(CNN) — Are you looking for New Year’s resolutions that can extend your life? Master These Three Science-Based Healthy Habits During 2023, And You’ll Reduce Stress, Improve Your Sleep, Boost Immunity, Reduce Inflammation, Increase Muscle Strength And Mobility, Boost Brain Power And Mood, Fight Disease And more: all the keys to a long and happy life.
1. Exercise regularly
Years ago, a doctor told me, “If there’s one thing in life that can help you live a longer, healthier life, it’s exercise.” The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agrees, and they have statistics to prove it.
“People who are physically active for about 150 minutes a week have a 33% lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who are physically inactive,” says the country’s leading health organization.
Let’s break that down: If you get up and move for 21.43 minutes every day of the week, you cut your risk of dying from any cause by a third. Simply walking at a moderate pace has been shown to improve cognitive function, control weight, reduce disease risk, and strengthen bones and muscles. There are also exercise options for people with disabilities.
Some benefits of exercise are immediate: After finishing 30 minutes of physical activity, you’ll have less anxiety, lower blood pressure and more insulin sensitivity, and you’ll sleep better that night.
Get the adult-recommended 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, dancing, bicycling, tennis, and water aerobics, and the benefits will increase even more.
Within a few months, you’ll see an improvement in your blood pressure, heart and lung functions, as well as a reduced risk of depression, anxiety, type 2 diabetes, and bladder, breast, colon, kidney, lung, and stomach cancer, according to the CDC . Not to mention, exercise can offer the benefits of reduced stress, better sleep, and a stronger sex life.
If you need some ideas on how to get started, sign up for CNN’s Fitness, But Better newsletter series. The seven-part guide will help you get started on a healthy, expert-backed exercise routine.
2. Adopt a plant-based diet
You could add up to 13 years to your life if you eat fewer red and processed meats and more fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts, according to research published in 2022.
The greatest gains in longevity were found by eating more legumes, including beans, peas, and lentils; whole grains, which are the entire seed of a plant; and nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pecans and pistachios, according to the study.
If you need help with recipes and food choices, there are several great plant-based diets you can follow. The DASH diet, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, has been shown to reduce high blood pressure and is highly regarded. The same is true of the MIND diet, or the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, which focuses on food to slow cognitive decline; and also with the flexitarian diet, a vegetarian diet flexible enough to allow some meat.
Not sure which one to choose? Year after year, nutrition experts award the gold medal to the Mediterranean diet.
Science has shown that foods from the sunny Mediterranean can reduce the risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, stroke, dementia, memory loss, depression and breast cancer. The diet plan has also been linked to stronger bones, a healthier heart and microbiome, and a longer life. Oh, and also with weight loss.
The Mediterranean way of eating is plant-based, so you’ll be eating lots of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds. Use all types and colors of vegetables to get the widest range of nutrients, phytochemicals, and fiber. Cook, toast or decorate with herbs and a little extra virgin olive oil.
You’ll eat less red meat, sugar, and saturated fat, and more omega-3-rich fish (twice a week) and olive oil. Think of chicken, beef, and pork as a “seasoning” for a side dish rather than a main course. (This is better for the planet, too. To learn more about lessening your impact on the planet, sign up for CNN’s seven-part Life, But Greener newsletter.)
Add whole grains and fruit to each meal, but use nuts and seeds as a side dish or as a small snack due to their high calorie and fat content.
And here is the real secret to the success of the Mediterranean diet: it is not a diet at all. It’s a lifestyle, with the greatest emphasis placed on exercising, eating mindfully with friends and family, and socializing over meals.
As for exercise, it doesn’t have to be in a gym.
“The Mediterranean lifestyle is walking with friends and family,” said registered dietitian Kelly Toups in a previous interview. “Instead of thinking of exercise as something you have to do, just walk, dance, or move with joy.”
Do you want to learn more? You’ll find amazing recipes, shopping guides, and tips for getting started eating Mediterranean-style in our eight-part Eat, But Better: Mediterranean Style newsletter.
3. Get quality sleep
You can choose to exercise more or eat healthier, but your body will demand sleep. The quantity and quality of sleep, however, is under your control.
Depending on your age, you are supposed to sleep between seven and ten hours each night. In studies, less sleep has been linked to high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, weight gain, low libido, mood swings, paranoia, depression, and an increased risk of diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and some types of cancer.
Still not convinced? Getting less than the recommended amount of sleep each night on a regular basis can double your risk of death. In a longitudinal study among 10,308 British citizens, researchers found that those who cut their sleep from seven to five hours or less a night were nearly twice as likely to die from all causes, especially cardiovascular disease.
Oh, and the chances of developing a serious illness or medical condition skyrocket if you don’t get enough sleep. That’s because during sleep, your body literally repairs itself and restores itself on a cellular level.
You can train your brain (and your willpower) to get more restful sleep — it’s all in CNN’s seven-part Sleep, But Better newsletter series. Additional tips on how to harness and reduce stress can be found by subscribing to CNN’s Stress, But Less newsletter.
4. What’s next?
It only takes one small step to get started. So congratulations are in order! You are well on your way to a happier and healthier life. These actions will also help reduce stress, improve your mood, and invigorate your sex life. (For more clues on the latter, check out this gallery.)
And remember that you don’t have to make all these changes at once. Pick one thing (exercise, sleep, or diet) to tackle first. And take some time to establish these habits: this is how you can do it.