Well-Being Longevity

A healthy lifestyle can give you an extra decade free of disease

A healthy lifestyle grants up to an extra decade of good health

Story at a glance

  • Drinking alcohol in moderation, not smoking, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and eating well are all good for you, but how good?
  • In a new study of more than 100,000 people, those with four of these five healthy lifestyle traits enjoyed as much as an extra 10 years of disease-free life.
  • Researchers say their findings underscore the need for public policy to do all it can to push people towards healthier lifestyles.

Need extra motivation to stick with those lofty New Year’s resolutions? A healthy lifestyle can grant you as much as an extra decade of disease-free life, according to new research.

Drinking alcohol in moderation, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising for at least 30 minutes a day were all associated with an extended run of good health, The Guardian reports. By contrast, those who smoked, drank too much, didn’t exercise or were overweight had higher rates of heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes in the study of more than 110,000 people.

The study looked specifically at how long people with healthy habits could expect to live without the appearance of those three health problems. 

Researchers picked five healthy habits for the study: never smoking, a body mass index (BMI) between 18 and 25, at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day, moderate alcohol consumption — roughly one drink a day for women and two for men — and a healthy diet. 

Among the study participants with these five healthy lifestyle traits, the team looked at how many extra years those people could expect to enjoy free of heart disease, cancer or diabetes after age 50. 

The study found women with four or five of the healthy lifestyle traits got 34.4 years of good health — taking them all the way to age 84. Women with none of the five markers of a healthy lifestyle could expect just 23.7 years of disease-free life after age 50.

Men with four of five healthy habits cashed in 31.1 healthy years, and men adopting none of those behaviors only 23.5 years. Those with the worst chances of avoiding infirmity were men who smoked more than 15 cigarettes a day and people of any gender with a BMI over 30.

The idea that these healthy habits could extend a person’s life is common sense, but 10 years is a long time. The researchers hope that their results can help align public policy with improved public health.

“Public policies for improving food and the physical environment conducive to adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle, as well as relevant policies and regulations (for example, smoking bans in public places or trans fat restrictions) are critical to improving life expectancy, especially life expectancy free of major chronic diseases,” researchers said.