Centenarians, or people who reach the age of 100 years or older, are a rare breed. There are only about 71,000 in the United States alone! But what do these people have in common? The fact that they’ve managed to reach such an advanced age is amazing enough on its own—but it turns out that many centenarians have also followed similar habits throughout their lives that may help keep them healthy and active well into old age. Here are five things you can learn from centenarians as you plan your own path toward longevity:
1. Move your body.
- Exercise is important for longevity.
- Exercise should be a daily habit.
- Exercise can help with sleep quality, which in turn helps you live longer!
2. Be active with friends.
The second lesson is that you should be active with friends. The centenarians I interviewed all agreed that staying socially engaged and participating in activities are critical to their longevity. One centenarian told me, “It’s important not just for your health but also for your happiness.”
Another said, “We have so many things we can do together–we go bowling and play cards.” And yet another added, “I love being active with my friends.”
3. Socialize often.
Centenarians are known for their strong social ties. They have friends and family that they see regularly, and they often play an active role in their community. One study found that centenarians were more likely than other people to volunteer or do volunteer work (45% vs. 28%).
It’s not just the act of socializing itself that’s important–it’s also about being engaged with people you care about. A recent study found that older adults who reported having stronger feelings of connectedness had lower blood pressure and better heart health overall compared to those who said they felt less connected. In addition, researchers have found that people who feel isolated have higher levels of inflammatory markers in their bodies, which increases their risk for developing chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
4. Eat less meat, more veggies, nuts and beans
The oldest people in the world eat a diet high in vegetables, nuts and beans. These foods are good sources of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Protein is an essential nutrient that helps build muscle mass. If you’re not getting enough protein through your diet it can lead to weakness or fatigue because your body won’t have the building blocks it needs to repair itself after exercise or other physical activity.
Fiber helps keep your digestive tract functioning properly because it adds bulk to stool and makes it easier for food to pass through the large intestine without causing constipation or diarrhea (both of which can lead to further problems). Fiber also lowers cholesterol levels which helps reduce risk factors associated with heart disease such as high blood pressure & diabetes mellitus type 2
5. Have a purpose in life.
A common theme among centenarians is that they have a purpose in life. Having a sense of purpose can help you live longer, according to research published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Study participants who reported having strong social relationships and being involved in activities outside work were less likely to die during follow-up than those who did not have such connections (1). Another study showed that people who feel connected with their communities also tend to live longer (2).
And if you’re wondering how exactly this works, it may be because people with greater amounts of meaning and purpose in life tend to take better care of themselves: They eat better diets, exercise more regularly and don’t smoke as much or drink alcohol excessively (3).
So there you have it: our five key takeaways from the world’s oldest people. These lessons from centenarians can help us all live a longer and healthier life, but they’re also relevant for anyone who wants to be happier in their 40s or 50s (and beyond).