A landmark study of thousands of members of a retirement community in Southern California is revealing factors that may contribute to living longer.Some of the findings are no surprise- smoking led to shorter lifespans, while those who exercised lived longer. Other findings were unexpected — vitamins did not prolong life, but carrying some extra weight did.Dr. Claudia Kawas of the University of California, Irvine, found the research equivalent of a gold mine when she discovered that 14,000 residents of a retirement community formerly known as “Leisure World” (now Laguna Woods) had filled out detailed questionnaires about their diet, activities, vitamin intake, and medical history back in the early 1980s.

With 6 million dollars from the National Institutes of Health, she and her staff took those 14,000 files and began a research project called “90+.” Who had died and when? Who was still alive and over 90? They were able to locate and sign up 1,600 of those 90-plussers, as they call them, many still living at Laguna Woods. Each is examined physically and cognitively every six months, CBS News reported.

Dr. Kawas said that people who exercised definitely lived longer than people who didn’t exercise, adding that as little as 15 minutes a day on average made a difference.

Keeping active in non-physical ways, such as socializing, playing board games, and attending book clubs, also was associated with longer life.

Kawas said that being obese at any age is unhealthy. However, she found that older people who were moderately overweight or average weight lived longer than people who were underweight.

Vitamins didn’t seem to affect longevity, but alcohol intake did, with people who drank up to two drinks per day having a 10-15 per cent reduced risk of death compared to non-drinkers.