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6 Surprising Ways to Live Longer

A healthy sex life, practicing forgiveness, and other tips for longevity.

Medically reviewed in May 2022

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The longest living people in the world, like those in the “Blue Zones” of Okinawa, Japan and Sardinia, Italy, stay physically fit by:

  • Building exercise into their daily routine
  • Eating a plant-based diet like the Mediterranean diet
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation: one serving a day for women and two for men

But these centenarians, or people who live to at least 100 years, know that health and wellness involve more than just caring for your body. To live long, you have to live right—and that means nurturing your mind, spirit, and family, as well. Here are six ways to achieve that balance and put more meaningful years ahead of you.

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Support your partner

“Ongoing conflict in your relationship can hurt your mental health and decrease your immunity,” says Jennifer Sublett, MA, LPC-S, NCC,
 director-physician/provider relations & behavioral health outreach at the Medical Center of McKinney in McKinney, Texas. “But a positive, uplifting relationship can help you live longer and improve your quality of life."

In fact, people with a caring partner were more likely to survive cancer than those who were separated at the time of diagnosis, according to a review of nearly 4 million medical records. But the health benefits don’t just come from your relationship: “It’s about connecting with that number-one person in your life,” says Sublett.

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Love your bedtime routine

Your nighttime habits have more of an impact on your overall health than you’d expect. A healthy, satisfying sex life and a consistent, restful night’s sleep can protect against depression and add years to your life.

“Sex is a form of exercise, so it helps to keep your heart happy and healthy. Plus, if you’re having sex in the context of a positive relationship, you’ll be able to find those moments of deep intimacy and truly being present for each other,” says Sublett. What’s more, cuddling up next to a trusted partner can improve your quality of sleep.

It’s important to get enough Zzz’s since a chronic lack of sleep increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression.

man reading a book
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Be a student for life

There’s a strong connection between reading and longevity, says Sublett. Reading is an enjoyable way to stimulate your mind, plus it may actually help you live longer, according to a 2016 study from Social Science and Medicine. Individuals who read books for up to three and a half hours or more per week were 17 percent less likely to die over 12 years than non-readers. People who read even more than that were up to 23 percent less likely to die.

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Drink more water

It’s important to be mindful of the foods and the ingredients you’re putting in your body, says Sublett. That includes eating more whole fruits and vegetables and avoiding processed foods. But one of the most essential parts of a healthy diet is drinking enough water, she explains.

Drink an 8-ounce glass of H2O before every meal to help satisfy some of your hunger. That way you can make smart choices about how much food you’ll eat. Drinking more water throughout the day can prevent obesity by cutting your sugar, fat, and calorie intake. It also:

  • Energizes you
  • Protects your kidneys
  • Lubricates your joints
  • Improves your circulation
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Shake up your sitting routine

If you sit for long stretches every day because of work or screen time, get moving now—the more you sit, the greater your risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and early death.

“Having to sit all day because of your job is a huge challenge, but even just 10 minutes of activity at a time can get your blood pumping and increase your productivity,” says Sublett. To fit in more activity:

  • Organize stand-up meetings.
  • Take the stairs: If you work in a high rise, start with just a few flights, then switch to the elevator. Each week, add a few extra floors to your routine.
  • Multi-task when binge watching a show: Do floor exercises, clean, cook healthy meals for the week ahead.
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Forgive and ask for forgiveness

“There's an old saying: we have issues in our tissues,” says Sublett. It means that if you experience prolonged stress due to resentment or an old conflict, that negativity is held in your body and mind.

“You’re setting yourself up for a variety of health conditions like heart disease, digestive problems, high blood pressure and others,” she explains.

It may be a tough conversation, but if you’re angry with a friend or loved one, be honest with them so you can reconcile. And if you’re the guilty party, it’s never too late to ask for forgiveness. Open communication can help you build stronger relationships, which are an essential part of leading a long and happy life.

Slideshow sources open slideshow sources

Blue Zones. About Blue Zones. 2022. Accessed May 17, 2022.
Sprehn GC, Chambers JE, et al. Decreased cancer survival in individuals separated at time of diagnosis: critical period for cancer pathophysiology?. Cancer. 2009. 115(21), 5108–5116. 
Lammintausta A, Airaksinen JK, et al. Prognosis of acute coronary events is worse in patients living alone: the FINAMI myocardial infarction register. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. 2014 Aug;21(8):989-96.
Holt-Lunstad J, Birmingham W, Jones BQ. Is there something unique about marriage? The relative impact of marital status, relationship quality, and network social support on ambulatory blood pressure and mental health. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 2008 Apr;35(2):239-44.
Scott KM, Wells JE, et al. Gender and the relationship between marital status and first onset of mood, anxiety and substance use disorders. Psychological Medicine. 2010 Sep;40(9):1495-505.
Brody S, Costa RM. Satisfaction (sexual, life, relationship, and mental health) is associated directly with penile-vaginal intercourse, but inversely with other sexual behavior frequencies. Journal of Sexual Medicine. 2009 Jul;6(7):1947-54.
Troxel WM, Robles TF, et al. Marital quality and the marital bed: examining the covariation between relationship quality and sleep. Sleep medicine reviews. 2007. 11(5), 389–404.
Bavishi A, Slade MD, Levy BR. A chapter a day: Association of book reading with longevity. Social Science & Medicine. 2016 Sep;164:44-48.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sleep and Chronic Disease. August 8, 2018. Accessed May 19, 2022.
National Kidney Foundation. 6 Tips to Be “Water Wise” for Healthy Kidneys. April 28, 2015. Accessed May 19, 2022.
Mayo Clinic. What are the risks of sitting too much? August 21, 2020. Accessed May 17, 2022.
Blue Zones. Live Longer, Better. 2022. Accessed May 17, 2022.

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