What is longevity and how can you improve it?

Longevity is all the rage, but what exactly is it and how can you give yourself the best possible chance to improve health and longevity?

The global longevity and anti-aging market is growing at around 22% year on year and covers all sorts of emerging supplements and medicines intended to give you a longer life. It caters to a natural desire to fend off the attentions of Old Father Time for as long as possible, but what exactly is longevity and what things can you do to improve it?

What is longevity?

As the name implies, longevity is simply long life in good health. It’s the process of doing everything in our power to reach our maximum age. Those who do so can be said to have impressive longevity. But it’s important to note, this is not just about the number of years you live – it’s also about the quality of life we might get.

We all know someone who is marching into their 90s with all the vim and vigour of someone half their age. Whether through a careful exercise regime or sheer good luck, they wear their age lightly and seem immune to the effects of age. Not all of us will be so lucky, of course, but there are some things we can do to improve our chances.

Longevity as a state of mind

A common quality among longevity superstars is their attitude to life. In one of the longest studies ever of human development, Harvard tracked the health of 268 sophomores in 1938 over the course of nearly 80 years. The study was expanded to include their offspring who are now in their fifties and sixties. That data is one of the most valuable insights into what contributes to a long life and one of the more surprising findings has been that a key metric was how happy they were. The study found that a person’s level of happiness with their relationships at the age of 50 was a better predictor of longevity than their cholesterol levels.

A common quality among longevity superstars is their attitude to life. In one of the longest studies ever of human development

Staying active to improve longevity

Exercise has long been linked to good health, but recent studies are shedding more light on how useful it can be in helping you to live longer. One study in the British Medical Journal of Sports Medicine found that exercise could be linked to a 40% reduction in mortality and extend life by an average of five years.

Data from the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University in Muncie found that people in their seventies who have been regularly exercising for decades had heart, lungs and muscles in a similar condition to many people in their forties. Regular exercise, therefore, can not only extend your life but it will leave you feeling fit, young and agile for much longer into later life.

Exercise has long been linked to good health, but recent studies are shedding more light on how useful it can be in helping you to live longer.
Photograph: Anna Shvets/Pexels

Eat your greens

Turns out your parents knew what they were talking about after all; vegetables are good for you. Although the health benefits of a good, balanced, diet are well known, there have been all sorts of different opinions about the exact type of diet that will lead to a long, healthy life. All of them have one thing in common – vegetables, and lots of them. A study by the American Heart Foundation found that eating two servings of fruit and three of vegetables each day improves your chances of living longer. The benefits are especially pronounced with green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and kale and fruits rich in beta carotene such as berries and citrus fruits. Starchy vegetables such as corn, potatoes and peas, though, have no impact on longer life.   

Have a lie in at the weekends

Sleep has often been associated with longevity. Some studies have linked those who regularly get less than six hours’ sleep a night with a lower life expectancy. Recent research showed that those who averaged around five hours’ sleep a night had an increased risk of death of more than 50% compared to those who regularly got a healthy seven hours.

However, those who make up the time with long lie-ins at the weekend saw similar longevity to those who were enjoying regular seven hour sleeps each day. This is useful, as our busy lifestyles can make it difficult to get enough sleep during the week, so it’s good to know we can undo some of the damage at the weekends.

Longevity supplements

Much has also been made of the value of certain vitamin and mineral supplements in helping you live longer. These can have a beneficial effect by giving your body the nutrients which may be missing from your regular diet. They can achieve all sorts of effects such as improved metabolism and alertness.

As research progresses, many studies are targeting ways of replenishing the body with the kind of molecules which are important for keeping your body functioning and reducing your biological age. Although studies are not conclusive, there have been some evidence from clinical trials using mice that longevity supplements can help to lengthen your life.

Secrets to improve longevity

There is, though, no magic key to the fountain of youth. If there was, everyone would be living past 100. However, there are things you can do to boost your chances. Much of them are the kind of things we already think we know about such as a healthy diet, lifestyle and exercise. However, what may be a surprise to many is the very real impact our psychology and approach to life can have. Longevity is a state of the mind as well as the body, which means those who are young at heart may often be young in body too.

No spam - just the good stuff

Subscribe to our newsletter