5 ways to be happier and live longer

Small changes to your lifestyle could make you happier, and see you living a longer, healthier life. There's no magic cure, but Head of Clinical Research Dr Ben Kelly has 5 top tips to help you keep your mind and body firing on all cylinders well into retirement.

We’ve all been through a lot over the past 18 months. Our social lives may have suffered due to the restrictions, we may not have been as active as we’d have liked, and we may have found it difficult to switch off at times. But right now health and wellbeing has never been more important.

Here are 5 ways you can stay fit, well and happy for longer, along with a few examples to get you started. 

1. Keep your friends close

A study of over-50s in the UK found that those who maintained or grew their social circles after retirement experienced a beneficial effect on their quality of life, while those who took part in fewer social activities during a given period suffered a decline in quality of life.

Whether it's a monthly meet up for coffee, a Zumba class with a friend, or a walking holiday with an entirely new group of people, socialising can improve our emotional wellbeing and health.

A great excuse to catch up with some old friends, or even make some new ones.

2. Ward off illness by keeping fit

This one sounds glaringly obvious, and of course there are some illnesses that we can’t sidestep, no matter how fit and healthy we are. But there are some common conditions that we can avoid by making good lifestyle choices. As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure.

Getting your heart rate up for 30 minutes, three to five times a week, can reduce your chances of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even stroke. It could be anything from a brisk walk to an energetic indoor cycling session. And strength training can lower your chances of developing type-2 diabetes

3. Boost your brain power through exercise

A recent review of studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that individuals over 50, who take regular moderate exercise, showed improved thinking and memory skills. The bottom line? Exercise is beneficial to your brain. So that cross-trainer workout could be helping you work out your crossword.

Exercise such as tai chi, yoga and Pilates are ideal if you want a gentle muscular workout that still benefits the brain, and they're generally offered as classes, so you can be guided through the movements by an expert.

Swimming and cross-training are great low-impact options for raising your heart rate while being kind to your joints. If you’re feeling energetic, indoor cycling or rowing will do the job too. In fact, even a brisk walk will raise your heart rate slightly. The choice is yours.

4. Get medical concerns checked out

You wouldn’t let your car go on past its service date. And you wouldn’t ignore that strange clanking sound coming from the steering column either. Most of us wouldn’t dream of waiting until a breakdown to call out the specialists.

Our bodies are vastly complex machines and, just like cars, they can start to play up and make strange noises too. If you notice something new or out of the ordinary with your body, get it checked out straight away with the appropriate professional, such as a GP, physiotherapist or optician.

Even if you think things are ticking along fine, having an expert check the box that says ‘all okay’ can offer you peace of mind, as well as the confidence to keep rolling for another few thousand care-free miles.

5. Relax and unwind

Yes, staying physically and mentally active has enormous health benefits. But all that socialising, exercising and staying sharp requires energy. To recharge your batteries, make time to take it easy as well.

Meditating (there are even classes for that), relaxing in the spa pool, or simply finding a quiet corner to read a book and have a cuppa – these all count towards maintaining balance and improving your emotional wellbeing.

Last updated Tuesday 7 June 2022

First published on Thursday 31 August 2017