How to live longer: five daily habits for a longer and happier life

Longevity is determined by different factors including genetic, environment and lifestyle. How we live everyday can influence how long we live, and making better lifestyle choices in the three main areas of diet, exercise and sleep is key to improving long-term health and lifespan. What are some daily habits we can practise for better longevity and a happier life?

How to live longer

Longer longevity requires improving both health and lifespan. As we age, molecular and cellular damage accumulates in the body, resulting in the physical signs of aging as well as increased risk of age-related illnesses like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer [1]. This damage is caused by what is known as the ‘hallmarks of aging’ that include genomic instability, telomere attrition, epigenetic changes and impaired proteostasis. This can limit both our health and lifespans. Experts estimate the maximum possible human lifespan lies somewhere between 120 and 150 years, however currently, average lifespan is around 80 years [1]. Delaying aging and preventing age-related diseases are integral to longevity, especially considering the aging population that is growing globally. While the longevity industry strives to solve these issues, there are daily activities you can do yourself to take ownership of your own health in the hopes of living for longer.

Walking for longevity

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that we perform 150 minutes of exercise per week, including both aerobic activity and muscle strengthening. While this may sound a like a commitment, this can be spread out over the entire week and can alternate between moderate and more intensive exercise. An easy way to counteract the health risks of the modern sedentary lifestyle is by walking. While not strenuous exercise, walking counts as aerobic exercise or ‘cardio’ as it works out the circulatory systems and reaps benefits to cardiovascular health. Regular, brisk walking can reduce the risk of chronic conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, mild mood disorders and musculoskeletal issues through various pathways. Walking for just 10 minutes per day can increase physical fitness, improve mood, promote weight loss as well as reduce the risk of early death [2]. It is therefore well worth incorporating walking into your everyday routine: from walking instead of driving to the supermarket, walking home to unwind from a busy day at work, or combining exercise with socialising by catching up with friends for longer walks at the weekends. Week by week, increase the intensity of your walk by going for a greater distance or including hills and inclines in your route.

Drinking more water

Water is essential to life and helps the body perform vital functions like removing toxins through the liver and kidneys, carrying oxygen and nutrients to cells, helping digestion, regulating body temperature and aiding blood circulation. Water constitutes up to two thirds of the human body and requires continual replenishment, with a recommended daily water intake of 8 cups a day. With the wide availability of fruit juice, flavoured coffee and soft drinks it is easy to swap water for a more exciting alternative. However, these are often high in sugar, additives and calories, undoing any benefits from increased fluid intake. Drinking enough water not only leaves you feeling refreshed and hydrated but it can also prolong longevity by protecting against age-related illnesses like cardiovascular disease and colon and bladder cancer [3]. Ways to increase your daily water intake include keeping a reusable bottle beside your desk as a visual reminder to replenish throughout the day, serving a jug of water with dinner to aid digestion, or livening up the taste of plain water by adding slices of your favourite fruit like lemon and cucumber.

Taking longevity supplements

Longevity supplements contain active ingredients that work on molecular pathways to slow down the rate of aging. Popular longevity supplements include spermidine, a polyamine found naturally in eukaryotic cells and whole foods; NAD, or Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), a crucial metabolic coenzyme; and resveratrol, a polyphenol found in grapes and red wine. All promise to delay aging and promote living longer through various molecular and cellular pathways. While not subject to the same rigorous clinical trials as pharmaceuticals, since longevity supplements contain natural ingredients found in the body and in food, they combine efficacy with low toxicity. Combining longevity supplements with a balanced diet and regular exercise may improve health and longevity.

Have a healthy sleep schedule

Sleep is a rather mysterious state of resting that human beings slip into every night, a liminal space where our waking consciousness shuts down and is taken over by the dream world of the subconscious mind. Sleep allows the body to recover from the energy expenditure of the day and is involved in essential functions like tissue repair, muscle growth and protein synthesis. It is recommended that we sleep for around 7-9 hours every night as this can protect against disease and prolong lifespan. Chronic sleep deprivation of seven hours or less can increase the risk of developing conditions like obesity, mood disorders and cardiovascular disease [4]. Equally, oversleeping for more than nine hours, usually to compensate for sleep deprivation, can have similar long-term health effects such as increased inflammation, impaired immune function and cardiovascular disease [5]. Therefore, aiming for nine hours of sleep every night is the perfect equilibrium to protect health and lifespan.

Sleep is a rather mysterious state of resting that human beings slip into every night, a liminal space where our waking consciousness shuts down and is taken over by the dream world of the subconscious mind.
Photograph: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

Prioritise happiness

Cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, performs vital functions in the body and is particularly useful in providing energy when faced with stressful situations. However, constantly elevated cortisol levels can damage health, which reducing your everyday exposure to stress can prevent. While stressful situations are by nature difficult to predict, there are certain steps we can take to reduce stress and increase the release of endorphins, the body’s natural stress relief hormone. Making time to enjoy your favourite activities from exercising, cooking, laughing with friends or having a relaxing glass of wine after work are all effective ways to release endorphins and protect against stress. Enjoying a healthy lifestyle mentally, physically and socially is integral to maintaining health and living longer as we age. It is important to enjoy life as, while it is possible to improve health and longevity, we cannot increase lifespan indefinitely.