How to live longer: 7 habits that have been decreasing your health span

It seems obvious that healthy habits increase your longevity, but sometimes we focus too much on the good aspects of our lifestyle that we overlook bad habits which actually decrease our lifespan.

We all make poor lifestyle choices such as binge-watching a series over a weekend or eating one too many slices of pizza, but those are one-offs. These, however, are habits or long-running actions that we may or may not be conscious of. And no, we don’t mean smoking, drinking, or anything that’s common knowledge.

Here are 7 habits that can decrease your health span.

7 bad habits that shorten your lifespan

Some items on this list seem obvious, but some might catch you off-guard. You may also not remember to be conscious of some of these actions, so read up and be mindful!

Not managing your sleep

Whether you don’t sleep enough or you sleep in too much – both have adverse effects on your health and lifespan. Getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night can increase your mortality rate by 12% versus someone who gets a healthier 8 hours. [1]

On the other hand, though, if you sleep over 9 hours a night, that can also negatively impact your lifespan. [2] Generally, adults should aim to get between 7–9 hours of sleep a night so they can wake up feeling fully rested and energized.

Not exercising well

It’s common knowledge that you should get some moderate aerobic activity (such as walking) for about 150 minutes per week – or 30 minutes a day for 5 days. You can also do 75 minutes of vigorous activity such as sports 2–3 times a week.

But besides aerobic activity, it’s important to exercise other muscles. If you focus completely on cardio, your body becomes less efficient at burning fat. Do some strength training to balance things out, such as squats or sit-ups. [3]

Using too much technology

Some research shows that people might spend the equivalent of 3 decades of their life staring at a screen. [4] Nighttime exposure to light can mess with our circadian rhythm, which has negative consequences on our health. [5

Additionally, constant use of a smartphone or poor posture while using a laptop leads to stress on your neck, shoulders, head and back. This puts unnecessary pressure on internal organs, blood vessels and nerves. Sustained poor posture can also lead to chronic pain, which decreases your lifespan. [6]

Some research shows that people might spend the equivalent of 3 decades of their life staring at a screen

Not eating a healthy diet

Meat tastes great, but too much meat and not enough fruits and vegetables mean you have an unbalanced – and unhealthy – diet. If you want to reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes, include at least 1 plant-based dish in each meal. [7]

You should also drink more water to help your body process salts and glucose. Staying hydrated also keeps you energized and boosts your different body systems. [8]

Sitting too much

Yes, you could be sitting yourself to a decreased lifespan – 2 years less, to be exact. If you sit for 6 or more hours a day, regardless of activity level, you have a 20% increased mortality risk. Prolonged sitting can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, lower insulin effectiveness and a slower metabolism. [9]

Sitting is unavoidable for people who work desk jobs or work from home, but you can break things up by standing and walking around every hour or so. Short bursts of exercise have the added advantage of giving you a quick energy boost, too!

Not socialising

We humans are social creatures – we’re meant to be in communities. Social isolation affects your mental health and overall well-being. Loneliness can be as damaging as smoking in some aspects, since it can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. [10]

Social interactions also have a positive influence on our morbidity and mortality. Across age, sex and health status, people with strong social relationships are 50% more likely to survive causes of mortality. [11]

Failing to get check-ups

Prevention is better than cure, as the adage goes. If you don’t go for regular check-ups (at least once a year), you might not catch certain health issues before they become worse. Even if you’re not symptomatic now, you may have underlying conditions that will affect you further down the line.

Get a complete annual physical exam that includes diagnostic tests such as blood tests, colonoscopies and ECGs. These could reveal potential deficiencies in your body’s nutrition or the beginnings of diseases. The earlier you catch something, the more treatable it is. [12]

Leading a healthier lifestyle

In place of these unhealthy habits that shorten your lifespan, you can switch to healthier habits that will improve your overall well-being. These aren’t final and they’re certainly not all-encompassing, but they’ll definitely be a boost to your lifestyle.

Get more and varied exercise

Instead of focusing on just cardio or just strength training, aim for a balance of both. Go for a run and then do some push-ups or a minute-long plank, or do jumping jacks and crunches. Take to the treadmill before doing some weights in the gym. Balancing your forms of exercise makes your body burn fat more efficiently.

Get better quality sleep

Improving your sleep hygiene goes a long way in terms of personal health. Ensure you’re sleeping on a comfortable mattress (firm or soft is up to you!) with good quality sheets. Change your sheets once a week as well for better hygiene. And of course, sleep in a darkened room – any light will affect your circadian rhythm.

Improving your sleep hygiene goes a long way in terms of personal health

Eat a healthy and balanced diet

Eating both plant-based and meat-based portions in your meals will help boost your digestion, improve your gut health and aid your metabolism. It also gives you all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that your body needs.

Be healthy for longevity

Your longevity is affected by several different factors, including genetics, environment and lifestyle. Avoiding bad habits such as those listed above can positively influence your longevity in the long run, allowing you to live a healthier and longer life.

REFERENCES

[1] http://www.nhs.uk/news/2010/05May/Pages/lifespan-link-to-sleeping-habits.aspx
[2] http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001917
[3] https://www.tomorrow.bio/post/good-and-bad-habits-to-live-longer
[4] https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/news/
screen-time-average-lifetime-years-phone-laptop-tv-a9508751.html
[5] https://www.indy100.com/science-tech/screen-time-health-shorten-life
[6] https://www.bustle.com/articles/193209-11-surprising-habits-that-can-shorten-your-life-
as-innocent-as-they-may-seem
[7] https://www.rogelcancercenter.org/living-with-cancer/mind-body-side-effects/
nutrition/plant-based-diets-why-all-hype

[8] https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2013/12_0248.htm
[9] https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/07/09/study-excessive-sitting-cuts-life-expectancy-by-two-years
[10] https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/public-engagement/mental-health-awareness-week/
mental-health-awareness-week-2022
[11] https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316
[12] https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/25/longevity-expert-shares-his-non-negotiable-diet-sleep-
exercising-rules-for-a-longer-healthier-life.html

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