Published in the journal Circulation, the paper concludes that men who adhere to all five behaviours live roughly 12 years longer than those who don’t follow any of them. (Women who meet the same criteria live an additional 14 years.) These habits also decrease risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death in the United States.
It shouldn't be news to anyone that exercising, drinking in moderation, and abstaining from cigarettes are all good for you. But even the researchers were surprised by just how much longer people lived when they followed these healthy habits.
"To me, the surprising outcome was how strong it was: what a big impact these simple behaviours could have on life expectancy," study co-author Dr. Meir Stampfer of Harvard Medical School told CNN. “I was surprised that it was that pronounced."
Read on for more about the research — plus tips on how to master each habit.
Give Up Smoking
Although participants in this study never smoked, saying goodbye to cigarettes can add years to your life. Research from 2002 concluded that even people who quit at 65 live longer, and men who give up the habit at 35 years old can expect to live around seven to eight years more.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
The Harvard study found that people with a low risk of early death had a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9. According to the National Institute of Health, people with BMIs above 25 are considered overweight, and people with BMIs above 30 are considered obese. While BMI calculations aren't always the most reliable, research has shown that gaining just a few kilos can shave years off your life.
Don't worry, we're not talking two-a-day workouts; the study authors determined that walking for as little as 30 minutes a day is enough to live longer, provided it's at a moderate or vigorous pace. There are plenty of other reasons to get in gym time, too. Research has shown that being active can improve memory, mood and learning.
Avoid Binge Drinking
It’s tempting to have that third beer at happy hour, but guys who keep their booze to about two drinks a day lived the longest. For this analysis, moderation drinking in men was limited to 5 to 30 grams of alcohol a day, which is roughly two standard beers.
Trade Junk Food for Produce
The team at Harvard assessed people's diets using the Alternate Healthy Eating Index, which emphasises food quality — so whole grains over refined, and whole fruit over juices. Guys who ate higher-ranking foods — like green leafy vegetables, oatmeal, fish, nuts, and legumes — tended to live longer.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health