Is a Healthy Lifestyle Worth It?

Seeking motivation to live a healthy lifestyle? Is eating healthy and exercising worth the trouble? To answer these questions consider the short and long-term benefits and outcomes of both.  Unhealthy foods tend to be cheap, quick and bring about momentary satisfaction; however, it is likely these unhealthy eating habits paired with physical inactivity will lead to excess body fat and increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis and some cancers to name a few.

Eating healthy may cost more but will likely lead to lower health care costs and improved quality of life in the short and long term. When purchasing healthy foods it is important to note these foods can cost more because they provide more value, meaning they are nutrient dense (more nutrients with less calories). Cheap foods tend to have additives such as salt, sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup; ingredients that have no nutritional value. Long-term benefits of living a healthy lifestyle include having a more youthful appearance, improved quality of life, and weight loss/maintenance.

Furthermore, exercise improves heart and lung function, burns calories, and increased release of endorphins, “happy” hormones to decrease stress. I am sure you’ve heard the exercise slogan “No Pain, No Gain.” Those who live a healthy lifestyle tend to have fewer health problems, while those who do not are more likely to suffer from health complications. Unfortunately, we witness these phenomena in our own lives and those around us.

The good news is that many health conditions are preventable with adequate physical activity and healthy eating habits. If this does not describe your lifestyle, take comfort in the fact that it is never too late to start on a healthier course. Even if you get bad news such being told by your doctor you have pre-diabetes; take advantage of this emotional trigger to start living a healthy lifestyle rather than wait until you are diagnosed with diabetes. There is no better day to start than today!

Overweight does not have to lead to Obesity

Overweight can simply be thought of as excess fat accumulation due to more calories being consumed than burned. Body mass index (BMI) is a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used to classify overweight and obesity in adults. World Health Organization defines a BMI greater than 25 as overweight.

BMI  Formula: weight (lb) / [height (in)] 2 x 703 

Example: Weight = 150 lbs, Height = 5’5″ (65″)

Calculation: [150 ÷ (65)2] x 703 = 24.96 

Obesity (defined as a BMI greater than 30) is not only a personal problem for many; it has now become a societal issue. In our society as a whole there has been a decrease in physical activity due to the increasing sedentary natured jobs, usage of cars, and urbanization. Overall, less physical activity is required to live in our society. For example, instead of hand washing dishes we frequently use dishwashers or ride a lawnmower instead of pushing it. In addition, our society has increased exposure and intake of high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt, energy-dense, micronutrient-poor foods, which tend to be lower in cost but also lower in nutrient quality.

However, there is hope! By focusing on Diet + Exercise + Behavior Change a healthy lifestyle can be achieved. Focusing on all three will provide more success than using only one intervention. Supportive environments are essential to sustain people’s choices to purchase healthier foods and to encourage regular physical activity of at least 150 minutes per week recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine.

Dietary guidelines can be found at www.choosemyplate.gov, which encourage increased consumption of fruit and vegetables, legumes, low fat diary, and whole grains and limited energy intake from fats and sugars. These guidelines can be applied when dining out by choosing whole foods instead of processed foods. For example, choosing a grilled chicken sandwich versus a $1 burger or choosing apple slices instead of fries. Small gradual changes bring about lasting results.

Stay Active, Be healthy!  Eat to live, not live to eat!

By Rachel Cutts, MS, Exercise Physiologist, Dietetic Intern; Reviewed by Meghan Windham, MPH, RD, LD

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