5 essential health habits for everyday life

July 8, 2020

Follow these 5 essential health habits for a healthy body - and mind!

Two people getting ready to exercise and practice healthy habits

Now more than ever, it's important to think about our health. While medicine has provided many miraculous benefits in our lives, it's important not to overlook the basic foundation that healthy habits can provide. You've probably heard the suggestions before - eat healthy, exercise, get plenty of sleep, limit alcohol consumption, and reduce stress. But why are those things so important and how what can you do to check those boxes? Read on as we discuss these 5 essential health habits for everyday life!

1. Eat healthy

There are always new diet fads, and some do have basis in scientific studies. But diet and nutrition are very complex topics. For one thing, not everyone's biology is the same. What works for one person might be detrimental to another. For example, did you know that the majority of people are lactose intolerant to some degree? The ability to break down the sugar found in dairy, called lactose, is a recent thing for humans, and not everyone can do it easily as an adult. 

Despite the difficulties in navigating nutrition, there are some broad suggestions that can be helpful. For example, avoiding excess sugar is something that is generally good for everyone. Eating a balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables is also an important way to provide your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to be healthy.

Cooking healthy meals can take a lot of work and a lot of time. After working all day, it can be hard to find the motivation to cook something healthy when there are so many fast and easy options available. Planning and preparing your meals ahead of time can be a great way to ensure you're eating healthy without having to constantly cook. 

Many people choose to meal prep on their days off. If you don't mind eating the same thing every day for a week, you can simply prepare a large batch of your favorite meal and package it for individual servings. If you have a little more time, you can always change it up and make two or more dishes, alternating throughout the week. Whichever way you decide to try, the point is for you to get all of your cooking out of the way at once and making it easy to choose the healthy option. 

2. Exercise

Exercise does a lot more than simply getting you in shape for the beach. It can improve your cardiovascular health, protect against disease, and help prevent physical injuries. Furthermore, the improved circulation that results from regular exercise can help the flow of cells, which allows your immune system to perform its function optimally. 

For improving your cardiovascular system, experts recommend that you get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, each week. To strengthen your muscles, it is recommended that you work all muscle groups at least twice a week with weights or resistance methods. If possible, try and spread it out over the course of the week. 

While it can be difficult to find the time for a full workout during the week, you can vastly improve your health by simply dedicating 30 minutes a day to moderate physical activity. 

3. Drink alcohol in moderation

While the occasional drink can be enjoyable, excessive alcohol consumption can be detrimental to your health. It can cause inflammation, increase your risk for certain types of cancers, and potentially cause heart issues down the line. That's why experts recommend limiting your intake and following the CDC guidelines for alcohol consumption

Apart from limiting your daily alcohol intake, it's also important to avoid drinking before bed as alcohol can also impact the quantity and quality of your sleep. While many people have experienced the sleepiness associated with an alcoholic drink, this doesn't necessarily mean that the sleep that follows is optimal. It can prevent you from entering REM sleep, which is a sleep stage associated with restoration. This can make it difficult for your body and mind to recover, leading to complications down the road. 

4. Get enough sleep

Speaking of sleep, everyone who has had to go through a full day after only getting a few hours of it knows how important it is. But getting your beauty rest doesn't just prevent you from being groggy the next day; it is an essential part of staying healthy. 

While the reason sleep is so important isn't completely understood, it is clear that it plays a critical restorative role in our lives. It helps us process information from the previous day, and helps repair our bodies from the effects of daily wear and tear. For children and teens, it is also an essential part of growth and development.

Studies show that a lack of sleep can have severe consequences down the road. Sleep deficiency is linked to a variety of medical issues, such as heart disease, kidney disease, and high blood pressure. 

A lack of sleep can also have a negative impact on your mental health, too. Some sleep problems may increase the likelihood that an individual develops certain mental illnesses. There is even emerging research that suggests sleep deprivation can lead to Alzheimer's disease, or increase the severity of the disease. 

Napping can give you a temporary boost, but it doesn't replace the function of a full night's rest. So how much is enough sleep? It depends on your age; while infants need as much as 16 hours a day, adults over 18 need 7-8 hours. 

To help improve your sleeping habits, try to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. While it may be tempting to stay up late and sleep in on the weekends, you should try to keep your schedule consistent throughout the week. 

If possible, allow yourself an hour of quiet relaxation before bed and avoid bright lights. Getting regular exercise and going outdoors can also help you maintain a healthy sleeping schedule.

5. Reduce stress

The science of stress and its impact on the body is a fairly new frontier in medicine, although people have probably noticed the effects for a long time. The physical symptoms can range from simple headaches and stomach pains to increased blood pressure and sleep trouble. While the exact impact of stress on our health isn't precisely known, it is clear that reducing it is important, even if only for our peace of mind. Obviously that's easier said than done. 

That's why the first step to managing stress is figuring out what is at the root of it. Again, this isn't always as easy as it sounds. While some stressors are obvious (such as work deadlines, busy schedules, etc.) other things, like relationship issues, can be more difficult to nail down and even trickier to solve. 

If you're feeling overwhelmed, whether it's because of work or something else in your life, it can be helpful to simply write it down. Take a moment and write down everything that's on your mind. This can help you get a better understanding of what you're dealing with and may even help you uncover things you weren't consciously aware of.

Furthermore, managing stress isn't always about completely removing things from your life, but finding ways to deal with them. After all, some amount of stress is inevitable, and perhaps even good. Many of the previous healthy practices we've mentioned can go a long way to helping you manage and reduce stress. Getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy, and exercise can all play a role. 

Calming practices, like yoga and meditation, have also been shown to help alleviate the symptoms of stress. However, everyone needs help from time to time, and counseling can work wonders

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

An assortment of healthy foods laid out on a wooden table

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by Geoff Ullrich

About the Author

Geoff Ullrich is a writer and Content Marketing Specialist at Germania Insurance.