We’ll let you in on a little secret: Being an old geezer is great. Age wins you respect, a license to run your mouth, steep discounts at your neighborhood movies, and plenty of time to pile on the memories.
But you have to earn the decades and unfortunately, calorie-laden holiday party food, fighting with your girlfriend, and chronic disease can stand in your way. Lucky for you, we’ve compiled the latest mortality research to help you earn your walker.
To borrow a cliché: Life’s short. Don’t make it shorter.
1. Get your ass off the couch
Even if it’s for just 20 minutes. A new study from Cambridge University analyzed the activity habits of more than 334,000 participants and found that people who burned just 90–110 calories—roughly the equivalent of a brisk 20-minute walk—every day reduced their risk of early death by as much as 16–30%.
2. Seriously, stand up
Even the biggest meathead can fall victim to the death trap that is the couch, says a new University Health Network review. Research on 47 mortality studies concluded that sitting for extended periods leads to early death, no matter how much exercise a person does. A good rule of thumb, according to a 2014 Indiana University study: For every hour you sit, get up and walk for five minutes.
3. Fall in love with a health nut
Finding a healthy partner could actually save your life. University College London researchers studied 3,722 couples and found that 67% of men became more physically active if their partner was, and 48% quit smoking once their partner had. You know the saying: healthy wife, healthy life (or something like that).
4. If you don’t relish your relatives, steer clear of them
Instead, spend more time with friends. McGill University researchers studying the mortality rates and social interactions of more than 100,000 people discovered that family time increases your chances of kicking the bucket, most likely because of the stress it causes. Time with pals, on the other hand, decreased early death risk by 7%.
5. Look on the bright side
Trite but true: Optimists have healthier hearts. A University of Illinois study measured heart health, then surveyed subjects’ outlook in life. Optimists were up to 76% more likely to have healthier tickers—which is why we expect Eeyore to die from a heart attack any day now.
6. Take some lessons from the world’s 100-year-olds
Travel journalist Dan Buettner has spent more than a decade studying what he’s dubbed “international blue zones”—tiny areas of the world that have outsize populations of centenarians. His book, The Blue Zones Solution, out this month, offers valuable lifestyle tips from the planet’s elders. Some of the best include: Stop eating when your stomach’s 80% full, drink one to two glasses of alcohol a day (but not more), and eat more plants.
7. If all else fails… get a vasectomy
Not really. But, hey, it would work: A 1969 study from the Journal of Gerontology found that castrated men lived more than 13 years longer than their intact brethren—and, in the process, unintentionally created the best “would you rather” question of all time.