What would you do to gain another 12 years of life? That’s a dozen more years of doing all the things you love, of being with all the people you love, of popping bubble wrap, of “accidentally” dipping bacon in peanut butter…you get the idea. Before you answer that question, however, you should know this: According to recent research, there are five easy things any guy can do to achieve this goal.
By using lifestyle questionnaires and medical records from 123,000 American volunteers, Harvard University researchers identified five behaviours that together contribute to longer life expectancy:
- Following a healthy diet
- Controlling body weight
- Doing regular exercise
- Drinking alcohol in moderation
- Not smoking
Compared with volunteers who did none of these things, men who adhered to all five saw their life expectancy at age 50 jump by 12 years, from 76 to 88. The five-behaviours crew was also 65% less likely to die of cancer and 82% less likely to die of heart disease.
New ebook drives the point home
The Harvard findings reflect the health picture painted by the new “Where Do You Stand?” ebook from the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation. This unique guide is designed to give you a simple but clear picture of your health by comparing your unhealthy behaviours to those of other Canadian men. Those unhealthy behaviours — smoking, poor sleep, inactivity, alcohol consumption and unhealthy eating — are pretty much the flipside of the healthy behaviours covered in the Harvard study.
The takeaway here: Boarding the healthy train is literally a life-saver! Thankfully, you’ve come to the right place for tips on how to live longer and feel better through easy changes to your daily routine. So why wait? Let’s get the train rolling RIGHT NOW:
Follow a healthy diet with food swaps
The Harvard study defined a healthy diet as being rich in items such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains, and low in red meat, saturated fats and sugar. So how do you get there? Simple: By swapping unhealthy foods for ones that will help you gain those extra years. For example:
Whole-grain bread instead of white bread: Unlike nutrient-stripped white bread, whole-grain bread is packed with bran and germ, which contain vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, protein, and fiber.
Fish instead of beef: Lean red meat can be good for you, but wild salmon, wild tuna, sardines and anchovies, for example, are packed with healthy omega-3s and light on other fats.
Salad instead of fries: Swap out the usual fatty french fries that come with your restaurant main dish for a fresh, crunchy salad. A side of fries contains about 300 calories and 20 grams of fat, while a side chef salad with vinaigrette dressing has a third the calories, nearly a tenth the fat, and is packed with vitamins and fibre.
Control body weight by drinking more water
Having a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 25 was the Harvard standard. Your BMI is your weight in kilograms, divided by your height in metres, then divided again by your height. Make is easy – calculate your BMI, use this handy BMI calculator.
Since you’re not getting any taller, the only way to bring your BMI down is to shed some pounds. The aforementioned food swaps will help with that, of course, and here’s another easy weight-loss tip: Drink more water!
Knocking back five tall glasses each day is a simple, easy, no-cost way to lose weight. Drinking water fills up your stomach, which makes you feel less hungry. At the same time, your body actually burns calories to process the water you drink. Because water has zero calories, you’re getting something for nothing.
Studies have also shown that drinking water reduces our intake of sugary soda pop. So that’s another smart, easy swap: Water instead of pop!
Get regular exercise by walking more
The study defined regular exercise as getting at least 30 minutes of it a day. As with your diet, this can be easily achieved by working more walking into your day. For instance:
Walk your kids to school instead of driving: It’ll set a good example for the brood, do them some good as well, and give you all some extra time together.
Walk to work from a more distant parking lot: And if it’s a cheaper lot, you win again!
Use the stairs instead of the elevator: Hoofing it up stairs burns a third more calories than regular walking.
Drink alcohol in moderation with these hacks
According the Harvard study, “moderation” means having no more than two servings of alcohol a day. If that sounds like a tall order, these hacks can help:
Use different glasses: Studies have shown that people pour less wine into narrow glasses than wide ones, which in turn reduces the rate of consumption, and that leaving a glass on the table instead of holding it yields a smaller pour. Likewise, straight-sided beer glasses with measurement markings slow down the rate at which we drink.
Glasses half full: Again, studies have shown that filling glasses only halfway up results in significant reductions in booze intake.
Steer clear of boozy situations: Parties or nights on the town lead to drinking. Controlling the environment — say, by inviting friends to your home for dinner — can lead to less alcohol consumption.
Stop equating fun with alcohol: Make a list of activities you enjoy that don’t have to involve booze — playing sports, gardening, photography, getting it on, the list goes on — and slot them in at those times when you’re likely to be tempted to drink.
Quit smoking with QuitNowMen.ca
This one’s pretty black-and-white: If you smoke, it can shorten your life. While tobacco use is at record lows, it’s still a major contributor to guy problems ranging from erectile dysfunction to more serious health risks, like stroke, heart disease and all kinds of cancers. If you’re thinking of quitting, check out QuitNowMen.ca to learn how to control triggers, cravings, and curb the effects of withdrawal.
Do you have a clear picture of your health? See how your health compares to other Canadian men.
Download our free eBook Where Do You Stand?
Adam Bisby is a Toronto-based freelance journalist and father of two. He’s been covering men’s health for over 20 years. As well as researching and blogging for Don’t Change Much since 2015, Adam’s award-winning work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and National Post newspapers.