4 Things The Swiss Can Teach Us About How To Live Longer

Switzerland has one of the highest life expectancies in the world.
Karen Desjardin via Getty Images

When you think of Switzerland, beautiful mountains, delicious cheese and Heidi might come to mind. But there's more to the peaceful, European country than meets the eye.

A 2014 report by the World Health Organization found Switzerland has among the highest life expectancies in the world -- ranking second worldwide for men and third for women.

We've looked at several of the so-called Blue Zones such as Ikaria, Greece and Okinawa, Japan, and what keeps the people in those places healthy for so long. So now let's look at the Swiss way of life to see what we can learn about living longer and better.

1. They have a strong sense of community.

It's no secret that we're social creatures and the need to spend time engaging with others doesn't change, no matter how young or old we are. Various studies have shown the scary health toll loneliness and isolation can take -- some say it's as bad as obesity. And there's no doubt that a strong network of family and friends is important for our mental health.

It's estimated that a whopping 96 percent of people in Switzerland say they have at least one person they could rely on in a time of need, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. It seems it may be due in part to community involvement across the nation. The Swiss are well-educated, participate in elections and also rank their satisfaction with life as fairly high.

2. They have a good work-life balance.

Work can be a major source of stress for many people, with hectic commutes, long workdays, difficult bosses and pressing deadlines. Stress can lead to a number of health problems, like increasing your risk of heart attack, diabetes and depression -- not to mention that it literally can shorten your life.

But the Swiss know how to say "auf wiedersehen" to the cubicle and head home. Only around 7 percent of Swiss people in an OECD survey said they work very long hours. They also make sure to take proper lunch breaks. Most shops are closed on Sundays, literally forcing people to take a respite, while new mothers get a minimum 14-week maternity leave.

3. They walk everywhere.

Like much of Europe, many cities in Switzerland are very pedestrian-friendly and highly walkable. Though many major cities like Geneva have public transportation, many people prefer to walk. In congested cities, it can be easier than driving.

Oh, and if you prefer wheels, many cities are also very bike-friendly too with bike rentals and cycling routes. And with scenic views of clear lakes and snow-peaked mountains, it's no surprise that people are so active.

With this much exercise daily on foot, whether it's strolling to the grocery store or running to the post office, you don't have to worry so much about that gym membership. There are obvious health benefits of an active lifestyle, including improved cardiovascular function and a lowering of the risk of some diseases. Some studies suggest that walking can even cut your mortality risk.

4. They eat chocolate.

Switzerland is home to some of the best chocolate in the world. Therefore, it's no surprise that -- according to some reports -- Switzerland has the highest chocolate consumption per capita of any country in the world.

Now we're not suggesting you run out and eat a whole box of Cailler chocolates, but we have to point out a few health benefits of the treat.

Dark chocolate is believed to have protective properties, with some studies saying it can ward off heart attacks and strokes. And other research has shown that it can actually have anti-aging benefits. In one study, participants who drank hot chocolate containing the flavanol equivalent of 3 oz. of dark chocolate every day for 12 weeks had less skin reddening after sun exposure and actually seemed to have better skin texture. We can get on board with that.

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