Depending on your age, gender, state of health and activity level, everyone will find a different answer to that question.
In youth, we should develop the eating, exercise and rest habits that will lead us to a healthy adulthood. As we age, we need to give more attention to cardiovascular and brain health. Older age requires more attention to balance activities like Tai Chi, to minimize falls, head injury and hip fractures.
But there are some overall guidelines that apply to almost everyone.
Here are some ideas:
1. Maintain a healthy weight.
2. Eat healthy food.
3. Get enough physical exercise.
4. A healthy mind in a healthy body
5. Variety is the spice of life.
Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
NIH says you should keep your Body Mass Index (BMI) between 18 and 25.
Want to know where you stand ? Here’s NIH’s BMI Calculator.
Diets rich in vegetables, whole grains and seafood are generally acknowledged to be healthiest. But the body is pretty adaptable.
In general, it’s probably more important to know what not to eat.
So, stay away from processed food – chips, candy, snack foods of all kinds…anything in a can or box will not be as good for you as something fresh.
In addition, anything we overdo can be bad for us, so you need to organize a way to monitor and control your food intake.
Here are some guidelines on how many calories to eat.
For a more in-depth discussion of nutrition and healthy eating, check out the USDA’s MyPlate website.
There is no simple answer to this question, but there is overwhelming evidence that remaining sedentary has negative consequences for health. Many studies show that increasing your exercise routine even a little can be a big help in staying healthy.
For a more in-depth discussion, check out my thoughts on Exercise.
Remember – before you make any significant changes to your routine, especially if you are over 40 or have a pre-existing health condition, you should consult a health professional.
Taking care of the body’s physical needs can provide the basic conditions for good mental health, but there is still another important step to be undertaken.
Garbage in / garbage out applies in the computer world, the world of nutrition, and the world of mental health. Just as we wouldn’t expect someone fed a diet of chips and soda to be optimally healthy, we shouldn’t expect a mind fed a constant diet of negative and fearful thoughts to be optimally healthy. The next step in a health improvement project is to deal with our state of mind.
Even if we are living in a food desert, we can take steps to provide our own healthy, nutritious food by planting seeds, tending them and growing them in our own yard or on our own windowsill. The key is to take responsibility for our physical health.
In the same way, we need to take responsibility for our own mental health. Set aside some time each day to consider the state of your mind. Have you been exposed to negative, hurtful thoughts originating in yourself or others ? Are you lacking positive reinforcement ? You can plant the seeds of mindful action, and encourage the growth of calmness and satisfaction in compassion for yourself and others. With practice, these traits will blossom and provide our minds with more equanimity, ease and happiness. In other words, a healthy mind in a healthy body. Here are some tips for stress relief, courtesy of MD Anderson Center.
Just as with exercise, the keys to making progress in shaping our mind are good form and consistency. We need to feed the right wolf, and we need to do it regularly.
Whatever plan you make for health improvement, keep in mind that health is a continuum. There is no set plan that will take you to optimal health.
Having a goal doesn’t mean that you are stuck in a rut. It means that you need to keep making a series of decisions: eat this, not that, walk up the stairs instead of riding the elevator, etc. But you are free to decide. Getting a good night’s sleep may be more important on a particular day than walking for half an hour. If so, pleasant dreams…
You are guaranteed not to achieve your goal in a week or two. But, on the other hand, by consistently applying yourself to making good decisions, you will triumph in the long run.
So, don’t be disappointed with short-term difficulties. Keep on keeping on.
And if you encounter trouble, there are always dedicated health professionals willing and able to provide assistance. Just ask.
You can do it !