Billboards, newspapers, radio and television commercials daily bombard you with new advice on how to live better and longer. Information can change so rapidly that it makes your head spin. Focusing on six simple habits can help you achieve, and maintain, a healthy lifestyle.
What you put in your body has a direct effect on your health. According to the May 2011 issue of "American Journal of Preventive Medicine," a poor diet plays a direct role in the development and progression of disease. Proper nutrition, as stated in the report, includes a diet that is low in saturated fats and high in fiber. The American Heart Association recommends eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fatty fish. Limit sugars and processed foods.
You may call it exercise or play, but physical activity is one of the most important behaviors to help maintain a healthy lifestyle. Weight loss, improved circulation, improved lung function and a reduced risk factor for diabetes, stroke and heart attack are all benefits of physical activity. Exercise need not be a regimented 45-minute workout. Take a walk, play some tennis or go for a swim. Weightlifting also benefits your overall health.
Something as simple as drinking water affects your physical as well as mental health. A report in the August 2010 issue of "Nutrition Reviews" states that water makes up between 55 and 75 percent of your body weight, depending on age, and is necessary for the proper functioning and life of human cells. Inadequate water intake increases your risk of developing kidney stones, headaches, intestinal trouble, urinary tract infections, high blood pressure and heart disease. You may also experience a decrease in memory and learning ability, with an increase in symptoms of depression.
If you would like to be better able to control your weight, improve your memory, keep your spirits up, reduce your risk of chronic diseases and fight off the common cold, then get a good night's sleep. The Medical University of South Carolina reports that all of these benefits come with adequate sleep of seven to eight hours a night. Set yourself a regular bedtime and stick with it. Avoid caffeinated foods and beverages in the evening and make sure your bedroom is quiet and dark, as this will aid in deep, quality sleep.
Life is filled with stress. Getting cut off in traffic, being late for work or having a sick child or partner creates a stress response within the body. You may not be able to control what happens around you, but learning to control your reaction to the events can improve your quality of life and help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports that stress can contribute to adverse health conditions from headache to heart disease, and managing your stress through relaxation can lower your risk of developing them. Anything that helps you relax is a good technique, whether it be yoga, journaling, reading, meditaion or a visit with a friend. Find the relaxation technique that works for you and make it a daily habit.
A spiritual connection to a higher power is shown to improve your quality of life, according to a report from the University of Maryland Medical Center. Spirituality is not necessarily religion, but rather an awareness of a purpose while you are here on Earth that goes beyond yourself. Spirituality often involves practices such as prayer, forgiveness and social involvement, all of which deliver mental and physical health benefits.
- American Journal of Preventive Medicine: Behavior Matters
- American Heart Association: Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations
- Georgia State University: The Benefits of Exercise
- Nutrition Reviews: Water, Hydration and Health
- Medical University of South Carolina: Sleep's Health Benefits
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Stress and Relaxation Techniques: What the Science Says
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Spirituality
- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images