There are no shortcuts when it comes to being healthy. A kombucha (or apple) a day helps, but it won’t keep the doctor away. To feel your best, now and always, the focus needs to be on building a healthy lifestyle. This means focusing on 4 key areas: diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management. While focusing on one of these areas is good, when we begin to understand how they are intertwined and influence one another, we see the larger benefits. Eating a healthier diet while exercising regularly will lead to better sleep, which will help us manage our stress more effectively. Being less stressed will help us maintain our healthy diets, and not go for that extra brownie. In turn, working out will be easier, and now we're starting to experience a virtuous cycle where the habits that make us healthy are building upon one another.
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Detailed Entry (with studies)
While certain things matter for our health, there is no single thing that creates a healthy lifestyle. You may consistently work out, but if you are always stressed, eat poorly, or don't sleep well, then you will inevitably run into some health problems. Our bodies are networks of connections, and the same is true for the ways our lifestyle affects our health. The key to a healthy lifestyle is focusing on the four parts of our lifestyle that have the largest influence on our health: diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management. Although each element influences our body in different ways, research shows that they are all intimately linked.
Let's take a look at the relationship between diet and exercise. Whenever you are trying to gain muscle or lose weight, the first thing people will say is to switch up your diet. People are usually thinking of the “macro” effects when they say this, but the relationship between our diet and our physical performance goes much deeper. Take for example a compound like L-Citrulline, a nutrient found in watermelons. In a 2016 study L-Citrulline was shown to improve endurance and time trials of the 22 men who participated. This is just one example of how diet can directly improve physical performance.
Now, what about the relationship between exercise and sleep? When we sleep our body goes into a state of rest and uses little energy, so it makes sense that if we workout during the day - using up our energy - we will sleep more easily. In 2002 the University of Toronto conducted a study that demonstrated the connection between sleep and exercise (despite wildly different exercise routines). The study found that exercise helps increase slow-wave-sleep, which is the most restorative portion of our sleep cycle (study). Exercise, like high intensity interval training, has been shown to stimulate the genes that are responsible mitochondrial production, increasing our bodies energy reserves (see here).
As you likely know, science has shown that exercise plays a huge impact on how we feel, and plays an even larger part as we age (see here). Not only do you get a huge rush of endorphins when exercising, but exercising regularly is a great way to regulate our daily stress. According to this 1998 study, even as little as 30 minutes of exercise 3 times per week is enough to realize serious benefits from exercise. With the NIH finding that over 30% of all Americans will experience some form of an anxiety or depression in their lifetime, and roughly 80% of Americans reporting significant levels of stress in their lives (see here), it's likely that we have all experienced the effects of stress: loss of sleep, neglecting exercise, eating poorly, avoiding friends, and a whole host of other unhealthy choices. This doesn’t mean we are stuck with stress though. Fostering new habits, and building a good foundation around our sleep, diet, and exercise, will help us realize a reduction in stress.
If you take anything away from this article it should be how the elements of a healthy lifestyle are interconnected. We only have one body, and through our choices we can greatly influence our near and long-term health. We need to stop focusing on any one piece of our health, and instead view a healthy life as the result of a healthy lifestyle. That means focusing on diet AND sleep AND exercise AND stress management. Working on all 4 areas together will lead to better outcomes, and there's science to prove it.
Here at Happy Being, we understand that we are just one part of a healthier life, and we are committed to providing you with the information you need to achieve your greater health goals. Join our newsletter today and stay up-to-date! Good advice shouldn't be kept a secret.