It's the little things that you do each day that add up to being healthy and fit. While we do what we can to be as health-conscious as we can, it is always a work in progress since there are many elements to a healthy lifestyle. Use these tips as a guide on your journey on the path to good health.
1. Kick Your Bad Habits
Well, some of them at least. The other ones you might just be able to cut back on. Habits in the "quit" category would be smoking, drugs, unsafe sex and other unhealthy addictions. There's just no way to do any of these in a "healthy" way. It might take some time, but it's worth it if you want to lead a healthy lifestyle.
On the other hand, there are some habits that are not so bad, but can easily become a problem if taken too far. These include alcohol, sugar, caffeine and junk food. These things in moderation or on a "once-in-a-while" basis are doable, as long as the majority of your choices are mindful and healthful.
Read more: 10 Bad Habits to Ditch for a Happier You
2. Get Your Checkups
Get to your doctor for your annual physical just to make sure everything is as it should be. If you have insurance, usually these services are covered, so take full advantage of your benefits. That being said, know your own body so that you are aware when something seems awry. Do breast or testicular self-exams, and get suspicious moles checked out. Get exams regularly even if you are healthy so that if and when something is abnormal, you know about it and can take action, in conjunction with your doctor.
3. Have a Good Sleep
Sleep affects our physical and mental health tremendously, and many of us do not get enough according to Mayo Clinic. Lack of sleep adversely affects metabolism, mood, concentration, memory, motor skills, stress hormones and even the immune system and cardiovascular health. Sleep allows the body to heal, repair and rejuvenate itself in a way it simply cannot when a person is awake.
4. Exercise Is Key
Even if you just get out for a walk a few times a week, exercise is important in your daily routine to stay fit and healthy according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Cardiovascular exercise helps to strengthen the heart and lungs, strength training helps to strengthen the muscles and stretching helps to reduce the risk of injury by increasing flexibility. Exercise also improves circulation and body awareness, and regular exercise can help combat depression.
5. Eat a Healthy Diet
Get as many fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your diet as possible and make them the main part of your overall diet. Include lean sources of protein such as poultry, fish, tofu and beans. Eat balanced meals and do not overeat. Stop eating before you become completely full and give yourself a chance to digest your food. Snack on whole foods such as fruit, vegetables and nuts. Avoid highly processed foods that contain artificial sweeteners or colors, hidden sugars or excessive fat according to Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020.
6. Eat Breakfast Each Day
A healthy breakfast starts your day off right. It sets you up so that you have energy and fuel for optimal mental and physical performance. Eating breakfast helps to maintain stable blood sugar levels and a healthy weight because you are less likely to overindulge later in the day.
7. Drink It Up
Our bodies are made mostly of water. Most fluids and foods contain water that will help to keep our bodies hydrated, but fresh, clean, plain water is still the best and healthiest beverage for maintaining a healthy body. It is the most natural cleanser for our organs and digestive system according to Harvard Health Publishing. Being hydrated is crucial for the brain as well as for helping to flush toxins out through the skin (perspiration) and urine.
8. Reduce Your Stress
Stress can cause a myriad of problems, from heart trouble to digestive problems. This should not come as a surprise. What many people do not know is what to do about it, how to manage their stress. Exercise, meditation, doing what you love, appropriate boundaries, spirituality, being in nature, and enjoyable hobbies all help alleviate the harmful effects of stress on the body. Don't overwork. Take breaks (vacations, mini-vacations, days off) and surround yourself with people who support you.
Read more: 25 of the Best Stress-Relief Techniques
9. Don't Bottle It Up
Keeping emotions bottled up inside can cause mental and emotional stress as well as physical symptoms. Unexpressed feelings can lead to depression, sleep problems, eating disorders, and even physical pain. Learn to talk about your feelings, or express them through some sort of art. Even writing thoughts and feelings down is a good way to express things you find hard to say.
10. Focus on Consistency and Moderation
In order to maintain a healthy and fit lifestyle, it's important to have some sort of consistency when looking at the big picture result. Make changes one at a time, and don't make too many changes at once or you will risk relapsing into old habits. Making these choices a part of your daily life will help you to reach your health goals. Avoid extremes in any capacity. Exercise moderation when it comes to fitness, food and fun.
- Mayo Clinic: "Healthy Habits That Boost Happiness"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition”
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines, 2015-2020: Chapter 1. Key Elements of Healthy Eating Patterns"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "How Much Water Should You Drink?"
- 10 Benefits of Reducing Stress
- Healthy and Fit magazine