Eating healthy foods and exercising regularly are challenges for almost everyone. It's tough to find the time and motivation to devote to a healthy diet and workout routine, and to balance those factors with other activities. However, the mental and physical benefits of following a healthy lifestyle are significant, and the bottom line is that consistently healthy choices lead to a longer life.
The importance of diet can't be overstated for a healthy lifestyle. People get the vitamins, minerals and nutrients they need to function and thrive from the foods they eat, so choosing foods that offer the most of those components helps improve quality of life. According to the Food Standards Agency, a healthy diet for most people consists of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods, lean proteins and some low fat or nonfat dairy products. It's just as important to limit foods that are high in fat, sugar, sodium and cholesterol as it is to choose healthy foods.
There are just as many, if not more, benefits to exercising regularly than there are to following a healthy diet. At its most basic level, exercise burns calories. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that exercise and diet play dual roles in maintaining healthy weight and aiding weight loss. The muscles in people's bodies work best when they are used regularly, built up and strengthened through activity. In addition, people's hearts grow stronger and healthier when they engage in cardiovascular exercise that raises heart rates for an extended time.
People who exercise regularly have lower occurrences of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes and cancer. They also have higher energy levels and sleep better. The Cleveland Clinic suggests that a healthy, nutrient- and antioxidant-rich diet also guards against cancer and helps improve the immune system's functions. Finally, the CDC notes that people of all ages, ethnicities, sizes and shapes have the power to extend the length of their lives by regularly engaging in physical activity.
Eating well and getting proper exercise offer mental benefits as well as better physical health. HelpGuide.org notes that healthy, mindful eating practices can help reduce stress in adults' lives, as can mild physical activities, such as walking, yoga and tai chi. Exercise stimulates brain chemicals that make people happy. Also, the CDC points out that a healthy lifestyle helps sharpen thinking, learning and judgment skills, and reduces the risk of depression.
No matter how old a person is or what kind of diet and exercise pattern he or she follows, it's possible for that person to make adjustments and improve health. A person who is not very active can start by making small changes, such as replacing soft drinks with water and adding a 10-minute walk to a daily routine. Choose changes that are exciting and attainable for the best, most consistent results over time.