6 Little Things that Add Big Years to Your Life


In the perfect world, everyone would live to a ripe old age, knocking on Heaven’s door only after reaching triple digits. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do our best to flip the odds in our favor.

Of course, some things are out of our hands, like genetics (go ahead and just blame your parents for those). But hereditary only gets you so far, whether you inherit things that are beneficial or harmful. And so, perhaps, the secret to a long life is taking the bull by the horns and steering it into the sunset.

Fortunately, this does not require living in a gym or only eating vegetables (despite climbing all the way to the top of the food chain). In fact, little things make a big difference, including the following:

Standing Up

It’s perfectly normal to want to take a load off; no one likes to be on their feet all day. But sitting down too often or for too long decreases lifespan. The reason is that sitting is sedentary and contributes to the ill-effects of an inactive lifestyle. Still, before you swap out the sofa for a running trail, keep in mind that simply standing up offers its own perks. And this is easy to implement.

If you have a job that requires you to sit eight hours a day at a cubicle, consider a standing desk. It’s not only better for your longevity, but your back as well. If you want to add additional years, swap out the standing desk for a treadmill desk. Standing is better than sitting, naturally, but walking is better than standing.

Putting out the Cigarettes

Okay, you can certainly file this under the “no duh” category as tobacco is a well-known and well publicized health risk because of its link to cancer, heart disease, and a slug of other problems. What isn’t as well-known is that quitting smoking, even after decades of doing it, offers enormous benefits to your lifespan. In short, putting down the Marlboro allows longevity to butt in.

Studies suggest that former smokers cut their early mortality rate in half once they decide to extinguish their habit for good.

Getting a Pet

There’s a reason dogs are man’s best friend: They’re playful, loyal, kind, and they offer unconditional love, treating their owners as if they’re the most important person on the planet (because, to them, they are). All of this translates into extraordinary emotional benefits for pet owners, including lower levels of stress, decreased loneliness, increased purpose, and increased happiness.

Physical benefits exist as well and they are equally plentiful. Dogs (and, okay, cats too) can lower blood pressure, increase self-esteem (especially in children), decrease cholesterol, ease depression, reduce the mortality rates in those who suffer heart attacks, help people recover from illness quicker, and reduce body weight (as pet owners tend to be more active than their counterparts). This all adds up to added years.

It’s hypothesized that owning a pet increases lifespan, quite appropriately, by seven years total. So go ahead and buy twelve dogs and then live forever.

Drinking Coffee

In the mood for some good news? Well, here it is: Coffee increases lifespan. This is a bit of a deviation of days from Folger’s past when a cup of joe (or twenty) was deemed unhealthy because of its potent amount of caffeine. But as the benefits of antioxidants have become increasingly clear, coffee has risen in the ranks, finally reaching health drink status.

Antioxidants are essential to health since they protect against oxidative stress caused by disease-inflicting free radicals. And coffee is an easy way to take your antioxidants to-go: It’s the biggest source of antioxidants on the western side of the world. This isn’t to say that your mocha frap has more health perks than a spinach salad, but people – as a whole – consume more coffee than fruits or vegetables.

However, it turns out that less isn’t exactly more: The ideal consumption is around 4-5 cups a day. When consuming this amount, women enjoy a 16% decreased risk of early death.

Having Funny Friends

Maintaining friendships of any sort helps increase lifespan because of the innate need humans have for social interaction. But funny friends offer a one-two punch in the gut, leaving you laughing and living until your stomach hurts.

This is hinted at in folklore, with sayings like “laughter is the  best medicine” passed down through generations. Yes, you should treat a staph infection with antibiotics instead of a bottle of giggles, though the adage has some truth to it.

Laughter acts as a natural medicine because it releases endorphins, decreases stress-related hormones, boosts immunity, regulates blood pressure, and enhances circulation. So, go ahead and pick up chicks at the local comedy club. Just aim for those who are “ha ha” funny and not “avoid eye contact” funny.

Practicing Yoga

Many of the above have a commonality: They are actions that decrease stress, a reduction that automatically elongates life by circumventing strain on the heart (and soul!) and encouraging people to engage in positive, healthy activities. Yoga does this too, acting as, perhaps, the biggest stress buster of all.

Yoga isn’t simply exercise but instead encapsulates breathing, self-reflection, self-awareness, mindfulness, meditation, and self-compassion (something we can each probably use a healthy dose of). It improves the flow of blood and oxygen as well, allowing your organs to function as optimally as possible and bringing clarity to your mind.

Other benefits include strengthening bones (something we’ll surely need if we’re going to live into triple digits), lowering the risk of heart disease (America’s number one killer), controlling weight, and facilitating mental wellness. It’s also a practice in inertia – like Isaac Newton insisted, bodies in motion stay that way.


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