You hear a lot about living a healthy lifestyle, enough that the phrase 'healthy lifestyle' may be one we'd like to permanently retire. The problem is, that phrase describes the life we need to live if we want to feel good and look good. So, what does it actually mean? Well, there are the obvious things that describe a healthy person: He or she doesn't smoke, is at a healthy weight, eats healthy foods and exercises on a regular basis. It sounds so simple, it's funny just how hard it is to do all of those things in our current world.
The good news is, you don't have to change everything at the same time. In fact, the trick to healthy living is making small changes. Take more steps each day, adding fruit to your cereal, having an extra glass of water or saying no to that second helping of buttery mashed potatoes. So, what else can you be doing to live healthy? Your first order of business is to start exercising.
One of the biggest reasons we're have a weight problem these days is because we sit around too much. We know we need to exercise, but we have so many excuses not to do it. We're too busy, don't know where to start, we're not motivated or we're afraid we'll injure ourselves or we're afraid that exercise has to be vigorous for what our bodies can handle. The truth is, everything counts and the more you move, the healthier you'll be.
It's great if you can spend time exercising - Meaning you're sweating, working in your target heart rate zone and/or doing something to strengthen your body. But it doesn't always have to be that way. Moderate activities like chores, gardening and walking can make a difference.
Just adding a little movement to your life can:
- Reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes
- Improve joint stability
- Increase and improve range of movement
- Help maintain flexibility as you age
- Maintain bone mass
- Prevent osteoporosis and fractures
- Improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Enhance self esteem
- Improve memory in elderly people
- Reduce stress
So, even if you opt for small changes and a more modest weight loss, you can see the benefits are still pretty good. One study has found that just a 10% weight reduction helped obese patients reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and increase longevity. In fact, you don't even have to have a goal to lose weight, especially if you have trouble stick to a program. Why not focus on being healthy to start and worry about the weight loss once you've got some healthy habits under your belt?
Simple Ways to Move Your Body
You can start the process of being healthy and weight loss now by adding a little more activity to your life. If you're not ready for a structured program, start small. Every little bit counts and it all adds up to burning more calories.
- Turn off the TV. Once a week, turn off the TV and do something a little more physical with your family. Play games, take a walk...almost anything will be more active than sitting on the couch.
- Walk more. Look for small ways to walk more. When you get the mail, take a walk around the block, take the dog for an extra outing each day or walk on your treadmill for 5 minutes before getting ready for work.
- Do some chores. Shoveling snow, working in the garden, raking leaves, sweeping the floor...these kinds of activities may not be 'vigorous' exercise, but they can keep you moving while getting your house in order.
- Pace while you talk. When you're on the phone, pace around or even do some cleaning while gabbing. This is a great way to stay moving while doing something you enjoy.
- Be aware. Make a list of all the physical activities you do on a typical day. If you find that the bulk of your time is spent sitting, make another list of all the ways you could move more--getting up each hour to stretch or walk, walk the stairs at work, etc.
Learn about more ways to fit in exercise.
Eating a healthy diet is another part of the healthy lifestyle. Not only can a clean diet help with weight management, it can also improve your health and quality of life as you get older. You can use the new MyPlate to determine how many calories you need and what food groups you should focus on or, if you're looking for smaller changes, you can use these tips for simple ways to change how you eat:
- Eat more fruit. Add it to your cereal, your salads or even your dinners
- Sneak in more veggies. Add them wherever you can--a tomato on your sandwich, peppers on your pizza, or extra veggies in your pasta sauce. Keep precut or canned/frozen veggies ready for quick snacks.
- Switch your salad dressing. If you eat full-fat dressing, switch to something lighter and you'll automatically eat less calories.
- Eat low-fat or fat-free dairy. Switching to skim milk or fat free yogurt is another simple way to eat less calories without having to change too much in your diet.
- Make some substitutes. Look through your cabinets or fridge and pick 3 foods you eat every day. Write down the nutritional content and, the next time you're at the store, find lower-calorie substitutes for just those 3 items.
Find more ideas for healthy foods with this Healthy Foods Grocery List.
Creating a healthy lifestyle doesn't have to mean drastic changes. In fact, drastic changes almost always lead to failure. Making small changes in how you live each day can lead to big rewards, so figure out what you can to be healthy today.
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Goldstein DJ. Beneficial health effects of modest weight loss. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1992 Jun;16(6):397-415.
Ornish D, Brown SE, Scherwitz LW, Billings JH, Armstrong WT, Ports TA, McLanahan SM, Kirkeeide RL, Brand RJ, Gould KL. Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease? The Lifestyle Heart Trial.. Lancet. 1990 Jul 21;336(8708):129-33.