Steps to a Positive and Long-Lasting Lifestyle
Whatever your food philosophy or fitness tribe, the goal for most is all the same: a healthy lifestyle that pairs with lasting longevity. But what exactly provides a firm foundation in pursuit of that better, happier you? In this article, we look at the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle and habits linked with a long life.
What does a Healthy Lifestyle look like?
1. Eating well
The most important place to begin is what you put into your body. Your diet affects your physical and mental health, and eating well can help you feel your best. Consuming a variety of whole, non-processed foods as well as reducing your intake of sugars, sodium, and saturated fats not only help protect against many chronic diseases in the long run (such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer), but it can raise energy levels, help you sleep better, and manage your body weight. Furthermore, eating the right foods can aid any feelings of anxiety, being unable to concentrate, and feeling less stressed generally.
2. Frequent physical exercise
Being physically active helps build strength in your body and mind and is key to a healthy lifestyle pattern. Research shows that regular exercise leads to a reduction in health risk factors, such as cardiovascular disease, risk of type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Studies have also found that active people have a lower risk of colon and breast cancer, and regular exercise can increase your chances of living longer.
Furthermore, exercising enhances the action and production of endorphins and enkephalin, which improve natural immunity and reduce the perception of pain. Regular exercise also improves mood, feelings of having more energy, and your overall quality of life.
3. Managing your weight
Being overweight heightens the risk of chronic disease primarily because the body’s circulatory and respiratory systems are under more stress to get that blood and oxygen to where it needs to go. Moreover, the digestive system also has to work harder since you’re consuming more food than your body needs.
Not only that but being overweight puts additional stress on your tendons, ligaments, and joints that make you more prone to a chronic injury. It can also make you feel mentally set-back, reducing overall confidence, which results in you eating more, gaining more weight, feeling worse, and trapped in this vicious cycle.
4. Sufficient sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is about more than keeping the crow’s feet at bay. Numerous studies have found that getting less sleep than needed is detrimental to both physical and mental health. A lack of sleep can result in stress levels that contribute to depression. Moreover, less time asleep means less time for REM Sleep and less time for Deep Sleep.
The latter encourages physical recovery while the former is integral for mental wellbeing. More sleep relaxes the heart rate and promotes physical and mental healing, resulting in decreased stress levels the next day.
5. Stop smoking
When you stop smoking, you will see an abundance of positive effects. Even within one day of quitting, your risk of heart attack decreases; smoking causes the reactive constriction of blood vessels in your body, so by quitting the habit, you will have lower blood pressure and resting heart rate.
More oxygen can reach your cells and tissues, and your lung function will increase as much as thirty percent even in just two weeks of giving up. Quitting smoking also lowers the risk of other smoking-related cancers such as cancers of the mouth, esophagus, bladder, kidneys, and pancreas.
6. Moderate alcohol intake
Drinking to excess can do a lot of damage to our mental health, increase the risk of developing serious health conditions, as well as reducing fertility, and impairing brain function. A glass of wine here and there isn’t going to do any lasting damage, and there are studies that suggest that when you drink in moderation, it can introduce antioxidants into the body and encourage longevity. The important words to note are “in moderation,” so avoid excessive consumption to get all the benefits and limit the associated risk factors.
To develop and function as it should, your body must get the vitamins and minerals it needs. If you’re eating healthily then this shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s important to add some extras if you need that additional boost of nutrients.
You might be in an environment where you’re not frequently getting outside and into the sun for that all-important immune-boosting vitamin D, or maybe you just might have a natural deficiency. Perhaps, you don’t get enough omega-3 fats in your diet (crucial for optimal body function), in which case fish oil capsules are a great option.
8. Effective stress management
Stress can stop us from doing many things, which can inhibit a healthy lifestyle. We feel less motivated and less productive while also potentially damaging the relationships with the people around us, whether it’s family, friends, and work-related.
By setting boundaries in particular areas of your life, practicing mindfulness, and introducing meditative sessions into your routine, you’ll find those feelings of stress and anxiety begin to fade away. Effective stress management can give you the space you need to introduce further positive lifestyle changes, such as more sleep and more exercise.
9. Healthy Brain
Maintaining a healthy brain isn’t just about doing the occasional sudoku (although that does help!). It’s about eating well, exercising, sleeping properly, and managing any stress factors that come your way. Good mental health gives you a robust sense of well-being and strength that helps you persevere during tough situations so that you can stay on track for a healthier and longer life.
10. Healthy Skin
About 5.4 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancers are diagnosed every year in the US, with over 100,000 cases of melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) diagnosed. For all the good aspects of exposure to the sun, it can also be harmful in large amounts, which leads to the aforementioned skin cancers.
Ensure you wear and reapply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 15+ so that you are protected from both types of damaging UV rays (UVA and UVB) the sun exposes you to. Also, be sure to drink lots of water and keep moisturized in any dry areas.
Does a healthy lifestyle make a difference?
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that those with an unhealthy lifestyle are at increased risk of getting the most serious cases, as things such as a poor diet and low physical activity interactively impair the body’s immune system making it more susceptible to severe infectious disease. This underlines the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, not just today but for the years ahead.
All of these elements go toward forming a better, happier you, but don’t worry if it all seems a bit overwhelming. Just taking on one or more of these factors will lead to a health cascade that puts you in a prime position to live that healthier lifestyle and live longer.
For example, exercising regularly leads to better stress management, better sleep, more energy, better food decisions, lesser chronic disease, and so on. Everest wasn’t ever conquered in a day, but take it one step at a time, and you’ll be at the top of the mountain before you know it.
References1] ↑ https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-exercise-when-you-have-diabetes
2] ↑ https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/obesity/physical-activity-fact-sheet
3] ↑ https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265635#benefits
4] ↑ https://www.cancer.org/cancer/melanoma-skin-cancer/about/key-statistics.html
5] ↑ https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2020.597600/full