What is your definition of a healthy lifestyle? Eating your fruits and vegetables? Taking part in exercise? Eating lower-fat foods?
All those answers are correct, but they are just a piece of the puzzle to achieving the right balance for health. A healthy lifestyle is not a “one-size fits all” plan for every person. Guidelines should be followed and tailored to individual needs to prevent and manage chronic diseases and illnesses. The recipe for achieving optimal health, no matter your age, includes balancing what you eat, your physical activity, and your sleep patterns.
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According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is recommended to follow a healthy eating pattern regardless of age. It’s essential to make choices based on your preferences, budget, and cultural traditions.
The focus should remain on nutrient-rich foods with at least half your grains being whole grains, fruits and vegetables of all colors, lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds, and low-fat and fat-free dairy. This will give your body the powerhouse of vitamins and minerals to keep your heart, blood, skin, muscles, and everything else functioning normally. Stay hydrated with water!
What you eat matters, and it’s important to pair that with adequate exercise for your body to utilize the vitamins and minerals you are eating as part of your balanced meals. As you plan your schedule each day, be sure to make time to be active, your health depends on it. Children and teens should aim for 60 minutes or more each day.
Three days a week should include muscle strengthening, and three days a week should consist of bone strengthening. Adults should aim for at least 150 to 300 minutes of weekly activity and muscle-strengthening at least two days a week. Muscle strengthening includes resistance training and weightlifting. Bone strengthening exercise is anything that promotes bone growth and strength.
These include but are not limited to jumping jacks, running, and brisk walking. Always practice safety when exercising, increase the amount and intensity over time, and check with your health care provider before starting any new activities. The benefit is worth all the sweat as it can decrease your risk factors and improve outcomes for many chronic diseases. Overall, it will improve your muscle strength, endurance, brain health, and risk of falls or injuries from falls.
Let’s not forget about sleep! We need rest to perform our daily functions, but did you know not getting enough can be a factor in chronic diseases? Not getting enough sleep can lead to Type 2 Diabetes, increased high blood pressure, stroke and irregular heartbeats, and weight gain. Sleep needs are 12-16 hours for infants, 11-14 hours for toddlers, 10-13 hours for preschool-aged children, 9-12 hours for school children, 8-10 hours for teens, and 7 or more hours for adults.
It can be challenging to get the sleep our bodies need with the demands of life and our schedules. Some tips to try are to be consistent and go to bed at the same time each day, including weekends. Your bedroom should be quiet at a comfortable temperature and be sure to remove electronic devices. Avoid larger meals, alcohol, and caffeine before bed to help you achieve optimal sleep.
An Equal Opportunity Institution. UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Andra Johnson, Dean and Director. Single copies of UF/IFAS Extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are free to Florida residents from county UF/IFAS Extension offices.