“The more I learn about health, the more I tend to focus my attention on a few simple factors that I think account for most of the health benefits of diet and lifestyle. Don’t smoke cigarettes or use alcohol excessively. Get regular physical activity. Eat whole foods. Get restorative sleep. Manage stress. And don’t eat too many calories. These guidelines may not be very exciting, but they deliver a lot more value than the details that often distract us.” ~Dr. Stephan Guyenet, an expert on the neurobiology of obesity, and author of The Hungry Brain.
There is a lot of health and fitness information and misinformation out there, so before getting lost in the details let’s focus on the daily habits that have the greatest impact.
“But these behaviors sound too simple/boring and I want something more complicated/harder to follow.”
I get it. There’s nothing new or cutting edge in the above principles. And given the simplicity of these factors you’d think that many people would meet these qualifications.
Sadly less than 3% of Americans meet these basic standards,[i] specifically defined as:
- Activity: 2.5 hours per week of moderate or vigorous activity (5-7+ hours may be better)
- Nutrition: Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day (feel free to eat more)
- Body Composition: A body fat percentage under 20 percent (for men) or 30 percent (for women)
- Lifestyle: Don’t smoke (stress, and sleep can be considered as well.)
Are you in the top 3%? Do you meet these basic standards for health?
Could you use some work?
Let’s take a quick look at these specific areas.
About 22% of Americans participate in regular physical activity.[ii]
Living a sedentary lifestyle and expecting your body to thrive is like staring at a white wall and expecting your mind to flourish. The body needs to be engaged. If you’ve never pushed yourself physically then you’re leaving parts of yourself unknown. Regular exercise helps prevent many diseases,[iii] benefits mental health, increases productivity and may help combat depression and mental illness.[iv]
“Eighty percent of American adults do not meet the government’s national physical activity recommendations for aerobic activity and muscle strengthening. Around 45 percent of adults are not sufficiently active to achieve health benefits. Around $117 billion in healthcare costs are associated with inadequate physical activity.”
(Click Here to see where your state falls.)
APPLICATION: How many hours per week do you spend on physical activity?
If your answer is zero, you can add in one hour per week by taking three 20-minute walks. Start wherever you are, build up over time. Fight to get to 2.5 hours per week and make them count. If you are trying to transform your body 5+ hours may be best. A blend of defying gravity through resistance training with foundational movement patterns, higher intensity activities and lower intensity activities such as walking, cycling, swimming, etc. are best for maximizing your results.
23.3% of Americans eat 5 fruits and vegetables per day.[v]
Nutrition is the biggest limiting factor for most people. Good Nutrition is a must if you want to look, feel, and perform better. Even with exercise, poor nutrition will hold you back from the results you truly desire.
Good Nutrition improves nearly every measurable marker of health, from mood and recovery to body composition and performance. Pair proper nutrition with an intelligently designed training program and you’ve got a great set up for transformation.
“Do you want the secret? And I mean THE secret? Here it is: lean meats, fruits, and vegetables.” ~Dr. Lonnie Lowery, Exercise Physiology and Sports Nutrition professor for over 20 years and former competitive bodybuilder.
APPLICATION: How many fruits and vegetables do you consume on a daily basis?
Don’t like veggies? Here are some easy ways to add them:
Get a great blender (or a decent one) and add some spinach in a maximal shake.
Learn to roast, sauté, or make a stir fry.
Buy some fun seasonings to add flavor.
Keep frozen vegetables so you always have a veggie option.
Tastes can be trained. You may not like something the first time you try it but try a vegetable 3-5 times. (I tried kimchi over 20 times before I actually liked it and now I love it!)
Get creative with your meals and let me know what you come up with!
3. BODY COMPOSITION
About 40% of Americans are in a healthy weight range. Over one-third of adults and 17% of youth are obese.[vi]
The projected future of our nation’s health only brings more lifestyle-related disease, increased medical bills and a greater burden on society[vii] unless we do something to change… Sadly, I too have personally experienced the great pain of loss that lifestyle-related disease, obesity, diabetes and coronary disease can bring.
WHICH SIDE OF HISTORY DO YOU WANT TO BE ON?
If you need to lose weight remember that “weight loss” is not the same as “fat loss.” That’s why resistance training with the foundational movement patterns to build and preserve muscle is so important. If you lose 5 pounds of fat and 5 pounds of muscle you’ll decrease your metabolism and set yourself up for a rebound.
This is why crash dieting doesn’t work and why cardio alone is a poor choice for fat loss. As the researchers put it in the British Journal of Sports Medicine: “You cannot outrun a bad diet.”[viii]
I like to tell my coaching clients, “Calories are King and consistency is his Queen.”
The key with any successful nutrition plan is that it is sustainable, flexible, and built around your preferences and lifestyle vs. the other way around. This is why I focus on habit-based coaching with an emphasis of one action at a time.
24 percent of Americans smoke.[ix]
My Grandfather served in the Navy for over 30 years. He joined when he was 17 to get away. He likely started smoking very early in his life. Later in his mid-fifties he went to a hospital to visit a friend who was dying of lung cancer, had a tracheotomy and was still smoking through the hole in his throat! That may not have been enough of a reason for his friend to quit but it was for my Grandfather! He quit smoking that day, cold turkey. That was the wake-up call that he needed. I believe that if he had continued to smoke he wouldn’t have lived to be 87, and would have missed out on many grandchildren’s births and birthdays.
What is the wake-up call that you need?
Which health lifestyle characteristic could you make some improvements in?
- Body Composition
Pick ONE area to focus on.
How can you improve in that area?
What small steps can you take TODAY that will lead to your goals? What can you do this week? This month?
Invest daily in your health because your life matters.
[i] Reeves MJ, Rafferty AP. Healthy Lifestyle Characteristics Among Adults in the United States, 2000. Arch Intern Med. 2005;165(8):854–857. doi:10.1001/archinte.165.8.854
[ii] Reeves MJ, Rafferty AP. Healthy Lifestyle Characteristics Among Adults in the United States, 2000. Arch Intern Med. 2005;165(8):854–857. doi:10.1001/archinte.165.8.854
[iii] Stampfer MJHu FBManson JERimm EBWillet WC Primary prevention of coronary heart disease in women through diet and lifestyle. N Engl J Med 2000;34316- 22
[iv] Craft, Lynette L., and Frank M. Perna. “The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed.” Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 6.3 (2004): 104–111. Print.
[v] Reeves MJ, Rafferty AP. Healthy Lifestyle Characteristics Among Adults in the United States, 2000. Arch Intern Med. 2005;165(8):854–857. doi:10.1001/archinte.165.8.854
[vi] Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. JAMA. 2014;311(8):806-814.
[vii] Rowley, William R. et al. “Diabetes 2030: Insights from Yesterday, Today, and Future Trends.” Population Health Management 20.1 (2017): 6–12. PMC. Web. 25 Jan. 2018.
[viii] Malhotra A, Noakes T, Phinney SIt is time to bust the myth of physical inactivity and obesity: you cannot outrun a bad diet Br J Sports Med Published Online First: 22 April 2015. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2015-094911
[ix] Reeves MJ, Rafferty AP. Healthy Lifestyle Characteristics Among Adults in the United States, 2000. Arch Intern Med. 2005;165(8):854–857. doi:10.1001/archinte.165.8.854