The search for a fountain of youth has intrigued Americans ever since Ponce De Leon came ashore looking for it in Florida in the sixteenth century. In the years since, pills, elixirs, and even severely restricting calories are just some of the ways people have sought to stave off death.

Scientists have long understood that what truly lengthens your life and keeps your later years healthy are the basics we’ve known about for ages: Eat a healthy diet filled with vegetables, exercise regularly, invest in healthy relationships, reduce stress, and get enough sleep, for example.

Now a team of researchers has uncovered a potential key reason these actions are so beneficial: they influence our genes.

In a small pilot study published in the journal Aging in April 2021, when 18 midlife men strictly followed a healthy lifestyle regimen (that included following a healthy diet, sleep, exercise and relaxation guidance, and supplemental probiotics and phytonutrients) for eight weeks, their estimated biological age dropped the equivalent of about 3 years when compared with the control group that didn’t follow the regimen. (Your chronological age is determined by your birthday; researchers use biological age to measure how old our bodies appear to be based on how well we function at a genetic level. For this study, the researchers used a validated saliva test to look at changes in the participants genes to record their estimated biological age.)