Good habits can extend life expectancy by five years

It is often said that having good habits makes you live longer. A British study has just confirmed this intuition, determining that good habits can extend life expectancy by five years compared to bad habits.

Five years of simple habits

The 350,000 Britons, followed for 15 years from their forties, were divided into three groups: those who had good or bad lifestyle habits, and an intermediate group. Good lifestyle habits reduced the risk of early mortality by 60%, adding up to five years of life expectancy, compared to people who had poor lifestyle habits. Good news: the “good lifestyle habits” studied are not very ambitious. For example, you just need to never have smoked, walk briskly at least 20 minutes a day, sleep between seven and eight hours a night, and have a BMI less than 30 (the limit for obesity starts at 27 ) to be in this category. So, there is no need to adhere to a strict lifestyle to benefit from a better life expectancy.

Watch out for your diet and alcohol consumption

The other two categories of lifestyle habits to monitor are alcohol consumption and diet. You should drink less than 14 servings of alcohol per week for a man and less than 7 for a woman, which corresponds to the old Canadian recommendations. When it comes to diet, good lifestyle habits are more difficult to achieve. It’s the least common good habit studied among Brits, with only one in five people achieving it. Is it normal that it is so easy to get a good score on lifestyle habits? “A lot of people have very bad habits,” says Jean-Pierre Després, a leading authority in the field at Laval University, who has just published the book The active revolution. The bad habits category included those who had none or only one of the six good lifestyle habits in the study, published in the journal BMJ-EBM by Chinese researchers.


The Dr Martin Juneau, cardiologist at the Montreal Heart Institute


Mr. Després is, however, critical of the approach of this study, the first to link lifestyle habits to longevity. “We retained people’s declared behaviors,” he said. For example, we know that people underestimate their alcohol consumption and overestimate their physical exercise. » According to Martin Juneau, of the Montreal Heart Institute, this is a common problem in studies on the impact of lifestyle habits on health. “We want to have more participants, we use easier follow-ups. » This could also mean that the benefits of physical exercise are underestimated. “Half of Quebecers report doing more than 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week,” says Dr.r Juneau. We think it’s more like 20%. This may mean that the benefits of exercise start even earlier than we think. »


According to Dr. Martin Juneau, waist circumference is a more interesting measurement than BMI for researchers.

Weight or waist size

Another criticism of Mr. Després, who chaired the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Lifestyle and Metabolism Council, is the use of body mass index (BMI, weight divided by the size squared). “We should instead use waist size or abdominal fat. » The Dr Juneau believes that BMI, even though it is a less precise measure of healthy weight, has its place in these types of studies. “I think the authors set the BMI limit at 30 rather than 27 to avoid this problem. A muscular person can have a BMI of 27, but more rarely more than 30. » Less than a third of the participants had a BMI less than 30, which made this lifestyle habit the least frequent after diet. More than half of the participants had never smoked, exercised enough, slept enough and drank moderately.


Smoking was the most harmful lifestyle habit of those studied.

The list of habits

Not surprisingly, smoking was the most harmful lifestyle habit of those studied. But in the list of bad habits, it was closely followed by diet and exercise, then by sleep and alcohol. A BMI below 30 contributed almost nothing to life expectancy. “This clearly shows that among non-smokers, diet and exercise are the priority targets, well before alcohol,” says Dr.r Juneau. Why is sleeping too much a bad lifestyle? “Often, people who sleep too much have health problems,” says Mr. Després. That being said, there are athletes who sleep a lot. »


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