Want to know exactly what clean living can do for you? Researchers are getting more and more specific about the rewards you can reap from your healthy lifestyle. These 5 habits that will tack on quality years.
1. Run for your life.
A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that women who jog live 5 years and 7 months longer than those who don’t. And you don’t need to do marathons: New research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests that people who jog 2 to 3 times a week—for a total of 1 to 2.4 hours over 7 days—live longer than those who don’t jog. The casual runners also outlive people who run more. With jogging, moderation seems to be best, says study author James O’Keefe, MD, an associate clinical professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine. Running strengthens your heart and lowers cholesterol, but it can be too taxing if you overdo it, he says. “The heart is really geared toward buffering stress for 20 or 30 minutes. By the time we get to an hour of continuous endurance exercise, the stress can start causing some strain on the heart,” he says. Work up to a mile or 2 three 3 a week—and don’t hesitate to alternate jogging with walking—to get the full health benefits, he says.
2. Keep your weight in check.
A study from Washington University at St. Louis found that people who were obese in their 40s lived as much as 1 year and 4 months less compared to normal-weight people. Obesity-related diseases including coronary heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and stroke accounted for the difference, the researchers say. But being too thin was problematic, too: People who fell below 18.5 on the body mass index scale (a combined measure of height and weight) lost 2 years and 3 months compared to people in the normal weight category (between 18.5 and 25 BMI).
3. Never smoke.
No surprise here: German researchers found that women who stayed away from cigarettes lived 7 years and 2 months longer than heavy smokers—and 5 years longer than light smokers. The good news? People who successfully quit smoking lived similar lengths as those who’d never touched the stuff. It’s clear why smoking is such a death sentence, given tobaccos link to potentially fatal illnesses like heart disease, lung disorders, and cancer. If you’re still lighting up, talk to your doctor about nicotine replacement or hypnotherapy—both have been found effective in studies. Or ask for a referral to a psychologist: A new pilot study published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research suggests that psychotherapy can increase your odds of quitting.
4. Stay strong.
Only the strong live long? In a study published in the journal AGE, people with the highest grip strength lived 2 years and 2 months longer than weaker folks. “Grip is a measure of muscle strength, which is the product of musculoskeletal system (including muscle mass) and neural system,” says study author Taina Rantanen, PhD, professor of gerontology and public health at Finland’s University of Jyväskylä. “It captures the effects of lifestyle, genetic disposition and health.” Work on full-body strength all over for the biggest benefits.
5. Don’t binge on bacon.
Meat lovers, beware: Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals that people who ate less than 10.5 ounces of red meat a day lived 1 year and 9 months longer than those who ate more. There was a catch, however. People who ate mostly non-processed red meat, like steaks or chops, fared much better than people who ate mostly processed meats like ham and bacon. In fact, people who avoided processed red meat lived up to 9 months longer than those who ate to 3.5 ounces or more per day.”
The negative effects of red meat are mainly due to processed meats like hot dogs and bacon,” says study author Andrea Bellavia, PhD, of the unit of nutritional epidemiology at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. “However, eating fresh red meat 2 to 3 times per week can be part of a healthful diet.” Why is processed meat a problem? According to Sabine Rohrmann, PhD, an assistant professor of the Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention Institute at Zurich University in Switzerland, the saturated fats and salt in processed meats have been linked to heart disease and gastric cancer. The curing process—salting and smoking, for example—introduces carcinogens, says Rohrmann. “This leads to an increased intake of carcinogens and their precursors.”