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December 12, 2012

6 simple steps that can help you age healthfully

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Take 10

It doesn't take a lot of exercise to dramatically improve the way you age. Even moderate exercise helps neutralize free radicals, boost your immune system and even grow new brain cells. A study last month in the online journal PLoS Medicine looked at data on 650,000 adults (including some who were obese) and found that walking just 15 minutes a day was associated with living two years longer. Looking at normal-weight individuals only, the data showed that walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week was associated with an increase in life span of more than seven years.

"When people talk about physical activity, they always think about jogging or, you know, doing intense physical activity," said Luigi Ferrucci, scientific director of the National Institute on Aging. "But you don't gain by jogging as much as you gain by going from being a couch potato to just walking 10 minutes per day. That is a huge difference."

Sleep seven

While scientists still don't understand what happens in our bodies when we sleep, studies are piling up that show how harmful it is not to get enough sleep. "People who are sleeping less than six hours a night are at risk for more cardiovascular events, more likely to develop diabetes, more likely to die sooner," explained Aric Prather, a research psychologist at the University of California at San Francisco.

But the picture is very different for people who get seven hours of sleep or more: They have better immune systems, less stress and lower body weight, among other benefits. For example, a study of twins published in May in the journal Sleep found that a twin who slept less than seven hours a night was more likely to have a higher BMI than his or her sibling who slept more, as a result of both environment and genetically inherited factors. Prather said sleep studies have consistently shown that for most people, getting seven to eight hours will make a big difference to your health.

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