The Benefits of a Healthy Lifestyle

When you’re not at your healthiest, you can probably tell. You may simply feel “off.” You may find that you feel tired, your digestive system isn’t functioning as well as it normally does, and you seem to catch colds. Mentally, you may find you can’t concentrate and feel anxious or depressed.

The good news: a healthy lifestyle can serbagadget help you feel better. Even better, you don’t have to overhaul your entire life overnight. It’s pretty easy to make a couple of small changes that can steer you in the direction of improved well-being. And once you make one change, that success can motivate you to continue to make more positive shifts.

Ask 50 people to define what a “healthy lifestyle” is, and you’ll likely get 50 different answers. That’s because there’s no one way to be healthy. A healthy lifestyle simply means doing things that make you happy and feel good.

1. Prevents disease

Healthy habits can reduce the risk of various diseases, including those that may run 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.

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

Swapping out some refined grains for whole grains also reduces the risk of disease. In an observational studyTrusted Source of almost 200,000 adults, those who ate the most whole grains had a 29 percent lower rate of type 2 diabetes than those who ate the least.

2. Saves money

It’s always smart to see your primary care physician for an annual physical exam. This is especially true seeing how some health conditions, such as high blood pressure, are “silent.” This means they don’t have any symptoms, so unless you are checked, you usually don’t know you have the condition.

However, the healthier you are, the less likely you will have to see a doctor. This could save money by reducing co-pays, the need for prescriptions, and other treatments.

3. Lengthens lifespan

Basic healthy habits are connected with living a longer life. If, at age 50, you’ve never smoked, maintain a healthy weight, are regularly active, follow a healthy diet, and keep alcohol to a moderate consumption, you could live up to 14 yearsTrusted Source longer. Making even a few of these changes could lengthen your lifespan.

4. It can be good for the environment

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

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

1. Eat more vegetables

A 2010 analysisTrusted Source of prospective studies suggests consuming more veggies and fruit is associated with lower risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and premature death.

Although eating more vegetables is better, you don’t have to go from zero to nine servings a day. Perhaps your goal is eating one serving of vegetables at dinner. If you already do that, consider eating one vegetable or fruit at every meal.

2. Swap in whole grains

Replacing refined grains with whole grains will benefit your health. In a small 2017 studyTrusted Source, 81 men and postmenopausal women were divided into two groups. Half followed a diet that contained whole grains, and the other half followed a diet that was calorically the same but contained refined grains. After 6 weeks, the whole grain group increased their resting metabolic rate (RMR). RMR is how many calories your body burns at rest.

3. Be more active

If the words “exercise” or “workout” put you off, think of this step in terms of physical activity or simply moving your body.

You could walk, go for a bike ride, take salsa dancing lessons, practice martial arts, or try a workout class online. The most important thing is to choose an activity you enjoy. Choosing an activity you have an interest in will increase the chances that you’ll stick with it.

4. Maintain friendships

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

For one, the risk of depression is greater in people with low-quality relationships. Those with the poorest quality social relationships have more than double the risk of depression compared to people with the highest quality connectionsTrusted Source.

5. Control stress

Chronic stress puts your body into fight-or-flight mode all the time. This taxes your immune system and makes you more susceptible to health problems, including:

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

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

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