Healthy Lifestyle Principles
Updated: Apr 11, 2022
A healthy lifestyle is what someone does, day-to-day, that lowers risk of being seriously ill or dying prematurely. This is a serious answer but, on the other side of it lies all the beautiful actions one can take to live a rich life that brings joy, energy, and a sense of contentment.*
There are 6 pillars of a healthy lifestyle [i]
Nutrition A style of eating that emphasizes whole, natural foods (with lots of plants!) and limited or avoided artificial / added fat, sugar, and salt. Also referred to as “clean eating” (although, there is no “dirty” eating), our informal motto could be “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” – Michael Pollan
Movement Regular and consistent physical activity that can be maintained throughout life. This is a key component in health and is essential to maintaining autonomy as we age.
Stress Management Identifying effective, healthy coping mechanisms for stressors and negative events is vital in managing stress. Stress is going to happen but our reactions to it can change.
Relationships Being connected to people is a key part of emotional resiliency. Our homes, community, and work environments all influence our health and happiness.
Avoiding Risk Using any potentially addictive substances can increase risk for cancer and heart disease. A good relationship with substances reflects no tobacco use / no vaping, and a healthy relationship with alcohol (moderate intake or abstaining).
Quality Sleep Poor sleep greatly strains your immune system. It can also influence your mood, hunger/fullness cues and overall energy. Correcting it is a critical component of a healthy lifestyle.
Show me the Science The Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow Up Study followed over 120,000 participants, producing over 34 years of data for women and 28 years for men, reviewing their lifestyles. Those following a healthy lifestyle lived longer, and healthier, than those who didn’t (women lived 14 years longer and men 12). For those who had no healthy habits, they had a much higher risk of premature death from cancer and CVD. [ii]
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health analyzed data from the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow Up Study in 2018. They compared outcomes data among those who could maintain 5 of the lifestyle principles and those who did not adopt any. The results showed that those who built health into their lifestyles and maintained it lived more than a decade longer than those who didn't maintain any. [iii]
I feel strongly that nutrition is foundational to a healthy lifestyle and practicing Intentional Nutrition can help structure and shape the other pillars (and vice versa!). Intentional Nutrition is an approach to food that emphasizes planning, moderation and flexibility. It builds confidence and removes barriers. It helps the follower find consistency, which is the real key to any lifestyle change.
References [i]American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) (2021). 6 ways to take control of your life. Retrieved Jan 15, 2022 from https://lifestylemedicine.org/What-is-Lifestyle-Medicine. [ii] Tello, M. (2020). Healthy lifestyle: 5 keys to a longer life. Retrieved Jan 20, 2022 from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/healthy-lifestyle-5-keys-to-a-longer-life-2018070514186.
[iii] NIH Research Matters. (2018). Healthy habits can lengthen life. Retrieved April 6, 2020 from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/healthy-habits-can-lengthen-life.
*chemical imbalances, mental health conditions, etc. can influence how much of these emotions a person can experience or feel consistently.