27/12/2012 07:35 GMT | Updated 27/12/2012 07:35 GMT

How To Stay Healthy As You Grow Old (Age UK's Tips On Ageing Well)

With the baby boom generation ageing into retirement, a study has highlighted four healthy behaviours believed to increase the likelihood of staying healthy in old age.

The study, published in Canadian Medical Association Journal,

has shown that a combination of regular exercise, a healthy diet, moderate alcohol consumption and not smoking could be the key to 'successful ageing'.

Co-author of the study Dr Séverine Sabia, University College London, associated 'successful ageing' with having good mental and physical health and no chronic diseases such as cancer or diabetes, whereas 'normal ageing' includes those with chronic disease or lower scores on functioning and mental health.


The study included 5,100 men and women, who were assessed on their lifestyle choices and health. The first assessment phase took place during 1991-1994, with a follow up in 2007-2009. Of the total participants, 549 died during follow-up, and 953 were classified as successfully ageing, while the remaining people aged 'normally'.

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"Our study shows the cumulative impact of healthy behaviours on successful ageing — the greater the number of healthy behaviours, the greater the benefit," Dr Sabia said in a statement.

"Compared with participants who engaged in no healthy behaviours, those who engaged in all 4 healthy behaviours had greater odds of aging successfully."

    Healthy behaviours for successful ageing

  • Not smoking
  • Moderate alcohol consumption of one to 14 units a week for women and one to 21 units a week for men
  • Physical activity (at least 2.5 hours a week of moderately intense physical activity or one hour or more of very intense physical activity a week)
  • Eating fruits and vegetables on a daily basis

"Although individual healthy behaviours are moderately associated with successful ageing, their combined impact is quite substantial. Multiple healthy behaviours appear to increase the chance of reaching old age disease-free and fully functional in an additive manner."

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), fitness trends for 2013 include investing in exercise programs for older adults.