How to live forever

I’m sure everyone wants to live a long healthy life. This post is here to help you with that, no gimmicks, no nonsense, just evidenced based science.

an old woman looking into the distance

What are healthy habits? 

A habit is a behaviour that you do regularly and often without realising. A study found that people who partake in 4 healthy habits had a decrease in mortality, regardless of their body weight. This means they were found to be less likely to die from any reason when they had these 4 habits. The 4 habits are:

  • Having at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day
  • Exercising at least 12 times a month
  • Not smoking cigarettes, pipes, or cigars
  • Only drinking alcohol in moderation, i.e. not more than 1 drink a day for women and no more than 2 a day for men

The more out of the 4 you can do, the longer you’ll live. These 4 habits will have amazing benefits for your health. Let's get into it.

Having 5 portions of fruit and veg: 

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how important it is to eat fruit and vegetables every day. They contain a host of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that are essential for your bodily functions. They also contain fibre which helps to keep your gut moving. 

The magic number of 5 portions a day comes from research from the World Health Organization. They found that 400g of fruit and vegetables (i.e., five 80g portions), help reduce the risk of diseases like heart disease, cancer, and stroke.

a salad with avocado and chickpeas

It's important to remember that fruit and vegetables in all forms count, so that’s frozen, tinned, fresh, and dried. 

Doing regular exercise: 

Exercising at least 12 times a month, or roughly every other day, is important for so many aspects of health. Regular activity can reduce your risk of diseases like heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. It also can: improve your mood and mental health, strengthen your muscles and bones, and help you sleep better.

Annoyingly, the study didn’t specify what intensity of exercise the people did, but starting with moderate exercise is likely your best bet.

Doing moderate exercise is where you begin to see benefits to your health. You know you're exercising moderately when your heart rate quickens, you’re breathing more, and you can talk but wouldn’t be able to sing. This could be brisk walking, cycling, or dancing for example. You also see lots of benefits with vigorous activity too. If you’re exercising vigorously, you won't be able to talk for long without having to pause for breath. For example, running, swimming, or team sports like football.

Not smoking: 

Smoking is very bad for your health. It can cause lung cancer (and a host of other cancers), lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and reduce your fertility. Smoking also increases your risk of cardiovascular diseases like stroke, heart attacks, and coronary heart disease. If you do smoke, stopping can have so many health benefits. And if you don’t smoke, it’s important to also limit your exposure to second hand smoke as this can still negatively impact your lungs.

a person smoking a cigarette

Not smoking means you’ll be able to breathe better, live longer, and save money so it’s a win all round.

Drinking alcohol in moderation: 

Alcohol is a toxin and a known carcinogen. Alcohol causes cancers like bowel cancer and breast cancer. With long term use it can also increase your risk of liver disease, high blood pressure, depression, and stroke, to name a few. The World Health Organisation actually states that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.

Of course, this is easier said than done, especially in the UK where the norm is to go to the pub or go for drinks. So, instead, trying to limit your intake and have a moderate amount of alcohol can still be beneficial for your health. I’ve got a blog post all about alcohol here.

It takes a lot of effort to change your habits, they’re part of your routine and you likely do things without thinking. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

How to make healthier habits: 

It can take time to change your habits, so remember it’s not an easy feat.

Make SMART goals/habits: 

One thing that can be really useful in changing habits is to make SMART goals linked to the new habit you’re trying to make. A SMART goal is one that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Using this system can be more useful, as a SMART goal helps you break it down. You can think of something that will work for you and build it on until you’re happy with your new habit.

a person running in a park

Let’s use the healthy habit of exercising at least 12 times a month for example. instead of saying ‘I want to exercise more’ we can make it SMART. A goal such as ‘I want to go for a 15 minute walk after dinner, Monday to Friday’ is clear, specific and something that you can hold yourself accountable to. A SMART goal also helps you to plan ahead and factor in your new behaviour. By making a goal like this and sticking to it, you can help it become ingrained into your routine as a habit.

It's important to start with a goal that’s realistic for you and build on it. You don’t want to get unmotivated by aiming for something that’s not achievable.

Don’t think about weight: 

It can be easier to think about weight loss or getting smaller when you try to make habits such as eating healthier or exercising more. But research has shown that adopting heathy habits in a weight neutral way is more beneficial to your wellbeing. It allows for improved body image and self-esteem, less weight stigma, and improved emotional health.

Taking the pressure off the number on the scale and focusing on the physical and mental health benefits can be more helpful when making habits.

woman smiling in a forest

Ok, I know the title of this blog post was a bit of a stretch, but it is true that healthy habits help you live longer, so it’s not completely clickbait. Incorporating a few healthy habits in a weight- neutral way can be so positive to your overall health.

Key points:

  • There are 4 healthy habits that can decrease your risk of mortality: eating 5 portions of fruit and veg a day, not smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, and exercising at least 12 times a month.
  • To help change your habits you can make SMART goals and reduce your focus on body weight.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and it gave you some food for thought!

Bye for now 👋

References: healthy habits prolong life non-diet, weight neutral interventions lead to positive outcomes 5 a Day Exercise Smoking Alcohol


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