How You Can Increase Your Longevity

If you live longer than the average person, then you could be said to have longevity. Striving for your maximum potential age is the goal of longevity. This potentially can be reached by practicing healthy behaviors and attitudes.

Longevity is defined as "long life" or "a great duration of life." The term comes from the Latin word longaevitās. In this word, you can see how the words longus (long) and aevum (age) combine into a concept that means an individual who lives a long time.

The most important part of this definition is the comparative nature of it. Long life implies longer than something—and that something is the average lifespan.

Senior couple on paddle board in ocean
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How Is Longevity Defined?

Biologists sometimes define longevity as the average lifespan expected under ideal conditions. It's hard to say what's ideal. Plenty of medical research is ongoing about the "right" amount and type of exercise to get, the best diet to eat to maximize longevity, and whether certain pharmaceuticals or supplements can help improve your longevity.

Lifespans have increased pretty dramatically over the last century or so, in large part due to advances in medicine that have nearly eliminated certain deadly infectious diseases.

The average baby born in 1900 lived about a half-century. Nowadays, the life expectancy of people in the United States is nearly 79 years on average—81 years for women and 76 years for men, and in some countries, life expectancy is even longer.

It's very possible that humanity's true longevity might be much higher. Humans might live longer if they can create the ideal conditions of a healthy diet and exercise.

What Determines Your Longevity?

You may think that your genes determine your longevity, but the truth is genetics account for a maximum of 30 percent of your life expectancy. The rest comes from your behaviors, attitudes, environment, and a little bit of luck.

You may have heard about various life extension techniques. Keep in mind that none of them have been proven in humans and most are just theories. The only proven way to live longer is to live a healthy life.

5 Ways to Maximize Your Longevity

If you want to beat the average and maximize your longevity, what should you do? Here's a list of things to consider:

  1. Exercise regularly. Research indicates that moderate exercise, when practiced regularly, can actually roll back the clock on your DNA.
  2. Fill up your plate with vegetables. While there are numerous debates about the best diet for increased lifespan, nearly every diet agrees that eating more vegetables is the way to go.
  3. Consider intermittent fasting (with many variations on how this is achieved). Fasting has been shown to significantly extend the life (and improve health) of mice. Studies dating as far back as the 1930s have shown that caloric restriction extends the longevity of mice and other test species.
  4. A study published in Cell Metabolism in 2018 looked at 53 non obese human adults over a 2 year period. The test group restricted calories by 15%. Metabolic studies showed that the test group had evidence of less oxidative stress/damage compared to the control group.
  5. Get enough sleep. Most people feel best when they get seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
  6. Carefully manage your stress. Stress can have unhealthy effects on your body and can promote unhealthy behaviors, as well, such as overeating or smoking.
  7. Cultivate personal relationships. Spending time with our loved ones actually does seem to improve longevity, maybe because it decreases stress or risky behaviors. One study led by researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School in England found that volunteers had a 22% reduction in mortality compared to non-volunteers.
  8. Don't smoke or drink excessive amounts of alcohol.

Make a commitment today to make one healthy change a week. Before you know you’ll be feeling better and on the road to longevity.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the ideal lifestyle to achieve longevity?

    There isn't necessarily an ideal lifestyle, but adopting certain habits can contribute to longevity:

    • Be physically active.
    • Eat a healthful diet.
    • Sleep for at least seven to nine hours every night.
    • Manage stress by taking deep breaths, taking care of your body, making time to unwind, and connecting with others.
    • Spend time with friends and loved ones (which can decrease stress).
    • Avoid smoking or excessive drinking.
  • How do genetics factor into longevity?

    Genetic factors are believed to account for up to 25% to 30% of life expectancy. Which specific genes are involved is still being studied, but variations in a few genes have been linked with longevity, including APOE, FOXO3, and CETP genes.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Center for Health Statistics. Mortality in the United States, 2018.

  2. Holme I, Anderssen SA. Increases in physical activity is as important as smoking cessation for reduction in total mortality in elderly men: 12 years of follow-up of the Oslo II study. Br J Sports Med. 2015;49(11):743-8. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2014-094522

  3. Zhang S, Ratliff EP, Molina B, et al. Aging and Intermittent Fasting Impact on Transcriptional Regulation and Physiological Responses of Adult Drosophila Neuronal and Muscle Tissues. Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19(4). doi:

  4. Redman LM, Smith SR, Burton JH, Martin CK, Il'yasova D, Ravussin E. Metabolic Slowing and Reduced Oxidative Damage with Sustained Caloric Restriction Support the Rate of Living and Oxidative Damage Theories of Aging. Cell Metab. 2018;27(4):805-815.e4. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2018.02.019

  5. Mazzotti DR, Guindalini C, Moraes WA, et al. Human longevity is associated with regular sleep patterns, maintenance of slow wave sleep, and favorable lipid profile. Front Aging Neurosci. 2014;6:134. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2014.00134

  6. Epel ES, Lithgow GJ. Stress biology and aging mechanisms: toward understanding the deep connection between adaptation to stress and longevity. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2014;69 Suppl 1:S10-6. doi:10.1093/gerona/glu055

  7. Jenkinson CE, Dickens AP, Jones K, et al. Is volunteering a public health intervention? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the health and survival of volunteers. BMC Public Health. 2013;13:773. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-773

  8. MedlinePlus. Is longevity determined by genetics?

Additional Reading
  • Holme I, Anderssen SA. Increases in physical activity is as important as smoking cessation for reduction in total mortality in elderly men: 12 years of follow-up of the Oslo II study. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2015;49(11):743-748. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2014-094522.

  • Rizzuto D, Fratiglioni L. Lifestyle Factors Related to Mortality and Survival: A Mini-ReviewGerontology. 2014;60(4):327-335. doi:10.1159/000356771.

By Mark Stibich, PhD
Mark Stibich, PhD, FIDSA, is a behavior change expert with experience helping individuals make lasting lifestyle improvements.