8 Most Important Habits for Longevity

You’re in the prime of your retirement, a time you’ve worked hard to reach. But with this new chapter comes questions. 


How do you ensure it’s filled with vitality and joy?


This isn’t just about adding years to your life, but life to your years. Well, there’s some good news on the horizon. 


By incorporating 8 simple habits for longevity, you’ll be on your way to living a long and satisfying life.


Here’s how it all started…


The Study Behind the Habits for Longevity & Well-Being

At the American Society for Nutrition’s annual meeting in July 2023, a study stood out. It wasn’t about exotic superfoods or complex diets, but about eight simple habits that can make a world of difference as you age. 


It delved deep into the lifestyle patterns of nearly 720,000 military veterans aged between 40 and 99. 


The research findings were straightforward: Men who adopt these habits at age 40 can enjoy an extra 24 years of life. For women, it’s an additional 21 years. 


But what if you’re past 40? Is it too late to reap the benefits? Absolutely not. The researchers made it clear: “The earlier the better, but even if you only make a small change in your 40s, 50s, or 60s, it still is beneficial.”


So, whether you’re just starting your retirement journey or you’re already on your way, remember it’s never too late to start these healthy habits for longevity. 


They’re not about reversing time; they’re about making the most of it.


The 8 Most Important Habits for Longevity

We all want to live long and healthy lives. And while we can’t control everything, there are certain things we can do to increase our chances of doing just that. 


You’ve got the power to shape your golden years, to infuse them with energy, joy, and well-being. 


And it all boils down to simple, actionable habits. These aren’t mere guesses or assumptions; they’re habits backed by rigorous research.


Just by adding one of these habits for longevity to your daily routine, men could gain an extra 4.5 years, and women, 3.5 years. Double up on these behaviors, and you’re looking at seven more years for men and eight for women. 

adding a single habit for longevity can extend life by four years for men and 3,5 years for women


So let’s dive into these 8 most important habits, ranked for their effectiveness in boosting longevity…


#1 Staying Physically Active

Did you know that nearly 80% of adult Americans aren’t getting the recommended amount of exercise each week? It’s a staggering statistic, and even more so when we zoom in on the 50-plus demographic. 


According to the CDC, more than one-quarter of Americans over 50 don’t exercise and over two-thirds of over 65s. Even though the need for regular physical activity becomes even more crucial with age, it seems we’re moving less and less.


about 1 in 3 men and 1 in 2 women over the age of 75 dont engage in any physical activity
Are you a part of this shocking statistic?


We’re not all aspiring to be marathon runners or Olympic weightlifters (although if you are, more power to you!) — nor should we. However, research linked physical inactivity to more than 5 million deaths worldwide per year, a figure that surpasses the number of fatalities caused by smoking.


It turns out that exercise is like the secret sauce to aging gracefully. It’s not about transforming into a fitness fanatic overnight. It’s about incorporating more movement into your days, in ways that you enjoy and can sustain. 


And the benefits of exercise are immense.


So, shake up the statistics and make a move towards better health with this most important habit for longevity.


#2 Saying No to Opioid Addiction

With age, chronic pain can sometimes become an uninvited guest, threatening to dampen your golden years. And in managing this pain, some may have encountered opioids, potent painkillers that can be a double-edged sword. 


Now, we won’t sugarcoat it: the statistics are concerning. About 15.8% of older adults filled at least one outpatient opioid prescription in 2018-2019. That’s nearly one in six. And let’s not forget that about 4.9% obtained five or more prescriptions.


Opioids aren’t inherently bad. They can be effective for acute pain management under careful medical supervision. But here’s the catch — they can be addictive. And before you know it, what started as a way to manage pain can spiral into a full-blown addiction.


Even though it doesn’t affect everyone, opioid addiction has a starring role in longevity. Steering clear of this potential pitfall could reduce your risk of early death by a staggering 38%, according to the study.


#3 Avoiding Smoking

Smoking is one of the leading causes of death across the globe, responsible for over 8 million deaths per year. This harmful habit is linked to a range of serious health issues, including heart disease, stroke, and various types of cancer.


But here’s some encouraging news: quitting smoking can significantly increase your longevity. It isn’t easy, but it’s definitely worth it.


Studies show that people who quit smoking by age 40 reduce their risk of dying from smoking-related diseases by about 90%. Even if you’re past that age it’s not too late. The benefits of quitting start immediately. 


Within just 20 minutes of quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. Two weeks to three months after quitting, your circulation improves and your lung function increases. One year after quitting, you have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. And after 10 years, the risk of heart disease is the same as that of a non-smoker.


quitting smoking timeline
Ready to quit?


#4 Managing Your Stress Levels

In our fast-paced day-to-day lives, we all deal with stress. It impacts the young, the old, and everyone in between.


Life throws us curveballs, and sometimes it feels like we’re juggling more than we can handle. But managing your stress levels is actually a secret weapon for living a longer, healthier life.


Chronic stress can lead to a host of health problems, from heart disease to diabetes. It can mess with your sleep, mood, and even your immune system. Not exactly the recipe for a long, happy retirement, right?


But here’s the great news — there’s plenty you can do to keep stress in check. Ever tried mindfulness or meditation? It might sound a bit ‘out there’, but studies show these practices can actually lower your stress levels and even improve your physical health.


So the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember — managing your stress isn’t just good for your peace of mind. It’s a key ingredient in the recipe for a long, healthy life.


#5 Adhering to a Healthy Diet

We’ve all heard the saying, “You are what you eat,” but it’s not just a catchy phrase. The link between diet and health is scientifically proven, and it gets especially relevant with age.


Research has repeatedly highlighted the Mediterranean diet as a model of healthy eating. This diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, and lean proteins like fish. According to a study published in JAMA Network, adults aged 70 through 90 who adhered to a Mediterranean diet pattern experienced improved longevity.


the best two diets for Alzheimer's prevention - the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet
Two helpful diets for Alzheimer’s prevention


This isn’t surprising, considering the diet’s emphasis on nutrient-dense foods and moderate alcohol consumption (but we’ll get to that later). 


Everyone’s nutritional needs are different (and they change with age)… What works for one person may not work for another. But the principle of eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods and avoiding certain foods, like processed and high-sugar, is universal.


So, try to embrace the art of mindful eating, savoring your meals, and nourishing your body with wholesome food. 


#6 Drinking in Moderation

Whether it’s a glass of wine with dinner or a beer while watching the game, drinking alcohol can be a pleasurable part of life. But when it comes to longevity, moderation is key.


Here’s why: while moderate drinking might have some potential health benefits, like possibly reducing your risk of heart disease, heavy or excessive drinking can lead to serious health problems. We’re talking liver disease, heart problems, certain types of cancer, and (you guessed it) a shorter life span.


So what does ‘drinking in moderation‘ mean? For men, it’s up to two drinks a day, and for women, it’s up to one drink a day.


The next time you’re enjoying a drink, keep this in mind — moderation is your friend. It’s not just about living longer, but also about maintaining the quality of your life and health.


#7 Prioritizing Quality Sleep

Getting enough sleep is crucial for our bodies to heal and rejuvenate. It’s like hitting the reset button every night. 


We hope you’re one of the 45% of adults who just can’t seem to get more than 5 hours of sleep because aiming for a solid 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night isn’t just a suggestion. It’s a cornerstone of a longer, healthier life. In fact, research suggests that regular sleep patterns are linked with increased survival rates and successful aging

45% of adults don't get more than 5 hours of sleep

That’s why we suggest creating a relaxing bedtime routine to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down. This could include reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practicing some gentle yoga.


And remember, your sleep environment is also important. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, cool, and comfortable. Plus, investing in a good mattress and pillow can make a world of difference.


#8 Cultivating Positive Relationships

In your quest for longevity, you may find yourself focusing on physical elements such as diet and exercise. But don’t underestimate the power of a less tangible but equally critical factor — your relationships. 


Your relationships offer more than just emotional comfort. They can alleviate stress, foster a sense of belonging and purpose, and even shape your habits. 


In fact, a study found that social relationships — both in terms of quantity and quality — can influence mental health, health behavior, physical health, and even the risk of mortality.


And creating positive relationships goes beyond merely increasing your friend count. The depth and positivity of these relationships are what truly matter. That’s why we always recommend focusing on expanding your circle of influence and downsizing in your circle of concern.


be choosy with who you let in your circle of influence
Keep in mind that you need to be picky when it comes to expanding your social circle.


In today’s digitally-driven world, distractions are plentiful, and it’s easy to take our relationships for granted. However, dedicating time and energy to enrich these relationships (and form new ones) is vital. 


In the grand scheme of things, it’s not just about living a long life, but also having meaningful relationships to share this life with.


Bonus Habit: Living with Purpose

We’ve decided to add another habit that not only increases your longevity, but also how your ‘extra’ time is spent — purposeful living.


Finding a sense of purpose in life isn’t just a philosophical quest, it’s a key ingredient in the recipe for longevity. Life might have its share of ups and downs, but having a clear purpose can act as an anchor, keeping you focused and resilient. 


And guess what? It’s not just feel-good advice; science backs this up.


A lower sense of purpose could be linked to an increased mortality risk. In other words, having a reason to get up in the morning could add more mornings to your life.


If you’ve retired, you might be thinking “What now?” Work isn’t the only source of purpose. Retirement is a golden opportunity to rediscover yourself and pursue passions that got sidelined.


Finding your unique purpose might seem daunting, and that’s where our fun 10-question Purpose Finder Quiz comes in. It’s like a quick compass pointing you toward your North Star, guiding you on this journey to uncover what truly sparks joy and fulfillment for you.


what's your retirement purpose 3-minute quiz
What’s your Retirement Purpose?


So let your retirement be the beginning of a purpose-driven chapter. After all, it’s not about filling time, but fulfilling it. And there’s no expiration date on discovering your purpose. So go ahead, surprise yourself.


Add More Years to Your Life & More Life to Your Years

We’ve explored the roadmap to longevity, and it’s clear that it’s not just about adding years to your life but also adding life to your years. 


It’s time to recap the eight most important habits for longevity. These aren’t just habits — they’re your tickets to a healthier, happier, and longer life:


  • #1 Staying physically active — find an activity you love and make it a part of your daily routine
  • #2 Saying no to opioid addiction — your health is your wealth, so steer clear of opioid addiction, and if you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out
  • #3 Avoiding smoking — your lungs and your lifespan will thank you
  • #4 Managing your stress levels — life will have its ups and downs, but how you handle it makes all the difference, so find your zen, and let stress take a backseat.
  • #5 Adhering to a healthy diet — choose foods that nourish your body and soul.
  • #6 Drinking in moderation — enjoy life’s pleasures, but remember, moderation is key.
  • #7 Prioritizing quality sleep — sleep isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity, so make sure you’re getting enough of it
  • #8 Cultivating positive relationships — surround yourself with love and positivity because happiness shared is happiness doubled
  • Bonus habit: Living with purpose — uncover what makes your heart sing and your spirit soar


Each day presents a fresh opportunity to make choices that contribute to your well-being. May you embrace it because it’s never too late to make a change.

What's Your Retirement Purpose?

These 10 questions can make all the difference
portrait of Cyn Meyer, founder of Second Wind Movement and a certified retirement life coach
Cyn Meyer 

Retirement Life Coach

As a certified retirement life coach since 2018, Cyn has helped thousands of older adults turn their retirement years into remarkable years full of growth, purpose, and passion. Through her signature program Rewire My Retirement, she helps people achieve their best life across the 5 Rings of Retirement, which covers topics Growth, Community, Health, Giving Back, and Finance.

Cyn combines specific life coaching tools, neuroscience, and her extensive background in marketing (spanning 17 years) to make a powerful impact with Second Wind Movement – an organization dedicated to providing educational resources and coaching for seniors.

With meticulous research, insight, and passion, Cyn’s mission is to usher in a new wave of positive experiences for generations of retirees.

portrait of Cyn Meyer, founder of Second Wind Movement and a certified retirement life coach

Cyn Meyer 

Retirement Life Coach

As a certified retirement life coach since 2018, Cyn has helped thousands of older adults turn their retirement years into remarkable years full of growth, purpose, and passion (beyond the stereotypical financial planning side of retirement). 

She combines specific life coaching tools, neuroscience, and her extensive background in marketing (spanning 17 years) to make a powerful impact with Second Wind Movement – an organization dedicated to providing educational resources and coaching for seniors.

With meticulous research, insight, and passion, Cyn’s mission is to usher in a new wave of positive experiences for generations of retirees.