It seems obvious that following a healthy lifestyle can lead to a longer life, but new research has shown that adopting healthy lifestyle habits can add years, even among people who are already well into their 70s.
Getting regular exercise, staying engaged with friends and family, and abstaining from smoking were all associated with longer life in a study that followed people in their mid-70s and older for close to two decades.
These healthy traits apparently added, on average, five years to women's lives and six years to men's.
The study is among the first to identify specific lifestyle behaviors associated with longer life, even among people with chronic health problems and those over the age of 80.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, included about 1,800 people who were followed for 18 years from the mid-1980s.
Everyone in the study was 75 years old or older at the commencement, and 9 out of 10 (92%) died during the follow-up period.
Half of the subjects lived for 90 years or longer. Women were more likely to survive to this age than men.
Those who lived longer were also more likely to be highly educated, participate in physical and non-physical leisure activities, have rich social networks, and engage in regular exercise.
Physical activity was the single biggest predictor of longevity.
People who regularly swam, walked, or performed other exercise lived an average of two years longer than people who did not.
People with the healthiest lifestyles lived an average of 5.4 years longer than those with the least healthy lifestyles.
Even among people over the age of 85 and those with chronic health conditions, a healthy lifestyle appeared to prolong life by four years.
The study did not include information on diet, so it is unclear how healthy and unhealthy eating behaviors affected life span.
The researchers also didn't know lifestyle behaviors prior to old age.
So it's never too late to get moving.
Remember, the key is how fit you are not how much you do.
Article Author: David Beard, Calico's Exercise Physiologist & Healthy Aging Expert