Importance of Living a Healthy Lifestyle

Seniors exercising with dumbbells in a health club
Being active contributes to a healthy lifestyle. (Image: Huntstock/Huntstock/Getty Images)

Living a healthy lifestyle may mean something different from one person to the next. For some, health is defined by living a disease-free life. For others, healthy is being able to play with grandchildren or perhaps adhering to a weekly exercise schedule. Though the definition of healthy may differ between people, living a healthy lifestyle is a fundamental component to achieving your optimal mental and physical well-being.

Components

Mediterranean food
A nutritious diet contributes to a healthy lifestyle. (Image: Image Source White/Image Source/Getty Images)

According to the authors of a March 2003 study published in "Age and Ageing," people who engage in unhealthy habits -- such as smoking, a poor quality diet, and physical inactivity -- are at increased risk for premature health decline and death. Though many factors contribute to your overall health, diet and physical activity are leading determinants of your level of health and quality of life. A nutritious diet of whole grains, lean meats, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats is necessary for weight management. A balanced diet also helps maintain energy levels throughout the day. Regular physical activity, which includes a variety of aerobic and strength-building exercises, prevents weight gain that can lead to a plethora of chronic conditions. Additionally, lifestyle habits -- such as not smoking and limiting alcohol intake -- contribute to a healthy life. Allowing your body to rest each day by getting a proper amount of sleep is also important to achieving a healthy lifestyle.

Disease Prevention

Sweet donuts
Diets high in unhealthy fats and sugar can lead to weight gain. (Image: -lvinst-/iStock/Getty Images)

An inactive lifestyle is a prominent cause for chronic diseases. Fortunately, many of these conditions are manageable and can be prevented by engaging in physical activity most days of the week and by being mindful of your food and lifestyle choices. Your diet also impacts your risk of developing diabetes. In a hallmark 16-year study published in March 2001 by "The New England Journal of Medicine," participants who maintained a body mass index of 25 or less were found to have a significantly lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes compared to people with higher BMIs. Diets high in saturated fat, sugar and processed foods will quickly lead to added pounds. Being overweight increases your risk for high blood pressure, arthritis and certain forms of cancer.

Longevity

Woman walking cross country and trail in spring forest
Maintaining an active lifestyle can increase your longevity. (Image: Rafal Olkis/iStock/Getty Images)

Focusing on a healthy lifestyle not only improves your quality of life, but it may add years as well. Authors of a June 2002 article published by the "American Journal of Public Health" concluded that smoking cessation before age 35 adds 6 to 8 years of life, while quitting at age 65 still adds 1 to 4 years of life expectancy. Being mindful of your diet, physical activity and stress levels allows you to effectively balance all aspects of your life and might increase your life span. Maintaining regular physical examinations aids with early detection and treatment of medical conditions. In addition, your doctor can recommend lifestyle habits that contribute to a longer and healthier life.

Mental Health

Low section view of young woman practicing yoga on rug
Finding ways to cope with stress can increase longevity. (Image: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images)

Learning how to effectively deal with stress plays a significant role in maintaining your health. In a September 2012 article published by "Computational and Mathematical Methods in Medicine," the authors concluded that leading a healthy lifestyle by engaging in regular physical activity and eating a balanced diet promotes low levels of stress, especially in women. Finding ways to release anxiety and handle daily pressures can keep stress levels low. Some people find participating in yoga or breathing techniques each morning helps them mentally prepare for the day ahead. Spending a few minutes in thoughtful reflection before going to bed may help improve your quality of sleep. And regular exercise increases your brain's ability to memorize and learn.

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