Eat your greens, get enough sleep, move your body … we all know the common advice for improving your health. These things are important—but being healthy is about more than that.
Living a healthy life includes caring for your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, so you can get the most out of what life has to offer. And even if you know what it takes to live a healthy lifestyle, you may feel like you’re not quite there. A 2018 study found that the average American feels run-down three days a week, and 50% report being in pain either frequently or constantly.
With health at the forefront of our minds during the pandemic, it’s an especially good time to take stock of your own health. Here’s what to consider.
The benefits of healthy living
Caring for your health comes with a multitude of short- and long-term benefits. Better health can lead to:
- A longer life. There’s plenty of evidence to back up that healthy living can add years or even decades to your life. One large-scale Harvard study looked at five areas that affect health—diet, physical activity, body weight, smoking, and alcohol intake—in men and women. The people who had healthy habits in all five areas enjoyed significantly longer lives than those who had none: 14 years for women and 12 years for men (if they had these habits by the age of 50). If achieving all five healthy habits feels out of reach, keep in mind that incremental changes matter, too. The same study showed that having just one of the five healthy habits extended life expectancy by two years in men and women alike.
- Saving money. Swapping processed foods for a cleaner diet isn’t just easier on your budget now, it can also mean fewer health care expenses later—you can put those dollars toward future goals instead. In fact, it’s estimated that the benefits of healthy eating would help the U.S. save roughly $114.5 billion per year through reduced medical spending and increased productivity.
- Better quality of life. Healthy diet, exercise, and stress reduction don’t just mean longer life, they can also mean a more enjoyable one. Studies show that exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood. Exercise can also alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal, which is crucial during a time where social distancing is the norm.
How to live healthier
Abundant research shows that these areas are the ones to keep top of mind when it comes to health:
- Don’t smoke or consume nicotine
- Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily
- Exercise 30 minutes five times a week
- Maintain a healthy BMI of 18 to 25
Keeping up with these guidelines isn’t always the easiest, though. According to WebMD, only 3% of American adults got a perfect score in these four criteria. While prioritizing healthy eating and exercise is important, these tips can help you find balance and feel better physically and mentally.
- Avoid trigger foods. Especially in times of stress, we all have go-to comfort foods. These are often the ones where we lose control and can’t stop at just one—and they often have high sugar or salt content. Processed foods have made a big comeback during the pandemic, thanks to a widespread desire for comfort foods with longer shelf lives during shelter-in-place orders. Taking steps to avoid these foods when you’re stressed can not only help you feel better in the short term mentally and physically, but will also help your health in the long run.
- Be proactive about your health. Even the healthiest person can get sick. Make sure to talk to your doctor about the right health care plan for you. Be diligent about regular screenings, check-ups, mammograms, and prostate exams—especially if you have a family history of certain illnesses.
- Take time off. America has turned being busy into a national obsession, but it’s never been more important to unplug. It may seem silly to take those vacation days when you can’t actually vacation right now, but your mental and physical health will thank you. Chronic stress is linked to health issues and shorter life expectancy, so make a plan to take a safe vacation from your home to reduce that stress when you’re able.
- Detox from tech regularly. The old lines of home, work, and school are blurring, which means it’s easy to get tethered permanently to your laptop or phone. That can lead to being more sedentary, not to mention increasing stress if you’re constantly poring over the news. Try instituting “tech hygiene”—like no phones at dinner or leaving your phone on your desk while you sleep. Use the time away from your devices to get active outside, instead of surfing the internet or social media.
Healthy living for a brighter future
No matter where you are in your health journey, even small changes can make you healthier and happier. Life may seem uncertain right now, but there are ways to take control and reduce overall stress, which can lead to a longer, healthier life. That includes making sure your family is protected financially if something happens to you.
Progressive Life by eFinancial is committed to helping people protect their families with affordable term life insurance. A term life plan can provide a financial safety net to replace income and cover expenses once you’re no longer there to provide for them. By combining healthy habits with planning ahead, you can ensure a better present and future.