But it can’t be denied, keeping up a healthy lifestyle is often easier said than done. When it comes down to it, at the end of a long hard day, most of us would rather curl up on the couch instead of going for a run. Many of us really enjoy less-than-optimal food over broccoli and carrots.
For your mental and physical health, you need to resist the urge to sit on the couch with a pint of ice cream every night and look at what habits actually serve your well-being. Consider instead putting the spoon down and lacing up those sneakers to start enjoying the many benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
Internal motivation is key. One way to keep yourself motivated is to remember all the healthy for life rewards and how they can impact your overall well-being.
What is a Healthy Lifestyle?
When thinking about your life, how do you know you have a healthy lifestyle? Health is much more than the absence of illness. At times in your life you have probably felt physically well, but were struggling mentally or emotionally. Any variation from how you want to feel either mentally or physically, might be considered less than optimal health.
If you are truly healthy, you should feel your best most of the time. Sure, you can expect some ups and downs, but you should feel overall energetic and able to tackle most things that life throws your way.
A healthy lifestyle should include:
- A healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein
- Fresh water
- Moving your body regularly
- 7-9 hours of restful sleep nightly
- Stress management practices
- Meaningful social connections
- Regular joy and laughter
- Time in nature
As you can see, when figuring out how to have a healthy lifestyle, it goes way beyond just diet and exercise. Exercise and diet are still the cornerstone of how to have a healthy lifestyle, so let’s take a look at what these tried and true habits can do for you.
Benefits of Eating Healthy and Exercising
Although health is all encompassing, the foundation of a healthy lifestyle is diet and exercise. The media likes to make nutrition and exercise complicated, but it does not have to be.
Ideally, you should keep it simple for optimal health. A diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean protein is the optimal way to eat. Eating a whole food based diet, and eliminating highly processed foods is the easiest way to positively impact your health. There is no need to follow complicated, unrealistic or highly restricted diets. Mother nature provided the perfect food for our health in nature, we just need to eat it!
Exercise can be whatever you enjoy and will do consistently. You don’t need any special techniques or equipment; a regular habit of just walking is more than enough. The most important thing is to do it regularly.
With a healthy diet and regular exercise routine you can immediately reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, consistency in these two areas will help you:
1. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Diet and regular exercise are the foundation of maintaining a healthy weight. Exercise helps you burn calories and build muscle, which helps to keep your metabolism moving. It can also help you ease stress, so you don’t turn to unhealthy foods for stress management.
Although exercise is beneficial for weight loss, it is not as effective as people think. For weight loss you have to work on your diet. Adopting a whole foods diet, in addition to your regular exercise routine, will help you reach your weight loss goals or effortlessly maintain your weight — one of the main benefits of eating healthy.
2. Fight Cardiovascular Disease and Other Chronic Health Conditions
Another major benefit of being healthy that comes from a balanced diet and exercise, is the reduced risk of developing serious health conditions like:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cancer, like colon and breast
A diet loaded with fruits and vegetables and regular exercise is the best way to prevent a myriad of lifestyle-related chronic diseases — another one of the major benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
3. Give Yourself an Emotional Boost
Both diet and exercise can give your mood a boost. Exercise immediately clears your head and boosts happy chemicals to the brain. Eating a balanced diet can help prevent energy spikes and crashes, giving you the nutrients you need to power through your day.
And when people feel fit and healthy, they tend to feel more confident, which can be a huge contributor when it comes to feeling happy.
4. Increase Your Energy Levels
Do you find that you often feel sleepy and sluggish throughout the day? A healthy diet and exercise routine can help. Inadequate nutrient intake, a lack of protein and eating too many refined carbohydrates can all zap your energy.
A diet full of lean protein and fruits and vegetables is what your body needs to function at its highest and most energetic level. In addition to this, exercise actually gives you energy. It also helps you sleep better so you are well-rested and ready to face the day.
5. Sharpen Your Memory
Food can help improve your memory. Berries, walnuts and omega-3 fats have all been connected to better brain function and a lower risk of cognitive decline. Exercise is important for the brain as well; it can help boost memory and learning ability.
With all these incredible benefits of healthy eating and exercise, why not lace up those shoes?
Cost of Eating Healthy
A major challenge of a healthy lifestyle is the cost of eating healthy. Processed food usually costs less than unprocessed, nutritious food. For example, brown rice is a good few bucks costlier than white rice, and organic products are always marked up.
But, how much costlier is it, really, to eat healthier? And is the payoff worth the price?
You might be surprised to know that the cost of eating healthy is only $1.50 more a day compared to eating a diet full of processed foods.
This number came from a review of multiple studies by the Harvard School of Public Health. In this review, they compared the cost per serving of multiple food items, classified as either “healthy” or “unhealthy.” It turns out that it will cost you about $1.50 per day to eat healthier food.
That doesn’t sound like a lot, does it? At the end of the year you’ve spent about $550 more on eating healthy.
So, is it really worth the $1.50 a day to eat healthier food? The truth: absolutely, 100% YES!
An extra $550 per year to eat healthy is far less than you’d spend on medications to treat health problems related to eating poor quality food loaded with sugar and other harmful ingredients. With all of the chronic health and physical problems that show up as a result of poor food choices, $550 per year is a total bargain.
Benefits of Being Healthy for Life
When you are healthy and fit, you will be able to join in on a wide variety of activities, allowing you to live your life to the fullest. It won’t be a struggle to move through life. In addition, you can play sports, go for long hikes and bike rides or simply go out dancing knowing that you have the endurance to truly enjoy yourself.
So the next time you think of skipping out on your daily dose of exercise, remember these healthy for life rewards and what they can mean for you and your body. Being fit isn’t simply about looking good physically, it’s about becoming the best version of yourself so that you can live life strong, healthy and happy.
- Thomas DM, Bouchard C, Church T, et al. Why do individuals not lose more weight from an exercise intervention at a defined dose? An energy balance analysis. Obes Rev. 2012;13(10):835-847.
- Slavin JL, Lloyd B. Health benefits of fruits and vegetables. Adv Nutr. 2012;3(4):506-516.
- Rao M, Afshin A, Singh G, Mozaffarian D. Do healthier foods and diet patterns cost more than less healthy options? A systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open. 2013;3(12):e004277.