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5-Second Changes That Extend Your Life, Say Experts

These activities that take only five seconds can actually extend your life.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

If you want to seriously improve your health, you don't have to undertake a complicated regimen like training for a marathon. Sometimes, a sprint is all you need. Like, a serious sprint, possibly the fastest sprint of all: Studies show certain activities that take only five seconds can actually extend your life. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Laugh

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Don't just take it from Betty White, who lived to the ripe old age of 99, and Norman Lear, who'll turn 100 in July: Having a sense of humor can make you live longer. Research has found that the simple act of laughing reduces stress, boosts immunity, decreases inflammation, and lowers blood pressure. And it adds up: A 2016 Norwegian study found that having a sense of humor can add eight years to your life, even if you have heart disease or a chronic infection.

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2

Get Vaccinated

Doctor had just vaccinated a young female patient in the hospital.
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It may be the quickest, easiest, most affordable life extender there is. Recent data indicates that people who haven't been vaccinated against COVID-19 are nine times more likely to be hospitalized with and 14 times more likely to die from the virus—and are more likely to die from any cause—than people who have been vaccinated. And if you're older than 50, those odds increase exponentially with each decade.

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3

Breathe Deeply

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Go on. Take a deep, full, abdominal breath. Slowly … for just five seconds. You'll immediately notice how good you'll feel. The benefits aren't just in your head, and they can be long-lasting. "Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide," says Harvard Medical School. "Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure." Deep breathing can reduce stress, which is associated with a longer life. Once you've mastered five seconds, aim for 10 minutes a day. 

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4

Reflect on Your Sense of Purpose

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Why are you here? Think fast. A 2019 study published in JAMA found a link between a strong sense of purpose in life and a lower risk of dying from any cause after age 50. Researchers tracked about 7,000 adults older than 50 for five years; they found participants who had the lowest life-purpose scores were twice as likely to have died than those with the highest scores.

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5

Drink Some Water

woman drinking water
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A study of the residents of Loma Linda, California—one of the world's five "blue zones," where people live longest and are healthiest—found that drinking five or more glasses of water a day could cut your risk of heart disease by 50 percent. That's the same heart benefit caused by quitting tobacco, exercising or losing weight. (Although you should still do all of those things too.) And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more
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