It's not exactly breaking news that a healthy diet and exercise can make you feel better and lower your risk for countless chronic diseases.
Yet, despite having this knowledge, most Americans are not following the advice.
In fact, a study by the American Diabetes Association revealed that Americans' greatest fear is actually developing a chronic illness. This was more feared than going into debt, getting a divorce or losing a job -- yet 67 percent of those polled also acknowledged that they followed a poor diet and 83 percent recognized being overweight or obese, both of which can directly lead to chronic disease.
Only about 26 percent of U.S. adults are eating three or more servings of vegetables a day, which means the majority are eating hardly any. And one study by Dr. Rachel Ballard-Barbash found that fewer than 5 percent of over 6,000 people studied exercised at a moderate pace for 30 minutes a day -- which is the minimum recommended.
What this says is that the knowledge is basically there, but it has not yet permeated deep enough to prompt change in a lot of people. Unfortunately, many wait until they're sick to start cleaning up their lifestyle, and for some this may be too little too late.
What you want to do is start tweaking your diet and exercise programs now, so that you can enjoy improved health and well-being before you get sick.
Are You Missing This Crucial Element?
The Swedish study noted in the video above not only revealed that a healthy lifestyle leads to improved quality of life … it found that the people who had regular meetings and support of their new lifestyle were far more likely to follow through and experience the benefits than those who simply received the information and were sent on their way.
In other words, a support system may be crucial to your success.
Often there is no better way to find this than by enlisting a good friend who can give you the extra push to head to the gym when you'd rather lie on the couch, or cook yourself a wholesome meal when it'd be easier to run out for fast food.
Preferably, that friend would be one who is trying to live healthy too, who understands exactly what you're going through -- both the ups and the downs.
The problem is, not everyone has access to a supportive friend, much less one who is going through the same challenges you are. This is where support groups -- for weight loss, healthy eating, exercise -- can be invaluable. You can find these in most cities, as well as on the Internet.
Diet Alone is Not Enough
Eating healthy is extremely important. I can't say enough about it in terms of its ability to support your optimal health on just about every level, and I encourage virtually everyone to eat according to your nutritional type to ensure your body is getting the right fuel it needs.
But even people with the healthiest diets in the world still need to exercise to reach the highest levels of health. There's an overwhelming amount of evidence confirming that physical exercise is the key for disease reduction, optimal mental, emotional and physical health, and longevity.
One of the primary benefits of exercise is that it normalizes your insulin and leptin levels, with the secondary benefits of weight loss and normalization of blood sugars. These basic factors in turn cascade outward, creating a ripple effect of positive health benefits, which include:
In fact, a study from 2008 concluded that fitness is a far better indicator of overall health and longevity than even body mass index (BMI).
Of course, your body is designed to operate best when it's at an ideal weight, which will vary slightly from person to person. Carrying around extra pounds will inevitably increase your risk of developing just about every chronic degenerative disease there is, so the idea that you can be significantly overweight and still be in 'optimal health' is a deceptive one.
Most often, the underlying cause of excess weight is again an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, which leads to surging insulin (and leptin) levels that eventually results in insulin resistance. So by cleaning up your lifestyle, your health will naturally improve and weight will also normalize naturally.
Make Sure You're Doing This Type of Exercise
I recently coined the term "Peak Fitness" to represent a comprehensive exercise program that includes far more than merely cardio training. It can improve your health in ways you cannot get from typical methods of exercise, including greater weight loss from less exercise time.
While this program still includes some conventional aerobic and core-strengthening exercises, strength training, and stretching, the major change is that twice a week you do 'Sprint 8 exercises,' which raise your heart rate up to your anaerobic threshold for 20 to 30 seconds, followed by a 90-second recovery period.
These Peak Fitness exercises have the benefit of really boosting your fat metabolism, which may be what's missing from many people's routines. But in addition, and perhaps even more importantly, they engage your super-fast muscle fibers, which can increase your production of growth hormone.
Human growth hormone (HGH) strongly influences your biological aging process. The higher your levels of growth hormone, the healthier and stronger you're going to be. And the longer you can keep your body producing higher levels of HGH, the longer you will likely experience robust health and strength.
For a more complete, in-depth explanation of my Peak Fitness regimen, please review this recent article.
If you're just getting back into exercising, you'll need to work your way up slowly. Trying to do too much at once can lead to burnout and make you less likely to continue your program.
To start, you might try jogging for a very short period and increasing it slowly over time. Or you might try walking interspersed with a period of fast walking to incorporate the Peak Fitness ideology. Then, as your body grows more conditioned, you can increase to a higher intensity workout.
Get Motivated, Get Moving, and Get Healthy
Taking the initiative to make healthy changes in your life is perhaps the most important way to use your time and energy. Whether you enlist a friend to make the changes with you, or proceed ahead on your own, the benefits you'll begin to feel, such as increased energy, better sleep, and improved mood, will help you to stay on track.
In the long run, it will be easier to stay focused if you surround yourself with people who share your passion to live healthy, so I suggest you at least encourage your immediate family to jump on board.
Remember, too, that my site contains valuable information for your health journey that is always at your fingertips. You can start by reviewing my nutrition plan and Peak Fitness site, then keep searching from there. You can also join in to the Natural Health Community by taking part in the forum discussions … they're lively and filled with health-conscious people looking to live better and longer, just like you!