Copying Queen Elizabeth's healthy habits might not make you a monarch, but it could help lead to a longer, happier life.
Living to be nearly a century is no small feat…yet Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, or Queen Elizabeth II, added that milestone to her very long list of impressive accomplishments. Queen Elizabeth was born April 21, 1926 and died September 8, 2022, making her 96 years and four months old. For context, a woman born in 1926 has just a 3.2% chance of making it to the century mark.
Not only did Queen Elizabeth live long—making her the longest-reigning monarch in English history—but she was remarkably healthy, too. After her husband Prince Philip, died at age 99 in 2021, the Queen herself experienced a series of health scares, including a bout of Covid-19. However, she was well enough to officially appoint Liz Truss as the newly elected Prime Minister just two days before she passed.
How did Queen Elizabeth live so long? Good genetics and chance likely played their roles, but a lot of the credit goes to her healthy lifestyle. Queen Elizabeth had some famously great health habits. Ready to take notes? Following her lead probably won’t make you a monarch, but it will definitely make you happier and healthier.
1. Eating breakfast
Queen Elizabeth’s breakfast was a routine priority, with breakfast served at 8:30 a.m. sharp. Eating a healthy breakfast has been linked with a longer life, perhaps due to breakfast-eaters having a lower risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Queen Elizabeth’s daily pick? Reportedly tea with biscuits, followed by a bowl of what was said to be the Queen’s favorite cereal: Special K.
2. Having a pet
Elizabeth was famously devoted to her band of adorable dogs, especially her corgis. Research has found that owning pets can boost your health by lowering blood pressure, reducing stress, lowering health care costs (pet owners visit the doctor less frequently than those who don’t have an animal), fight depression, and reduce your risk of obesity, cancer, and diabetes. Time for a walk!
3. Horseback riding
Horses have been a fixture in Queen Elizabeth’s life from a very young age, as she was an accomplished equestrian. In fact, she loved horses so much that she even gave her son Prince Charles a broodmare as a wedding gift.
Riding horses is fun—but it’s also great exercise, which might have contributed to her famously sharp mind (and wit!). Regular exercise is the sweet spot in reducing cognitive decline associated with aging, according to a leading 2022 Alzheimer’s study. The type of exercise didn’t matter greatly, so take a page from the Queen’s book and pick something you enjoy!
4. Tea time
Queen Elizabeth started her day with a cup of Earl Grey tea. Like many of the British, she took her tea sans sugar, but didn’t mind a little milk.
Drinking a daily cup of tea supports organ health, prevents chronic diseases and helps repair cells in the body. Green tea gets a lot of the love in health circles these days; but black tea, like Earl Grey, has an impressive list of benefits too. A major pro of black tea? It may boost your immune system and reduce the risk of infection—two benefits definitely linked to a longer life.
5. Snacking—but in small portions
Jam sandwiches were served every day for Elizabeth’s afternoon tea. These treats, known as “jam pennies,” are simply jam spread on buttered white bread and cut into crustless circles.
Not exactly the healthiest fare, but it’s been reported the Queen loved them. And nutrition experts say that the key to a healthy lifestyle isn’t forbidding all treats, but instead indulging in them in sensible portions. This worked for the Queen: the reason her favorite sandwiches were called “pennies” is because each sandwich is the size of an old English penny, about one inch across!
Elizabeth was known for her sharp wit and dry sense of humor and was often photographed mid-laugh. Close friends and acquaintances have shared many stories about her enjoyment of a good joke. For instance, when a tourist told her that she “looked a lot like the Queen” she retorted “Well, that’s reassuring!”
Humor is powerful medicine for your brain and body—boosting mood, lowering stress, improving social ties, and, yes, increasing longevity. Do your own laughter experiment and see how it changes your life!
7. A loving relationship
We’re sure that Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth had their ups and down like any couple, but they appeared to be extremely close—after all, they were married for over 70 years!
Being in a happy partnership has health benefits that go beyond simply being in love. Called “the marriage benefit,” research has shown that stable couples are more likely to maintain a healthy weight, exercise, take vacations, and enjoy better overall health.
8. Close family and friends
Being part of a high-profile family can be complicated. But despite the periodic challenges, it was clear that Queen Elizabeth had a close knit group of loved ones who were there when she needed them.
Some research has shown that loneliness and isolation may reduce your lifespan as much as smoking cigarettes, while having a strong social circle adds years to your life (not to mention adding life to those years!).
9. Enjoying nature
Gardening and walking outdoors were two of Elizabeth’s favorite hobbies and she was often photographed combining those loves, walking through garden shows. Good news for nature lovers: both happen to be linked with a longer life in the research. It’s not just the exercise that boosts your health. Simply being outdoors, in nature, lowers stress hormones, slows your your heart rate, reduces blood pressure, and increases feelings of safety and well-being, according to a study of “forest bathing.” In addition, keeping plants indoors—like Queen Elizabeth did—improves your mental health.
10. Having purposeful work
Queen Elizabeth dedicated her life to serving the people of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. She loved her job and it showed! She was famous for her “walkabouts”—tours where she connected with people all over the world. These passions likely played a part in her longevity. People with a passion have been found to be more optimistic and happier in general.
Perhaps the most important health (and life) lesson we can take from Queen Elizabeth’s 96 years is the importance of endurance—to wake up and keep trying, no matter what. As she put it: “When life seems hard, the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat; instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future.”