09/03/2012 09:41 am ET Updated Sep 04, 2012

Healthy Lifestyle Could Boost Longevity In The Elderly: Study

A new study shows you can never be too old to reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

Exercise, eating right and avoiding harmful habits like smoking could help elderly women live five years longer and elderly men live six years longer, the British Medical Journal study showed.

"Our results suggest that encouraging favorable lifestyle behaviours even at advanced ages may enhance life expectancy, probably by reducing morbidity," the researchers wrote in the study.

The study included 1,800 people who were age 75 or older. Karolinska Institute researchers followed them for 18 years, noting their eating and exercise habits and other lifestyle factors.

By the end of the 18-year period, 92 percent of the study participants had died. However, half of the study participants survived at least to age 90, or beyond.

The researchers found that those who were still alive after the follow-up period were more likely to be women, as well as lead healthy lifestyles, take part in leisure activities, be educated and have lots of friends.

On a whole, people who incorporated these healthy characteristics lived 5.4 years longer than those who didn't.

And even among people who were age 85 and older, or in participants who had chronic disease, these healthy characteristics were linked with living four years longer than those who didn't have these characteristics.

Specifically, the researchers found that exercise seemed to have the greatest association with survival. People who exercised -- whether it was swimming, walking or even doing gymnastics -- survived two years longer, compared with people who didn't do these activities, researchers found.

Similarly, a study published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society showed that exercise and healthy eating could help extend the lifespans of elderly women.

For some exercises that could help you live longer, click through the slideshow:

Exercises That Help You Live Longer