The steps to a fit and healthy lifestyle aren’t complicated, but given that nearly 70 percent of American adults are overweight or obese, it's clear that they're not easy to implement either. It takes dedication and willpower to exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet and incorporate healthy habits into your lifestyle. But if you can, your quality of life will be the reward.
A Healthy Diet
A healthy diet emphasizes produce, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein, while avoiding saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, excessive sodium and added sugar. It also means practicing portion control and, along with that, calorie control. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, you should reduce your caloric intake by 500 to 1,000 calories a day to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week, which is a safe rate of weight loss. However, this doesn’t mean you have to completely give up your favorite foods; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that a healthy diet is all about balance. Simply eat higher-fat, -sodium or -sugar foods only in moderation.
Regular Cardio Exercise
Improve your cardiovascular health by engaging in at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes a week of vigorous activity. This easily breaks down to 30 minutes a day, five days a week, although the American Heart Association says you will reap the benefits even if you break down that time into 10- to 15-minute sessions, two to three times a day. Aim for moderate aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, water aerobics, doubles tennis or gardening. Vigorous exercise includes jogging or running, swimming laps, playing singles tennis and jumping rope.
Resistance and Flexibility Training
In addition to cardio, a fit and healthy lifestyle includes resistance and flexibility training. Strengthen each major muscle group two to three days a week with an intensity appropriate for your fitness level. Older people and previously sedentary adults should start with light intensity. Aim to complete two to four sets of eight to 12 repetitions for each exercise you do, and wait at least 48 hours between each training session. To improve muscular endurance, boost the reps to 15 to 20 per set, suggests the American College of Sports Medicine. On top of that, incorporate two to three days of flexibility exercises to improve range of motion. Complete your stretches after light aerobic activity when the muscles are warm, holding each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds and repeating it two to four times.
Round out your healthy lifestyle by implementing a variety of healthy habits, including getting plenty of sleep. Luigi Ferrucci, director of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, told "U.S. News and World Report" that sleep is one of the most important bodily functions to regulate and heal cells. Aim to get at least six hours of sleep a night. Do your best to manage stress through healthy activities such as exercise, meditation or yoga. Cutting down on alcohol use, quitting tobacco, and staying connected to friends and family members can also keep you healthier.
- American Heart Association: American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults
- American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Issues New Recommendations on Quantity and Quality of Exercise
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Healthy Eating Plan
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight
- American Heart Association: Obesity Information
- U.S. News and World Report: 11 Health Habits That Will Help You Live to 100
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Measuring Physical Activity Intensity
- Photo Credit karelnoppe/iStock/Getty Images
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