The human body is incredibly complex. All the systems contained within need to work together in harmony in order for us to function properly.
Yet the simple combination of food and exercise is fundamentally what we need to maintain our health.
And although we Americans are good at recognizing what we should do, we’re pretty crummy at putting it into practice (as I’ll show you).
That’s why I’m laying out the simple steps you can take to add 10 years to your life… starting today.
A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a whopping 90% of Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables.1
The best place for fruit intake was Washington, D.C., where just over 15% of the population is eating at least 1.5 cups per day. That same study found the state that was best at eating its vegetables was Alaska, where a mere 12% hit the daily recommendation of 2 cups per day.
This is problematic for a number of reasons.
Sure, I like a good steak now and then. And there’s nothing wrong with an occasional burger. But there are now more plant-based protein options than ever before.
Plant-heavy diets have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and foster a healthy cardiovascular system.2 Beefing up your intake of fruits and vegetables has also been shown to decrease the risk of high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and even some cancers.3
To be fair, eating a healthy, balanced diet is more expensive than the alternative. Research out of the Harvard School of Public Health found a healthy diet costs about $1.50 more per day than an unhealthy one.4 Now, $547.50 a year is nothing to sneeze at, but consider what you gain for your money.
Isn’t reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke worth the cost?
Not All Calories Are Created Equally
What we should and shouldn’t eat to get and stay healthy matters. You can put most food in one of two camps: high quality and low quality.
Try to avoid, or at least limit, low-quality foods. These include highly processed foods (cold cuts and breakfast cereals are examples), refined grains (like white bread and white rice) and anything high in saturated and trans fats (think fast food).
The more veggies you eat, the better. And sorry, french fries don’t count. Eat fruits of all colors. And focus on whole grains and healthy fats (like olive oil) and good proteins like fish, poultry, beans and nuts.
If you can replace the low-quality food in your diet with high-quality food, you’ll be well on your way to a healthier and happier you.
Calories In, Calories Out
Staying active is a healthy diet’s best friend.
The Department of Health and Human Services says adults should engage in some type of muscle-strengthening activity at least twice a week. That can be anything from chopping logs to lifting weights.
And 75 to 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week is recommended to get the heart pumping at healthy levels. At minimum, that’s just 25 minutes three days a week.
But again, Americans are far from hitting the mark.
Only 23% of us are getting enough exercise.5
It’s understandable. There’s so much conflicting information out there.
The one-size-fits-all routines pitched in infomercials don’t know you or your individual situation. That’s why you need to take charge and find a routine that works for your needs and schedule.
I know plenty of people who maintain a rigorous exercise routine at home with very rudimentary equipment… and others with a proper calisthenics habit that requires no equipment at all.
On the other hand, there are plenty of people out there with fancy equipment at their homes collecting dust. But for some, bringing home a shiny new piece of equipment is exactly what it takes to get motivated.
Of course, a gym membership is another option.
Once you start laying down money every month, you’re not going to want that money going to waste… which could be just the ticket to stick with it.
And gyms typically offer more options as far as classes, which can help keep you from falling into a rut.
Personally, I’m a big fan of hitting the treadmill or elliptical at home while watching the news.
Killing two birds with one stone works for me… but it may not for you. And that’s perfectly fine.
The important part is to find a routine that fits your needs.
A healthy diet paired with regular exercise has been shown to add 10 years to your life.6
I can’t think of a better reason to make my health a priority than being able to play with my grandkids for an extra decade.