Boost Longevity Naturally: Lifespan may not be at the top of your priority list. Still, habits that will profoundly impact longevity are easy to incorporate into daily life and benefit your mental and physical health in the short term. By sprinkling in some of these simple lifestyle habits, you will help encourage a healthy, long life.
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD
Boost Longevity Naturally: 8 Techniques:
1. Eating A Nutrient-Dense, Anti-Inflammatory Diet
The “right” diet for you requires a bio-individual approach because no two people thrive on precisely the same foods. To fine-tune your diet, you must address intolerances, allergies, and energy expenditure, but overarching diets have been associated with longevity throughout the world.
The world’s “Blue Zones” are the areas with some of the highest longevity rates, including various diets. For example, the Mediterranean diet is loaded with healthy fats (like olive oil) and anti-inflammatory foods like vegetables, fruits, and good quality meat and dairy. The Japanese Okinawa diet is also loaded with vegetables, some meat, and fish. Both diets tend to limit grains, and the Japanese also tend to limit their dairy intake.
The Blue Zones tend to focus on minimally processed, whole foods. The animal protein and dairy come from high-quality animals, typically in the community (not from factory farms). Cooking is also highly valued, a habit that has been shown to have a profound effect on health and longevity 1.
Apart from what you do eat, it’s also about what you don’t eat. You should avoid regularly eating pro-inflammatory foods if you want to live a long, healthy life. Some of the worst offenders when it comes to inflammation include: 2
- Vegetable oil (like canola, cottonseed, sunflower, and soybean oil)
- Refined sugar and grains
- Processed meat (that have preservatives and added sugars)
What you eat is essential, but so is when you eat. Fasting has many therapeutic benefits, including promoting longevity 3. There are many ways to fast, so finding a method that works for your current state of health and lifestyle is critical. An excellent place to start is intermittent fasting, a daily fasting window within the 24-hour circadian clock.
Intermittent fasting provides many of the health and longevity benefits of longer fasts but is more gentle on the body. You can start with a daily 12-hour fasting and a 12-hour feeding window if you are new to fasting. Then, in time, you can increase the fasting window.
A prolonged 5-day fast has also been shown to improve various bio-markers of longevity, including insulin levels, blood pressure, waist circumference, and BMI 4. The benefits have lasted for over six months.
As a form of stress, fasting has benefits but also places a burden on the body. For someone already dealing with chronic illness or lots of stress, a more gentle approach to start may be better suited.
Human connection and a sense of community play a significant role in generating happiness and longevity. An 80-year study by Harvard highlights the role that joy and community have in promoting longevity 5. Conversely, loneliness is associated with a higher risk of mortality. Although there are benefits to spending time with people in person, you can also cultivate a sense of community online through social networks.
Other ways to promote a sense of community and connection include volunteering, joining a group environment like a gym or social club, and religious groups like visiting a church once a week.
4. Spending More Time in Nature
A study highlights the profound benefits of spending time amidst the greenery of nature reduces the risk of death by 12 percent 6. There are many reasons why spending time in nature supports longevity, including fresh air, social engagement, physical activity, and exposure to sun and daylight. For even more health benefits, try spending some time barefoot in nature!
If you cannot regularly get out of the city or spend a lot of time indoors, you can reap longevity benefits by bringing greenery indoors. Indoor plants and flowers can bring some of the benefits, even without stepping a foot outside. Studies also show that having a view of the outdoor greenery is beneficial 7.
For many, it won’t come as a surprise that exercise promotes longevity. A study of over 80,000 people highlights that swimming, aerobics, cycling, or playing a racquet sport reduces all-cause mortality by up to 56 percent 8! Another study highlights that weightlifting also promotes longevity by reducing all-cause mortality by 46 percent 9.
When it comes to running, slow-paced promotes longevity, but ironically, speedrunners have a similar lifespan to non-runners 10.
Daily exercise, however, is often not enough to reap the longevity benefits of movement. Many people don’t realize that even with an hour of daily exercise, they may still live a technically sedentary lifestyle. One hour is about 4% of the day, so if you go hard in the gym for an hour but spend the rest of your day sitting, that qualifies as sedentary.
It’s time to scrap the idea that once you’ve exercised, that you’re done moving for the day. Instead of ticking exercise as a box, try incorporating movement into your lifestyle. Some ways to move more throughout the day include:
- Walk to the grocery store instead of driving
- Park further away from the destination when you do drive
- Take a break every hour or two to stretch your legs and go for a short walk
- Stretching first thing in the morning and before bed
- Walk around the block after every meal
6. Watch Less TV
Individuals who watch over three hours per day increase their risk of early death by 200%, compared to those who watch an hour or less 11. Staring into a TV screen takes a toll on eye health and can interrupt deep sleep if you watch it too close to bedtime. There are various factors related to TV watching that don’t have much to do with the TV itself. Too much television time lends itself to mindlessly overeating, more isolation, and a more sedentary lifestyle.
As we have explored throughout this article, you can improve longevity markers with movement, community, and a healthy relationship with the right foods. Conversely, lots of screen time condenses various habits that deter longevity!
7. Learn New Things
The study between intelligence and longevity is complex. Although there appears to be a connection between the two, there is much evidence suggesting they are both the result of genetics. For example, the same gene that promotes a love for learning also promotes longevity 12. With that said, there is also a lot of science that encourages learning to build new neural pathways and maintain and even enhance cognitive health as you age.
Whether or not learning new things has a bi-directional relationship with longevity, or if they are both a result of the same genetic trait—learning new skills will help preserve your concentration, attention to detail, memory recall, and problem solving, and also reduce the chance of developing dementia 13.
8. Spicy Food
The last way to support longevity isn’t well understood by scientists, but indeed: studies suggest that eating certain spicy foods (like hot peppers) can support a longer life 14. Speculations as to why hot peppers may promote longevity include the antimicrobial properties of capsaicin, which can help fight bacteria.
Although many people don’t think about longevity in their youth, there are many simple ways to improve your lifespan that can be integrated into everyday life. Some of the top ways to naturally boost longevity include eating a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet, fasting, cultivating a sense of community, spending more time in nature, moving more, watching less TV, learning new things, and eating spicy food.
Medical Disclaimer: This article is based upon the opinions of Dr. Daniel Pompa. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Pompa and his associates. This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD for accuracy of the information provided, but Dr. Pompa encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.
1 Buettner, Dan. “Food Secrets of the World’s Longest-Lived People.” Blue Zones, Blue Zones, 5 July 2021, https://www.bluezones.com/2020/07/blue-zones-diet-food-secrets-of-the-worlds-longest-lived-people/#.
2 “Why Oil Is Bad for You.” Dr. Mark Hyman, 25 Nov. 2019, https://drhyman.com/blog/2016/01/29/why-oil-is-bad-for-you/.
3 Longo, Valter D., et al. “Intermittent and Periodic Fasting, Longevity and Disease.” Nature Aging, vol. 1, no. 1, 2021, pp. 47–59., https://doi.org/10.1038/s43587-020-00013-3.
4 Jiang, Yanyu, et al. “Five‐Day Water‐Only Fasting Decreased Metabolic‐Syndrome Risk Factors and Increased Anti‐Aging Biomarkers without Toxicity in a Clinical Trial of Normal‐Weight Individuals.” Clinical and Translational Medicine, vol. 11, no. 8, 2021, https://doi.org/10.1002/ctm2.502.
5 Mineo, Liz. “Over Nearly 80 Years, Harvard Study Has Been Showing How to Live a Healthy and Happy Life.” Harvard Gazette, Harvard Gazette, 26 Nov. 2018, https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life/.
6 James, Peter, et al. “Exposure to Greenness and Mortality in a Nationwide Prospective Cohort Study of Women.” Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 124, no. 9, 2016, pp. 1344–1352., https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1510363.
7 Shin, Won Sop. “The Influence of Forest View through a Window on Job Satisfaction and Job Stress.” Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research, vol. 22, no. 3, 2007, pp. 248–253., https://doi.org/10.1080/02827580701262733.
8 Oja, Pekka, et al. “Associations of Specific Types of Sports and Exercise with All-Cause and Cardiovascular-Disease Mortality: a Cohort Study of 80 306 British Adults.” British Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 51, no. 10, 2016, pp. 812–817., https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2016-096822.
9 Health, Penn State. “Strength Training Helps Older Adults Live Longer.” Newswise, Newswise, 19 Apr. 2016, https://www.newswise.com/articles/strength-training-helps-older-adults-live-longer.
10 Schnohr, Peter et al. “Dose of jogging and long-term mortality: the Copenhagen City Heart Study.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology vol. 65,5 (2015): 411-9. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2014.11.023
11 Bohan, Christine. “Watching 3 Hours of Television Every Day Doubles the Risk That You’ll Die Young.” TheJournal. i.e., https://www.thejournal.ie/television-increases-risk-early-death-1539012-Jun2014/.
12 Pappas, Stephanie. “Smart People Live Longer – Here’s Why.” LiveScience, Purch, 12 Aug. 2015, https://www.livescience.com/51829-smart-people-live-longer.html.
13 “Learning New Things – the Benefits: Health Navigator NZ.” Health Navigator New Zealand, https://www.healthnavigator.org.nz/healthy-living/l/learning-new-things-the-benefits/.
14 Chopan, Mustafa, and Benjamin Littenberg. “The Association of Hot Red Chili Pepper Consumption and Mortality: A Large Population-Based Cohort Study.” Plos One, vol. 12, no. 1, 2017, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0169876.