve bone health, and ward off depression. One study even found it to extend lifespan (of a worm, but still) by 33 percent. But because vitamin D comes from the sun, and our modern lives don’t let us spend much time outside, we might not be getting enough. Concerns over skin cancer are well-founded, and sunblock is generally a good idea. But, “getting 15 to 30 minutes of sun exposure a day should be adequate for vitamin D production,” says Jyotir Jani, MD, a primary care physician with Piedmont Healthcare. “Of course, that is not through sunbathing but by being outside with normal clothing.”