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How to Live to 100

7 surprising tips that can improve health and boost longevity

By , Caring.com senior editor
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Want to join the estimated 1 million people in the U.S. who are expected to have lived to 100 or older by the year 2050? Happily, recent scientific advances have made it more possible than ever to take control of the aging process. By following large population groups over many years, researchers have documented specific lifestyle changes that can extend life expectancy from one to eight years; add them together and you could gain 20 years or more. They range from the mundane -- flossing every day -- to the ambitious -- lowering your body mass index below 22.

And let's face it: When we know what works, we're much more likely to do it. Wouldn't you be less likely to skip your morning run knowing that vigorous exercise three times a week adds five years to your life? Well then, here you go. By following these seven simple suggestions, you'll be set to join the ranks of future centenarians.

1. Stop sitting around.

What the research shows: In the past year, several studies on the effects of sitting startled the medical field by demonstrating that sitting for long hours is bad for you even if you're not overweight and you exercise vigorously at other times. Yep, that's right: When researchers study only healthy people who exercise regularly, they still find that those who sit a lot each day have higher blood pressure, greater risk of diabetes, and larger waist circumference than those who sit less.

Even scarier: One study followed 17,000 Canadians and found that those who sat the most were more than 50 percent more likely to die during the follow-up period, regardless of age, physical activity level, and whether or not they smoked. Another study found that adults who watched more than three hours of TV a day had significantly poorer cardiovascular health, again even when other health conditions, weight, and physical activity level were taken out of the mix.

Researchers are still studying the issue, but experts are warning of a "physiology of inactivity" that seems to set in, causing your body to release dangerous molecules that affect how you process fats and sugars.

How to make this work for you: Change your habits. Watch TV or use the computer while bouncing on an exercise ball or walking on a treadmill. Work standing up with your computer on a high desk or counter. Before your favorite show comes on, get out a yoga mat and some hand weights and resistance bands and do some gentle stretches and strength training while you watch. If you are sitting for a long while, pause and take breaks to stretch or walk the dog. Even rocking in a rocking chair keeps you moving a bit.

During the day, stand and walk as much as possible, even if all you do is park your car further away in the parking lot or stop asking family members to fetch things for you. When waiting in line or in a waiting room, don't be shy about getting up and moving around.

You can also get a pedometer and count steps. One study found that when men who normally walk a lot were asked to drastically cut back their physical activity for two weeks, their sugar and fat metabolism became impaired in just that short period of time.