Today, so much attention is given to healthy lifestyle and being fit. Major health organizations, many governments, and non-governmental agencies, and everyone in the health and fitness domain are emphasizing the importance of a healthy lifestyle and work at promoting it.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is running global health campaigns to promote awareness about the importance of healthy living and how a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Further reading: Check this article on Modern Lifestyles and Its Impact On Health: Modern Lifestyle – How healthy are we?
So, what is a healthy lifestyle, and what are its benefits? Why everyone is talking about it?
According to World Health Organization (WHO), A healthy lifestyle is a way of living that helps you enjoy more aspects of your life as well as lowers the risk of being seriously ill or dying early.
A healthy lifestyle not only improves your health and fitness, keeps you energetic all day and it also minimizes or prevents the risk of certain diseases and the resulting premature death. It improves both the quantity as well as the quality of life – a longer, healthier, and happier life.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle not only benefits you, it also provides a positive role model to other members of the family, especially children.
Healthy habits are hard to develop: A majority of people are unable to commit to a long-term healthy lifestyle. Sticking to a healthy lifestyle is quite challenging, after all, there are plenty of hurdles to overcome — lack of awareness and knowledge, lack of time, boredom, laziness, burn out and so on.
Hence, health agencies and health care professionals are conducting Health Campaigns to create awareness and motivating people to make a healthy lifestyle a habit.
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”- Jim Ryun.
A habit is something that you do often and regularly, sometimes without knowing that you are doing it. Habit formation is the process by which a behavior, when repeated regularly, becomes automatic or habitual.
Hence, if a behavior (that is healthy) when repeated regularly can become habitual. New habits are hard to form and may take time, but it is possible to form new habits through repetition.
Let us take a look and learn how to master the seven healthy lifestyle habits that help you keep healthy and happy all through life.
1. Healthy Food
A healthy, well-balanced diet maintains good health, keeps your body in optimum condition, and helps you protect against certain types of diseases.
A healthy and balanced diet is one that contains all the required nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals in the right proportion.
7 Steps To Healthy Eating
- Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits. Include vegetables of all types—dark green; red and orange; beans, peas and lentils; starchy; and other vegetables. Choose whole fruits as they are rich in nutrients and fiber.
- Eat whole-grain foods, reduce or eliminate refined or processed grains. Make at least half the grains in your diet whole grains.
- Eat a variety of protein foods, including lean meats, poultry, eggs, and seafood. Choose protein foods that come from plants more often such as beans, peas, and lentils; and nuts, seeds, and soy products. Limit consumption of red and processed meat.
- Fats: Choose foods with healthy fats (unsaturated fat) instead of saturated fat. Include foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, nuts, and seeds. Use vegetable oils and avoid using partially hydrogenated oil (trans fats).
- Go for fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products that are rich in calcium or you can choose plant-based milk alternatives like calcium-fortified soy milk.
- Limit consumption of fast foods and other processed foods that are high in fat, starches, or sugars
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water and limit beverages containing added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium. Make water your drink of choice instead of sugary drinks that are high in calories.
2. Physical Activity and Exercise
Technology has made our lives easier, due to which we are less active nowadays, living a more sedentary lifestyle.
The human body is designed for physical or bodily activity. Sitting down for long periods can negatively impact your health and longevity.
Inactivity is a Silent Killer, physical inactivity increases your risk of developing many chronic diseases and it is also one of the leading risk factors for death worldwide.
Regular physical activity is a positive health habit and is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Physical activity also boosts immunity and helps to maintain weight.
Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving, including exercise. Aim to be physically active every day—you should walk more and sit less.
For substantial health benefits, you should perform at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity per week and do muscle-strengthening exercises of moderate-intensity, involving all major muscle groups, at least two days a week.
The best way to make an exercise a habit is to start with an exercise that is easy to perform.
Sleep is a state of rest that allows the body to repair and rejuvenate. Vital functions in our body like growth, repair, protein synthesis, and release of many of the chief hormones occur mainly during sleep. Also, sleep is vital for learning and memory.
Lack of sleep can increase your appetite and can lead to weight gain. Prolonged lack of sleep can affect your overall health, impair immunity, and put you at risk for serious medical conditions.
It is necessary to get enough sleep for the body and the brain to be healthy. On average, most of us need around 7 to 9 hours of good-quality sleep to function properly.
4) Stress Management
Stress is a feeling of emotional strain or physical tension. Stress can be positive or negative.
Positive or good stress is one that is beneficial and healthy. Especially in small doses stress can help you to meet daily challenges and can act as a motivating factor.
However, an excessive amount of stress can be negative (bad stress) and can harm you.
Extreme stress that extends over a prolonged period of time can contribute to serious mental and physical health problems like headaches, anxiety, depression, insomnia, ulcers, weakened immune system, increased risk of heart attacks, or sometimes, it can even be life-threatening.
Stress causes people to overeat (binge eating). Stress releases a hormone called cortisol (stress hormone) which increases the desire to eat and makes you crave high-fat, sugary foods. This, in turn, leads to overweight and obesity.
Overeating isn’t the only stress-related behavior, many people resort to drugs, alcohol, smoking, or other unhealthy behaviors to cope with stress.
Stressor: A stressor is something that causes stress. It can be anything – daily events like traffic, work-related, financial, life events like divorce or loss of loved one.
Managing stress: Stress is an inevitable part of life, the important thing is how you respond to it. Identify the stressor and try to eliminate or avoid it.
You can talk to your family or friends. They may be able to help you. Sometimes, just talking to your family or friends and spending some quality time with them is the only therapy you need.
Engage in a stress-busting activity like exercise or try relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, listen to music, play a favorite sport, or do a hobby.
Seek professional help if you feel overwhelmed, speak to your doctor or mental health professional. They will guide you in the right direction to overcome stress.
5) Active Social Life
Man is by nature a social animal. Human beings are social by nature and we tend to socialize because we enjoy socialization. Our social life consists of the various bonds that we form with others, such as family, friends, and members of our community.
Social relationships have significant effects on our health, both mental and physical. People who are more socially connected are healthier and live longer than people who are living a more lonely life.
Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.
An 80-year-old study conducted by Harvard has proved that good relationships help us live longer, and be happier.
The director of the study, Dr.Robert Waldinger (professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School), in a TED Talk said:
- People who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to the community, are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer. Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies, they also protect our brains.
- People who are more isolated are less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely.
- It’s not just the number of friends you have, but it’s the quality of your close relationships that matters. Replace screen time with people time.
“Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.” – Robert Waldinger.
The clearest message that we get from this 80-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.
6) Personal Hygiene
Hygiene can be outlined as a series of practices carried out to maintain good health and prevent the spread of diseases, especially through cleanliness.
Personal Hygiene refers to a set of practices that are done to keep oneself clean and healthy. This includes showering or bathing regularly, washing your hands regularly, maintaining good oral hygiene, washing your hair, cutting fingers and toenails, practicing anal hygiene, wearing clean clothes, and more.
Maintaining good personal hygiene is a healthy lifestyle habit that is necessary for both health and social reasons.
Organisms – such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites- live in and around us. Many of these organisms are harmless or even helpful, but some organisms are harmful (pathogenic) and can cause infectious diseases under certain conditions including poor personal hygiene.
Hence, maintaining good personal hygiene, like washing our hands frequently, is one of the most effective ways to protect ourselves and the people around us from many illnesses caused by these organisms.
7) Regular Health Checks
Early Detection Saves Lives: Many diseases go unnoticed until it is too late because their symptoms are not outwardly noticeable in the early stages. This is especially true for many chronic diseases like cancer, heart diseases, diabetes, fatty liver disease, osteoporosis, and hence, these are known as “silent killers“.
Silent killers are medical conditions with no obvious symptoms that can progress to an advanced stage before they are discovered.
Many times they are discovered accidentally during our visit to a doctor for some unrelated health issue like fever or cold. But, if they go unnoticed for a long time they can do irreversible damage to your body like physical impairment or can result in premature death.
Thankfully, the field of medical diagnostics is way advanced. Special examinations and tests (screening tests) are available, which can diagnose many diseases even before the onset of signs and symptoms.
Early detection provides you with a greater chance of getting the right treatment immediately before complications arise. Heart diseases, diabetes, and some cancers can be diagnosed in their early stages and early treatment may be more successful.
Be sure to visit your doctor every six months or at least once a year. Based on your age, gender, current health status, and medical history, your doctor will advise you to take screening tests if necessary.
A healthy lifestyle is the key to good health; making a healthy lifestyle change can be difficult. Old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form.
“Big things have small beginnings”. Start small, focus on one behavior at a time. Be consistent, do it every day until it becomes a habit.