Researchers at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health have figured out the secret to a longer life and, as it turns out, it isn’t much of a secret at all. In fact, the secret is probably what your mother has been telling you all along.
The study was the first comprehensive analysis of the benefits of adopting a so-called low-risk lifestyle. The researchers looked at 34 years of data from 78,865 women and 27 years of data from 44,354 men to make their analysis. Their results, which were published in the scientific journal Circulation, showed that just like your mama said, eating right, exercising regularly, and not taking up smoking can add more than a decade to your life.
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What was the secret recipe? A five-step plan for healthy living:
- Eat a healthy diet
- Exercise 30 minutes or more a day
- Maintain a healthy weight, specifically, a healthy body mass index, which you can find here)
- Don’t drink too much alcohol, which means no more than one 5 oz glass of wine a day for women, and two for men
- Never smoke
While living healthy isn’t exactly fun, the results were pretty stunning: Men and women who followed all five guidelines had their life expectancy jump significantly when compared to study participants who didn’t stick to a healthy diet, smoked, or who regularly skipped the gym for all you can eat taco night. Women who maintained all five healthy habits gained, on average, 14 years of life, while men gained 12 years. Those who followed all five rules for healthy living were 74% less likely to die during the study period than their junk-food loving, couch potato counterparts.
While skipping the second glass of Chardonnay at dinner and substituting celery for s’mores may sound like a drag, it seems like a fair trade if it means an extra decade of life