Five Small Resolutions You Can Keep. One Big Result.

The list of behavior changes that could enhance your longevity is long: eat well, eat green leafy vegetables, lose weight, exercise more, do more puzzles to work your brain, drink green tea, balance your hormones. But deciding what to tackle first – which one behavior will make the most difference – can lead to resolutions that are forgotten before January is even over!

While many researchers used to believe that living longer only bought us more years of disability, it’s now widely accepted that regular healthy behaviors like eating a nutritious diet, quitting smoking, and sleeping well can truly add life to your years as well as years to your life.

But where to start? Here are 5 small actions you can start today to build habits that will keep you living a better, longer life.

1. Schedule a Comprehensive Health Evaluation with an Extensive Blood Panel.

Knowing where your base line is for continued health is an important first step. More than routine doctors appointments, which are important, it is critical to get a more in depth view of your individual age assessment. Once those results are found, you can pinpoint areas that will make a real difference in your age management over time.

It can be as simple as knowing you are tired because your testosterone is low or that you are iron deficient. These are two very different causes of fatigue. Finding out how to feel better will be reliant on finding out the true source of the problem. Are you irritable and unable to sleep? Maybe you are progesterone deficient, or you could be clinically depressed. Again, you won’t know until you make that appointment!

2. Measure Your Weight and Your Belly Once a Week

Carrying too much weight on your frame can hurt your longevity, and contribute to serious conditions like heart disease, stroke, and fatty liver disease. Checking your weight at least once a week will help you readjust your daily eating plan before you gain any more. If you are trying to lose weight, stepping on the scale once a week will give you a realistic picture of your progress.

By measuring your waistline once a week, you can see if you are at risk of obesity-related illnesses which are linked to too much belly fat. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend a waist circumference under 40 inches (100 cm) for men, and under 35 inches (89 cm) if you’re a non-pregnant woman.

3. Get 5 Minutes of Vigorous Exercise

Five minutes a day of vigorous exercise may seem insufficient, but consider this: a small 2013 study by University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers concluded that exercising just one day a week was sufficient to boost endurance and strength in a group of female subjects over the age of 60. After 16 weeks, the women doing resistance and aerobic exercise only once per week improved as much as those doing three times as much.

Small, consistent actions bear results. Since the first minute or so of any exercise activity seems to be the most difficult to do, chances are good that you’ll stick with the activity if you simply get started.

Keeping it vigorous — causing you to break a sweat on a cool day, for example — will contribute to your cardiovascular fitness and help you ward off cognitive decline.

4. Meditate for a Few Minutes

Meditation for even brief periods can start to induce the same brain changes and long-term health benefits associated with much lengthier sessions. Oxford University psychology professor Mark Williams and his team have developed a mini-meditation that can help provide calm in an otherwise frantic day. Set a reminder, or fill a few minutes in a bank or grocery store by focusing on your breathing.

5. Connect with Friends and Family

Having regular contact with supportive people helps you manage stress, which can keep the stress hormone cortisol from threatening your longevity. Whether it’s an old friend or a new acquaintance, try to expand your social circle one conversation at a time.

California psychologists and longevity researchers Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin are authors of The Longevity Project. After eight decades of study that was begun in 1921 by Lewis Terman, a Stanford University psychologist, social stimulation came out the winner for helping you live longer.

So you can abandon your ambitious list of behavior changes, and spend time with family and friends instead – a strategy that reduces stress and its negative impact on longevity.

“The Longevity Project discovered that it is responsible, goal-oriented citizens, well-integrated into their communities” who are most likely to have healthy and long lives, he says.