- Simple daily activities like exercise, healthy eating, and socializing can help you live longer.
- You can add healthy, science-backed habits to your routine in less than 10 minutes a day.
- Taking a quick walk, enjoying healthy snacks, or messaging a friend all have health benefits.
Striving for a long life doesn’t have to be complicated.
Despite the hardcore longevity routines of celebrities and the ultrarich that can add up to many hours and millions of dollars, some of the best health hacks are free and don’t take much time.
Science suggests that a few simple daily habits — including exercise, healthy eating, maintaining social connections, and reducing stress — can add decades to your lifespan.
Incorporating even some of these habits into your daily routine can pay dividends for your long-term health in just a few minutes a day.
Take the stairs
It’s no secret that regular physical activity is a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle, and plenty of evidence suggests that being sedentary can be deadly. Guidelines typically recommend at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise, 75 minutes of intense exercise, or some combination of the two.
But a growing body of research suggests you can reap some of the health benefits of exercise without spending hours in the gym — short breaks to get up and move throughout the day can help, even if you’re adding only a few thousand steps.
One study indicated that about four to six minutes of heart-pumping movement, spread out during the day, was enough to lower the risk of dying early. Another study suggested that similar short bursts of intense movement daily might significantly reduce cancer risk.
And a different recent study found a lower risk of early death was linked to as little as 11 minutes of aerobic exercise such as walking, doing vigorous household chores, or dancing (which, OK, is slightly longer than promised, but what’s an extra few minutes for a long, healthy life?).
Get your muscles fired up with a short plank or wall sit
There are clear health benefits linked to aerobic exercise that gets your heart pumping, but strong, healthy muscles are just as important for healthy aging.
There’s solid research that a combination of cardio exercise and strength training may be ideal for a long, healthy life.
And while weightlifting is a great way to build muscle, it isn’t the only option. Exercises like wall sits and planks have been shown to lower blood pressure, in addition to benefiting strength. These types of movements known as isometric exercises are low-impact on the joints, too.
Using your own body weight to build strength can help you fit more exercise into your day outside the gym so you can stay active, energized, and durable for decades to come.
Snack on healthy carbs
Good nutrition is another key factor in a healthy life, and you don’t have to overhaul your entire life (or kitchen). Instead of a restrictive fad eating plan, dietitians recommend adding more foods to your diet in the form of carbohydrate-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
Whole plant foods are high in vitamins and minerals as well as fiber, a type of carbohydrate linked to a lower risk of deadly diseases such as bowel cancer. Some of the longest-living people in the world eat plenty of high-fiber foods like beans, seeds, and veggies.
To add a boost of nutrients without extra prep work, reach for healthy snack options like berries with dark chocolate, trail mix with dried fruit and nuts, or cottage cheese with veggies and whole-grain crackers.
Enjoy some coffee, tea, and dark chocolate
There’s also evidence that other plant-based micronutrients like polyphenols and antioxidants can have a protective effect against chronic illness.
Some of the richest sources of these nutrients may already be in your pantry in the form of your favorite beverages or sweet treats.
Coffee contains a wealth of compounds that can help prevent heart disease and other ailments. Both green tea and black tea are full of similarly beneficial substances, so an afternoon cup of your favorite brew is good for your health.
For good measure, round it out with a bit of dark chocolate for an even bigger boost of heart-healthy flavonoids. Mmmm, science.
Reach out to a friend or loved one
One surprising source of health concerns in the US is a lack of social connections, with new evidence suggesting loneliness may be just as bad for your long-term health as smoking.
Some of the longest-living and most active elders on the planet point to a strong sense of community as a source of energy, motivation, and a continued sense of youth. One 96-year-old athlete, for instance, swore by daily phone calls with friends and family to stay mentally and physically lively.
While it takes work to maintain good relationships, regular communication is key, health experts have said.
There’s even a scientific way to be a better friend — taking time to share what’s on your mind, as well as listening with undivided attention to loved ones, can help you make and keep lasting connections.
Take a deep breath
Stress can feel inevitable, but too much of it can seriously mess with your well-being, worsening your heart health, interfering with your immune system, and even making it harder to maintain other good habits such as a nutritious diet and regular exercise.
While you probably can’t remove every source of stress in your life, deceptively easy techniques can make them easier to manage, according to science.
Breathwork, or taking deliberate time to focus on your inhales and exhales, has been shown to be an effective strategy for reducing stress. Just five minutes a day of breath exercise can provide crucial relief from everyday stressors, and even lower your blood pressure.