Healthy Lifestyle Benefits: 5 Tips for Living Your Strongest, Healthiest Life Yet

Healthy Lifestyle Benefits: 5 Tips for Living Your Strongest, Healthiest Life Yet

Healthy Lifestyle Benefits. When you're not at your healthiest, you might say it. You may just feel "uncomfortable". You may find yourself feeling tired, your digestive system not functioning as well as usual, and you seem to catch a cold. Mentally, you may find yourself unable to concentrate and feel anxious or depressed.

Good news: A healthy lifestyle can help you feel better. Even better, you don't have to completely change your entire life overnight. Making small changes can easily guide you in the direction of improved well-being. Once you make a change, that success motivates you to keep making more positive changes.

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What is a “healthy lifestyle”?

Ask 50 people to define what a "healthy lifestyle" is, and you'll likely get 50 different answers. That's because there is no one way to stay healthy. A healthy lifestyle simply means doing what makes you happy and feel good.

For one person, this could mean walking a mile five times a week, eating fast food once a week, and spending virtual or in-person time with loved ones every other day. For others, a healthy lifestyle might be to train and run marathons twice a year, follow a ketogenic diet, and never drink alcohol.

None of these are better than the other. Both are perfect for that person. You can decide what your healthy lifestyle looks like.

How is it beneficial?

Making changes to improve your health can bring benefits to your body, mind, wallet, and even environment.

1. Prevents disease

Healthy habits can reduce the risk of various diseases, including those that may be inherited in your family.

For example, in a recent study, adults who followed a standard American diet (rich in fruits and vegetables) for 8 weeks had a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

In another 2020 study, researchers found that every 66-gram increase in daily fruit and vegetable intake was associated with a 25% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Swapping some refined grains for whole grains can also reduce the risk of disease. In an observational study of nearly 200,000 adults, those who ate the most whole grains were 29% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who ate the least.

A credible source of 45 studies concluded that eating 90 grams (or three servings of 30 grams) of whole grains per day reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by 22%, coronary heart disease by 19%, and cancer by 15%.

When it comes to exercise, just 11 minutes a day can extend your lifespan. In a 2020 study, researchers tracked more than 44,000 adults. Those who did 11 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per day had a lower risk of death compared to those who only did 2 minutes of this intensity exercise. This comparison holds even if people sit for 8.5 hours a day.

2. Saves money

It is always wise to see your primary care doctor for an annual physical exam. This is especially true when seeing how certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure, are "silent". This means that they don't have any symptoms, so you usually don't know you have the disease unless you get tested.

However, the healthier you are, the less likely you are to see a doctor. This can save money by reducing copays, prescription needs, and other treatments.

3. Lengthens lifespan

Basic health habits are associated with longevity. If, at age 50, you never smoke, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, follow a healthy diet, and drink alcohol in moderation, you can live up to 14 years. Even making some of these changes can extend your lifespan.

4. It can be good for the environment

Ultra-processed foods are foods that contain refined grains and additives to change texture, taste, or color. Some examples of these foods are cheese puffs, packaged dessert cakes, chicken nuggets, and sweetened breakfast cereals. More than 70% of food in U.S. supermarkets is ultra-processed.

The manufacture of ultra-processed foods contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, water scarcity, biodiversity loss, plastic waste and deforestation.

Then there are animal products. According to a 2013 study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, an agency within the United Nations dedicated to reducing global hunger and food inequality, raising livestock for meat and dairy products accounts for 14.5% of greenhouse gases produced by humans.

However, there are some simple fixes. For example, according to the National Resources Defense Council, if every American reduced beef consumption by 1/4 of a pound per week, the reduction in global warming gas emissions would be equivalent to four or six million cars on the road. According to the National Resource Defense Council.

But it's not just about what you eat more or less. Replacing short rides with cycling can also reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

In a 2010 study that was not peer-reviewed, researchers estimated that if Madison, Wisconsin20% of citizens travel less than 5 miles by bike, saving more than 57,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year.

And, a 2017 study in Stockholm found that if drivers who live within half an hour of commuting by bicycle instead of commuting by car could save 449 years of life per year due to reduced vehicle emissions.

These estimates are not just dreams. Barcelona's bike-sharing program reduces CO2 emissions by around 10,000 tons per year.

What is the easiest way to start one?

Your journey towards a healthier lifestyle starts with small changes you're confident you can achieve. Consider developing "SMART" goals. Smart Representative:

  • specific

  • measurable

  • attainable

  • relevant

  • time-bound (met by a deadline and done in a certain amount of time)

When you focus on your SMART goals, you're more successful. An initial "victory" will push you to set new, bigger goals.

Consider the following tips to start improving your overall health.

1. Eat more vegetables

A 2010 prospective study analyzing reliable sources showed that eating more vegetables and fruits was associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and premature death.

While it's better to eat more vegetables, you don't have to go from zero to nine servings a day. Maybe your goal is to eat a serving of vegetables for dinner. If you've already done so, consider eating only one vegetable or fruit per meal.

Keep in mind that less processed vegetables are better. Instead of french fries, try baked potatoes seasoned with herbs or sauté a few colorful vegetables and drizzle them with delicious balsamic vinegar.

2. Swap in whole grains

Replacing refined grains with whole grains is good for your health. In a small 2017 study, 81 men and postmenopausal women were divided into two groups. Half followed a diet that included whole grains, and the other half followed a diet that included the same calories but contained refined grains. After 6 weeks, the resting metabolic rate (RMR) increased in the whole grain group. RMR is the number of calories your body burns at rest.

Studies from 2016 and 2020 linked eating more whole grains to a reduced risk of diabetes, coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

Start small and replace a refined grain with one whole grain each day — maybe a breakfast toast or a pilaf made at dinner. Try different cereals and condiments to see which one you like best.

Whole grains include:

  • plain oats

  • whole grain bread and pasta

  • brown and wild rice

  • buckwheat

  • bulgur wheat

  • millet

  • barley

  • spelt

  • quinoa

  • farro

Refined grains include:

  • white bread and pasta

  • white rice

  • most breakfast cereals

  • chips

  • pretzel

  • Crackers

3. Be more active

If the words "exercise" or "exercise" disgust you, think of this step as physical activity or simply moving your body.

You can walk, bike, take salsa lessons, practice martial arts, or try online fitness classes. The most important thing is to choose the activities you enjoy.  Choosing an activity that interests you increases your chances of sticking with it.

Second, remember that you don't have to start with a long workout.10 minutes a day, 5 days a week. When you feel ready, add another 5 or 10 minutes. Continue to do this until you reach at least 30 minutes a day for most of the week.

4. Maintain friendships

Strong relationships and maintaining communication with friends and loved ones can support mental health.

On the one hand, people with poor interpersonal relationships are at greater risk of depression. People with the worst quality of social relationships have more than twice the risk of depression compared to those with the highest quality of social relationships.

Similarly, studies have shown that feelings of isolation are associated with self-reported poor health and an increased risk of depression. It has also been linked to various health problems such as headaches, heart palpitations, and pain in the lower back, neck, or shoulders.

Even if you can't meet with friends or family in person, schedule a time to communicate via a weekly phone or video call. Or, when you see your neighbors, start chatting with them.

5. Control stress

Chronic stress keeps your body in fight-or-flight mode. This puts a strain on your immune system and makes you more vulnerable to health problems, including:

Exercise can help reduce stress by releasing pent-up energy. Physical activity can also promote the release of mood-boosting hormones called endorphins.

For others, mindfulness practices — such as meditation, deep breathing, journaling, or spending time in nature — can help reduce stress. Talking to friends can also help.

If you want more stress relief support, consider treatment. Working with a trained psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist can help you cope with life's challenges and can help you learn new skills to manage stress.

Are there any drawbacks?

There really is nothing downside to a healthy lifestyle, as everyone can define for themselves the look and feel of "healthy".

This means that you don't have to do anything that doesn't make you happy. After all, as we have already mentioned, being unhappy can affect your health.

For example, if you don't like regular exercise, think about how you like to move your body. If you hate kale, you don't have to eat it.

Does this mean I have to give up my favorite “bad habit”?

Living a healthy lifestyle doesn't mean you have to give up things that might be considered "bad habits. "It is entirely possible to balance a healthy life with eating cookies, taking a day off, or drinking alcohol during dinner.

In fact, enjoying a meal once in a while can help you better stick to healthy eating habits. A desperate mentality of eating only "good" food and never "bad" food is often counterproductive. Having the flexibility to eat the particularly cheesy lasagna that mom makes — and savor every bite — is part of wellness.

Rest days are also important for physical and mental health. Doing too much exercise increases the risk of injury or causes you to burn out and give up exercise altogether.

In addition, moderate alcohol consumption (one standard drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men) has been linked to several health benefits. A "standard drink" is:

  • 12 fluid ounces of beer

  • 5 fl oz of wine

  • 8–9 fl oz of malt liquor

  • 1.5 fl oz of spirit

On the other hand, if you feel you can't control habits that could negatively affect your health, such as drinking alcohol, overusing recreational drugs, or smoking, talk to your doctor. They can help you with support.

The bottom line

A healthy lifestyle will not only make you feel better, but it will also reduce your risk of certain diseases, live longer, save money, and benefit the environment.

Your definition of a healthy lifestyle is anything you define. For health, there is nothing you must or cannot do. Find out what makes you feel good and what brings you the greatest happiness. Then, start small as you make changes. You're more likely to see success this way, and small successes will snowball over for greater good.

Finally, if you need help with lifestyle changes, talk to your doctor. If they can't help you directly, they may refer other professionals, such as a registered dietitian or therapist.

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