Health

5 Habits for a Longer and Healthier Life that Have Nothing to do With Food or Exercise

Let's say you want to live a long and healthy life, because you're weird like that.

You've probably heard that in order to achieve this, you need to eat well and exercise. Everyone knows that by now.

But there are other things you can—and should do—if you want to live a longer life.

Here are five things you can probably manage.

1. Stay social.

Your friends add a lot of value to your overall health.

As ATTN: previously reported on a report from Harvard Women's Health, "good connections can improve health and increase longevity ... One study, which examined data from more than 309,000 people, found that lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50% — an effect on mortality risk roughly comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and greater than obesity and physical inactivity."

Yes, you read that right: loneliness can be more deadly than a cigarette habit. (Obvious note: It's still not wise to smoke, if your goal is to live a long and healthy life.)

2. Pick up some new hobbies.

It doesn't really matter what your hobby is, as long as it's not, like, bear chasing or something inherently dangerous/potentially life-ending.

The idea is that a new hobby can give you a new sense of purpose. This was explored in a study by Professor Andrew Steptoe of the University College London Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care and published in The Lancet in 2014.

Steptoe explains, "A healthy lifestyle is important, as are relationships with family and friends. Finding things to do that give a sense of purpose is also important. They don’t have to be very grand aims."

Susan Biali, M.D. offered Men's Health some practical advice: "come up with five small goals regarding [your hobby] that you want to achieve within the next year." Then works towards those goals by setting aside even just a few hours on the weekends to explore your fun, new hobby.

3. Have lots of sex on a regular basis.

There have been multiple studies on how a healthy (meaning regular) sex life can increase life span. Psychology Today did a piece on this phenomenon earlier this year, and found a few possible reasons for why having an active sex life would be key in having a longer and healthier life. 

One of which we've already covered, sort of: "Frequent sex means an intimate relationship," Michael Castleman, M.A., wrote for Psychology Today. "Many studies show that close personal ties enhance health and extend longevity." So, this goes back to that whole "don't live a lonely life" thing.

But there's more! "Sex is exercise, and regular exercise is a cornerstone of health," Castleman notes, adding, "Sex is relaxing. Many studies show that a regular stress management regimen is good for health."

4. Become an optimist. 

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A 2012 study by the Longevity Genes Project observing centenarians found it was their "positive attitude towards life" that may have contributed to them reaching 100 years (or more) of age. The researchers found that having "a lower level of neuroticism" was a shared trait among the subjects.

"In summary, favorable personality characteristics have been associated with positive health outcomes in late life and longevity through various mechanisms," the study concluded, meaning it may have been the optimism of these elderly participants that kept them from making negative choices in life that could lead to health risks later.

For example, "conscientiousness has been tied to longevity, and research suggests that people with high conscientiousness tend to practice healthy behaviors (e.g., engaging in physical exercise) and avoid risky health behaviors (e.g., excessive drinking and smoking)."

And even if all you do is have a positive outlook, that alone can help lower your blood pressure, which in turn, may add years to your life.

5. Get more sleep.

Most of us could use more sleep. Getting enough sleep not only keeps us more energized obviously, but can keep other health issues at bay. The American Psychological Association proclaims, "too little shut-eye has been linked to increased risk of car crashes, poor work performance and problems with mood and relationships. Sleep deprivation taxes the immune system, and is associated with a heightened risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and depression." 

Bottom line? "People who chronically fail to get enough sleep may actually be cutting their lives short."

If you need help falling asleep and don't want to take a prescription, we've got some tips.

[H/T Prevention]