Top 5 Lifestyle Tips For A Healthy Life
When looking for health and wellness advice, it is easy to become overwhelmed. There are opposing views from different people within the nutrition and fitness industry, and even within healthcare. A ‘healthy life’ means something different for everyone which can further complicate things; each person has their own set of risk factors, genetics and environment which creates different needs for every individual.
However, there are some general lifestyle tips that apply to just about anyone that nearly every healthcare expert can agree on. The following 5 tips are research-backed ways to improve health and help prevent the majority of chronic disease.
Move, Preferably in Nature.
One of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle is to make sure exercise is prioritized. Regular exercise can improve blood sugar regulation1, heart health2, increase balance and strength3, and reduce risk of falls in the elderly.3 Exercise can aid in weight loss in those who are obese3 and decrease the risk of fatty liver disease.4 Resistance training protects against osteoporosis and can improve activities of daily living in those suffering from arthritis.3 Exercise is also beneficial for mental health and is a first line treatment for mild depression.3
Exercise routines should consist of at least 20-30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily.5 Adding a variety of exercises including cardio and weight training is optimal, however nearly any type of exercise is helpful when compared with no exercise at all.5
There are additional benefits to exercise if it can be done in nature. Going for runs or walks in green spaces is associated with increased mood, mental clarity and focus as well as decreased stress.6,7
When adding in new exercises into your routine, it is important to start slowly. Exercise carries a risk of injury if done improperly or too aggressively without proper training. It may be helpful to seek assistance from a healthcare provider or trainer before starting a new exercise program.
Eat a Whole Foods Diet.
Diet is a category in which there are several differing opinions. With wide dietary options such as vegan, keto, paleo, gluten free, or vegetarian, it can be overwhelming for individuals to choose a correct dietary strategy that works for them. However, within each nutritional paradigm, there are important consistencies. A healthful diet needs to be rich in vegetables and fruits as well as adequate protein.8
Although there are different opinions on how to achieve the ‘perfect’ diet, it is important that meals consist of unprocessed, whole foods. Minimally processed foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats are preferable over highly processed foods such as white breads, pastas, and baked goods.8
Processed foods high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3 fatty acids can generate inflammation in the body, increasing risk for chronic disease and weight gain.9 Sugary foods and sugar-sweetened beverages should be limited or eliminated as these can lead to excessive weight gain, inflammation and increase risk for type two diabetes.10
Depending on certain medical conditions, some individuals may be given a specific diet to follow from their healthcare provider. It is important to seek individual care and support when selecting the optimal diet for you.
Drinking enough water is essential for a high functioning body, yet almost 80% of Canadians agree that they do not drink enough water in the day.11 Drinking water is not a difficult task, it’s usually about remembering to do it. Try setting a hydration alarm on your phone or a sticky note on your computer to remind you to get enough in your day. The average adult needs approximately 9 cups of water a day as a minimum- this is about 3, 750mL water bottles, however more than that is encouraged.12 It may be helpful to count by water bottles filled throughout the day when beginning to track your water intake.
Water intake is dependent on activity level and other factors such as caffeine intake and alcohol intake. Therefore, a good way to measure your personal hydration status is to look at the colour of your urine. It should be a pale-yellow colour. If it is a dark yellow, this means you need more water.
If you’re struggling to get enough water in your diet, try drinking flavoured water with fruits such as lemons, limes, or berries. Herbal teas, fruits, vegetables and soups can also be a source of hydration.
Proper sleep is crucial for both daily function and optimizing health. Poor sleep not only leads to fatigue the next day, but also poor concentration, memory, problem solving and mood.13 There is also a strong correlation between sleep and depression with about 90% of depressed patient expressing sleep issues.14
A lack of sleep is associated with several chronic diseases. Poor sleep increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.15 It also is correlated with weight gain and obesity.6 Immune health is reliant on getting proper. When you sleep, your body creates immune proteins used to fight off infections. When the proper amount of time isn’t given to create a proper defense, your body are more susceptible to infection.17
The recommended sleep time for an adult is 8 hours, however this may vary per individual. If you’re struggling to get a proper sleep, try improving your sleep hygiene using the following tips.
1. No caffiene after 10:00am
2. Sleep in a dark quiet environment. Use a sleep mask and ear plugs if needed.
3. Go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday.
4. Turn off electronics and don't look at screens 1 hour before bed.
5. Create a nighttime wind-down routine such as readinng, yoga, meditation or a bath to help de-stress from the day and focus on sleep.
6. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex. Don’t work or watch movies in bed because your brain should associate your room with sleep which should be a calm environment.
Take time to relax and spend time with others
Relaxation and socialization are often overlooked aspects of health. However, they can play a major role in life expectancy and wellbeing.18 A meta-analysis which looked at 148 studies, found that social relationships had a significant impact on death risk and is comparable to other well-known risk factors for mortality.18 In the study, they found a 50% increase in survival in people with stronger social relationships. This finding was consistent among different age groups, sex, health status, and cause of death.18
Having a strong social network is important to combat high stress levels.19 Your mental health directly impacts your physiological health. When you participate in social activities with friends and family, your body releases dopamine and decreases the stress hormone cortisol.19 This can impact the inflammatory process in the body leading to positive impacts on immune health, cardiovascular health, and chronic disease.
If you don’t have a strong social network with friends and family, activities such as volunteering in communities can have similar impacts.20 In one study, participants who spent time volunteering saw benefits to their health and lived longer when compared to those who did not volunteer but ate high amounts of fruits and vegetables.20
The message here is that spending time with others doesn’t just make life more enjoyable but it can directly impact health.
Although the health and wellness world can be overwhelming, by eating whole foods, drinking enough water, exercising, getting a proper sleep and spending time with others, we can improve both how you feel day to day as well as decrease the risk of chronic diseases.
- Kirwan JP, Sacks J, Nieuwoudt S. The essential role of exercise in the management of type 2 diabetes. Cleveland Clinic journal of medicine. 2017 Jul;84(7 Suppl 1):S15.
- Lavie CJ, Arena R, Swift DL, Johannsen NM, Sui X, Lee DC, Earnest CP, Church TS, O’Keefe JH, Milani RV, Blair SN. Exercise and the cardiovascular system: clinical science and cardiovascular outcomes. Circulation research. 2015 Jul 3;117(2):207-19.
- Mora JC, Valencia WM. Exercise and older adults. Clinics in geriatric medicine. 2018 Feb 1;34(1):145-62.
- Adams LA, Angulo P. Treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Postgraduate medical journal. 2006 May 1;82(967):315-22.
- Government of Canada. Physical activity and your health. 2018 October. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/being-active/physical-activity-your-health.html
- Ibes DC, Forestell CA. The role of campus greenspace and meditation on college students’ mood disturbance. Journal of American College Health. 2020 Mar 27:1-8.
- Mennis J, Mason M, Ambrus A. Urban greenspace is associated with reduced psychological stress among adolescents: A Geographic Ecological Momentary Assessment (GEMA) analysis of activity space. Landscape and urban planning. 2018 Jun 1;174:1-9.
- Di Daniele N, Noce A, Vidiri MF, Moriconi E, Marrone G, Annicchiarico-Petruzzelli M, D’Urso G, Tesauro M, Rovella V, De Lorenzo A. Impact of Mediterranean diet on metabolic syndrome, cancer and longevity. Oncotarget. 2017 Jan 31;8(5):8947.
- Galland L. Diet and inflammation. Nutrition in Clinical Practice. 2010 Dec;25(6):634-40.
- Borges MC, Louzada ML, de Sá TH, Laverty AA, Parra DC, Garzillo JM, Monteiro CA, Millett C. Artificially sweetened beverages and the response to the global obesity crisis. PLoS medicine. 2017 Jan 3;14(1):e1002195.
- Digital Journal. Tim Sandle. Majority of Canadian’s do not drink enough water. 2014 October. http://www.digitaljournal.com/life/health/majority-of-canadians-do-not-drink-enough-water/article/412004#:~:text=Additionally%2C%2016%20per%20cent%20are,more%20water%20than%20they%20do.
- Dietitians of Canada: Unlock Food.ca. Facts on Fluids. 2018 May. https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/articles/water/facts-on-fluids-how-to-stay-hydrated.aspx
- Walker MP, Liston C, Hobson JA, Stickgold R. Cognitive flexibility across the sleep–wake cycle: REM-sleep enhancement of anagram problem solving. Cognitive Brain Research. 2002 Nov 1;14(3):317-24.
- Tsuno N, Besset A, Ritchie K. Sleep and depression. The Journal of clinical psychiatry. 2005 Oct.
- Cappuccio FP, Cooper D, D'Elia L, Strazzullo P, Miller MA. Sleep duration predicts cardiovascular outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. European heart journal. 2011 Jun 1;32(12):1484-92
- Di Milia L, Vandelanotte C, Duncan MJ. The association between short sleep and obesity after controlling for demographic, lifestyle, work and health related factors. Sleep medicine. 2013 Apr 1;14(4):319-23.
- Cohen S, Doyle WJ, Alper CM, Janicki-Deverts D, Turner RB. Sleep habits and susceptibility to the common cold. Archives of internal medicine. 2009 Jan 12;169(1):62-7
- Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB. Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS medicine. 2010 Jul 27;7(7):e1000316.
- Oman D, Thoresen CE, McMahon K. Volunteerism and mortality among the community-dwelling elderly. Journal of Health Psychology. 1999 May;4(3):301-16.
- Mojzisch A, Frisch JU, Doehne M, Reder M, Häusser JA. Interactive effects of social network centrality and social identification on stress. British Journal of Psychology. 2020 Apr 21.