I'm not a doctor and I don't play one on television. That said, I'm like everyone else who prefers to live a long and healthy life. Any news of something that helps achieve that goal is worthy of perusal. 


For instance, a recent headline captured my immediate attention: “These eight habits could add up to twenty-four years to your life, study finds.” The article simply asks: “Want to add years to your life?” You bet! Tell me more. 


“The observational study presented the American Society for Nutrition's annual meeting examined how life expectancy shifted based on the number of healthy habits followed. Adopting eight healthy lifestyle habits by middle age can result in a substantially longer life than those with few or none of the habits. Those habits include: being physically active, being free from opioid addiction, not smoking, managing stress, having a good diet, not regularly binge drinking, having good sleep hygiene, and having positive social relationships.”


Following these suggestions seems pretty obvious, but the results are eye-opening. “Men with all eight habits at age forty are expected to live twenty-four years longer on average compared with those with none. Women with all eight habits are predicted to live an twenty-one additional years.” 


The report ends on a positive note. “Even if you only make a small change in your 40s, 50s, or 60s, it still is beneficial. It is never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle." (


That study dovetails toward another recent headline at “Staying fit as you age isn’t just about exercise.” The article expands on what “fitness” should to include. “Wellness habits underscore that one key to a longer life is a fitness regimen—but one that incorporates mental and emotional fitness as well.”


The focus of the article's concept is clear. “We really need to look at the life of an older adult with a holistic lens—if they’re really happy, healthy and whole.” Still, physical exercise has some obvious benefits. “Physical activity to be one of the best ways to keep the brain healthy throughout its life span.”


Science backs up this point. “Research shows that as we age, the brain shrinks, specifically the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory formation. Exercise can help maintain this portion of the brain and, in some cases, increase the size.”



This is all well and good, but finding time to work out can be a stumbling block. That's where another headline comes in: “There's a way to get healthier without even going to a gym.” 


Cue a concept called non-exercise activity thermogenesis (N.E.A.T. for short). “This is essentially all the calories that a person burns through their daily activity excluding purposeful physical exercise. Think of the low-effort movements that you string together over the course of your day – things like household chores, strolling through the grocery aisle, climbing the stairs, bobbing your leg up and down at your desk, or cooking dinner.”


Here's the reality. You may be exercising and not even realize it. “They've learned that even small behavior changes can amplify how much NEAT you get, and this can shape your health in powerful ways. And even among those who do exercise regularly, NEAT usually plays a bigger role in calorie burning than working out.” 


The key to N.E.A.T is movement. “Just strolling about one and a half to two miles an hour — the speed people tend to go while shopping — can double your metabolic rate. Walking to the corner store, or mowing the lawn, can add up to make a big difference over the course of the day. Even chewing gum can go a surprisingly long way, about twenty calories an hour above your resting metabolic rate.” 


There are even ways to maximize your daily N.E.A.T. totals. “Many of them are relatively easy to take up. They often involve choosing to make slightly more effort, rather than choosing convenience. Mundane tasks like vacuuming, doing the laundry or gardening can burn a few hundred calories in an hour. Playing a video game can go from about fifty calories an hour to more than one hundred if you move around. Taking the stairs can more than triple the amount of energy you'd use when riding the elevator. Even watching TV can be transformed if you walk around during commercials. Making your bed actually expends more calories than other activities that you might think of, like taking a slow walk.” (


Pretty interesting information, eh? “The power of NEAT is that it's available to absolutely everybody. We can all do it and we can all do a little bit more." Now all I have to do is figure out how to take out the garbage and chew gum at the same time. Once I get that down, I'll be a N.E.A.T. machine. 


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and