Living a healthy lifestyle is important, no one denies that. However, did you know that getting healthy can have a significant impact on your ability to lose weight and keep it off? The truth is that getting healthy is a core component of permanent, long-term healthy weight loss.
When you are healthier, you feel better, and when you feel better, it is much easier to stick to a diet. Even if you are already at a healthy weight, living a healthy lifestyle is involves more aspects than just weight loss. There are a lot of different factors we could make a case for being part of a healthy lifestyle, but I would say that everything that falls under the umbrella of getting healthy can be considered one of four categories:
- Body weight
- Fitness and functionality
Your needs in each category need to be met if you want to life a truly healthy lifestyle. Below, you will discover what each category means and what you can do to get healthy in each of these categories.
Body Weight – Living a Healthy Lifestyle
Reaching a healthy body weight is one of the best things you can do to start living a healthy lifestyle. Excess body fat is such a burden for the body to bear for long periods of time and really causes a lot of problems. Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary disease, and many cancers can be attributed to obesity.
One of the most notable effects of carrying excess body fat is the promotion of inflammation. You may have heard that the body rarely creates or destroys fat cells (also called adipose cells) but instead prefers to expand the size of current cells. As these cells grow, it becomes hard for oxygen to diffuse completely across the large cell. When this occurs, portions of the adipose cell that are furthest from the blood vessels begin to die due to lack of oxygen.
White blood cells then come in to digest and otherwise “clean up” the dead cell matter, and in the process release inflammatory signaling chemicals, particularly cytokines and interleukins (which are a type of cytokine).
These chemicals then float around the body and promote an inflammatory state and can confuse the body into thinking it is sick. This inflammation increases joint pain and swelling, makes us more susceptible to cancer and other illnesses, increases stress, speeds the progression of heart disease, and can cause insulin resistance (ultimately culminating in type-II diabetes).
When you learn this, it is not surprising that being overweight is linked to nearly every chronic health problem, including chronic pain. When you reach a healthy weight, this inflammation is reversed; it is never to late to lose weight.
A good place to start with losing weight is checking out our weight loss diet plans and our exercise for weight loss section. There you will find specific information on diet plans and exercise regimens you can follow to get on the right track to losing weight and living a healthy lifestyle.
Getting Healthy – Are You Underweight?
However, did you know that being too light can also be unhealthy? Statistically, men who have a body fat under 10% and women who have a body fat under 17% do not live as long as men or women who are a healthy body fat percentage (10-18% for men; 17-25% for women).
The reason for this is that if you have very little body fat, you do not have energy stores. If you come down with a chronic illness and are unable to consume or process much food, due to a serious digestive disorder or something like cancer where eating and absorbing food may be difficult, body fat can really come in handy to help supply energy. If you have little extra body fat or muscle, you cannot go without food for long.
Athletes are not necessarily excluded from this either: having a low body fat percentage and intense exercise both actually suppress the immune system. Being an athlete is associated with vigor and vitality, but not necessarily longevity.
Fitness and Functionality
Another aspect of living a healthy lifestyle is simply having good fitness and functionality. If you want to age gracefully, you need to be fit enough to continue to live how you want to live, participate in the activities you want to participate in, and be able to take care of yourself.
When most people think of fitness, the first thing that comes to mind is cardiovascular health. Being fit is more than just working on your cardiovascular health (which is important) but also includes having the strength to perform activities of daily living and being mobile and supple enough to move without joint pain are just as important in living a healthy lifestyle.
Running yourself into a double knee replacement by age 50 is not living a healthy lifestyle. Walking on a daily basis is healthy. Training to be a competitive powerlifter likewise may not be the best for your long-term health, but doing some weight training certainly is.
Being mobile is perhaps the most important aspect of fitness. However, do not confused mobility with flexibility. I would consider being mobile to have good, healthy joint control, which may or may not be achieved through stretching or the ever-popular yoga classes. As an example of this, being extremely flexible and or being “double-jointed” can be considered to be Joint Hypermobility Syndrome, which has now been associated with anxiety and other various unhealthy states (1).
For most, people being active late in life and participating in light activity such as walking, gardening, yard work, and similar activities is enough to maintain adequate mobility. Younger individuals may play recreational sports or participate in exercise classes to stay active and maintain mobility.
I think it is very important for all adults to participate in some form of weight training if you plan on living for a long time. Once you reach 60-65 years of age, the muscle cell loses much of its ability to grow and begins to atrophy. This process is known as sarcopenia. This actually starts around age 40, but rapidly increases in the speed of degeneration by your 60s.
The good news is that older individuals can maintain much of the muscle mass built earlier in life by regularly weight training. As a result, adding a bit of muscle mass to your frame will serve you well in old age, as you can maintain much of it as you age simply by working out regularly. Some muscle loss is avoidable in old age, but you can certainly maintain much more strength by staying active in the gym.
Diet as a Part of a Healthy Lifestyle
Diet is another key aspect to getting healthy. Many whole, natural foods have powerful chemicals and compounds inside which have varying health effects. Most notably, eating a healthy diet is associated positive markers of health: better cholesterol readings, lower blood pressure, more controlled blood sugar. Cosmetically, a healthy diet can improve the quality of skin, nails, and hair.
For example, dry skin often represents a deficiency of certain types of fatty acids. Many people have successfully ditched their anti-inflammatory prescription creams for bottles of fish oil, lecithin (phosphatidylcholine), and phosphatidylserine.
Given that the health benefits of food are so broad and ranging, we will be adding more content to this section of the site soon discussing what a healthy diet actually is and what some of the health benefits of food can be.
Recovery as Part of a Healthy Lifestyle
Recovery is easily the most overlooked aspect of a healthy lifestyle. If you want to be healthy, you need to practice good recovery. Things like light activity (walking) and eating a healthy diet can help with recovery, but there are two particular problem areas where most people fall short: sleeping and stress-management.
Sleeping is important in a healthy lifestyle, there is just no way around it. We will be adding articles shortly to cover sleeping tips. One thing you can do right away to make a difference is to unplug all electronics and turn off all cell-phones at night as your body can actually detect even minute amounts of radiation, which will reduce the quality of your sleep.
The other aspect of recovery is managing stress. If you can reduce your stress levels, you will not have as much to recover from! Successfully battling stress is another topic altogether, so stay tuned for more information on this topic. One thing to note upfront is that stress includes both physical and emotional stress.
Most people only consider emotional stress, but things like being overweight, getting sick, exercising at a very high intensity, and performing hard manual labor can create physical stress, which effects the body much like negative stress.
Living a Healthy Lifestyle – Getting Healthy Conclusion
By reaching a healthy weight, boosting your fitness and functionality, eating a healthy diet, and making time for recovery, you can start living a much healthier lifestyle. While it may seem like a huge commitment to tackle all of these areas, just remember that these aspects help one another and the effects are truly compounding.
By eating healthier, you will reach a healthier weight. By losing weight, you will get better sleep. By getting better sleep, it will be easier to stay active and stick to your diet, which will even further your weight loss efforts. Less body weight means less stress on your body, which ultimately will lead to better sleep. You can see where this is headed!
Once you overcome the initial inertia on the road to getting healthy and truly put an effort into being healthy for a few months, the pieces start falling into place and it becomes much, much easier.
1. Bulbena A, Gago J, Pailhez G, Sperry L, Fullana MA, Vilarroya O. Joint hypermobility syndrome is a risk factor trait for anxiety disorders: a 15-year follow-up cohort study. Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2011 Jul-Aug;33(4):363-70.