How to Live a Healthy Lifestyle

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Being healthy involves more than eating an occasional salad or going for a short walk once every few weeks, but while you'll need to put in some effort, your health is well worth it. To live a healthy lifestyle, consistently choose healthy foods, fit more exercise and physical activity into your daily routine, and practice good hygiene. You'll also need to avoid unhealthy habits, like fad dieting and neglecting sleep. Making lifestyle improvements may require some gradual adjustment, but improved health is readily accessible once you commit to it.

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    Choose food that contain minimal amounts of unhealthy fats. Unhealthy fats include both trans fats and saturated fats. These fats will raise your LDL cholesterol, and elevated LDL cholesterol often correlates with an increased risk for heart disease.[2]
    • Foods that are high in trans fats include foods made with "partially hydrogenated oils," such as shortening or margarine. Baked goods, fried foods, frozen pizza, and other highly processed foods often contain trans fats.[3]
    • Foods that are high in saturated fats include pizza, cheese, red meat, and full-fat dairy products.[4] Coconut oil is also high in saturated fat, but may also increase good cholesterol, so it's okay to use in moderation.[5]
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    Eat healthy fats in moderation. Poly-unsaturated, mono-unsaturated and omega-3 fats are all good lifestyle choices.These good fats lower your LDL cholesterol and raise your HDL cholesterol, which correlates with decreased risk for heart disease.[6]
    • Choose oils such as olive, canola, soy, peanut, sunflower, and corn oil.[7]
    • Fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Choose fish including salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, sardines, and herring. You can also get omega-3s from plant sources, like flaxseed, plant oils, and nuts and seeds, although your body doesn't process the fats from these as effectively.[8]
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    Select foods that are low in both sugar and highly refined carbohydrates. Minimize your consumption of sweets, soft drinks, sugary fruit juices, and white bread. Choose whole fruits, freshly-squeezed juices, and whole grain bread instead.[9]
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    Eat a variety of different whole foods instead of eating processed foods.[10] Whole foods offer a balance of healthy carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and other nutrients.
    • Eat fruits and vegetables for their high vitamin and mineral content. Try to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, rather than canned ones that often contain added sugar or salt.
    • Choose lean meat, beans and tofu for their protein content.
    • Enjoy whole grains such as whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice and quinoa.
    • Eat low-fat dairy products. Skim milk and reduced fat cheeses will reduce your fat intake while ensuring that you receive enough calcium.
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    Incorporate organic foods. Shop at a natural food store or buy food from your local farmer's market. Organic foods are not more nutritious for you, but they don't contain as much pesticide residue or food additives. They are generally more eco-friendly, too.[11]
    • If price is a factor for you, consider buying only certain foods organic, such as apples, berries, stone fruits (peaches, nectarines, etc.), grapes, celery, bell peppers, greens, potatoes, and lettuce.[12] These foods often have much higher pesticide use than other produce when grown conventionally.
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    Start and finish your workout with stretching. Gentle stretching will warm up your muscles before you work out and will relax your muscles after you work out.[13]
    • Try a calf stretch. Stand at arm's length away from a wall and put your right foot behind your left foot. Bend your left leg forward, but keep your right leg straight and grounded on the floor. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds, then switch to the other leg.
    • Stretch out your hamstrings. Lie on the floor near a wall or door frame. Raise your left leg and place your heel against the wall. Straighten your leg until you feel a stretch at the back of your thigh. Hold this for about 30 seconds, then stretch the other leg.
    • Do a hip flexor stretch. Kneel on your right knee and put your left foot in front of you. Shift your body weight as you lean forward onto your left leg. You should feel a stretch in your right thigh. Hold this for about 30 seconds, then stretch the other side.
    • Stretch your shoulders. Bring your left arm across your chest and hold it with your right arm. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
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    Go to the gym 3 to 5 times per week. Work out for half an hour to an hour, combining both cardio and strength training programs. Experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week.[14]
    • Aim to do strength training at least twice a week.
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    Exercise in your neighborhood. Go for a jog or take your dog for a walk. Make sure that you move at a moderate pace for at least 30 minutes.
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    Enjoy rigorous daily activities. Both high-intensity gardening and housekeeping can exercise your body.[15] You can also incorporate more activity into your daily routine by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away from shops, and taking a quick walk on your lunch break.
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    Ditch your car. Walk or bike to your destination instead. If you use public transportation, try getting off a few stops early and walking the rest of the way.[16]
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    Avoid yo-yo dieting. Once you've lost weight thanks to your improved lifestyle, then work hard to maintain your weight instead of cycling up and down the scale.[17]
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    Stay away from fad diets. Avoid liquid diets, diet pills and other diet supplements unless you are under the supervision of a physician. In general, if a diet plan or product does any of the following, it's probably a fad:[18]
    • Promises extremely quick weight loss (more than 1-2 pounds per week)
    • Promises to help you lose weight without changing your habits
    • Requires you to spend a lot of money
    • Restricts your food choices and doesn't encourage balanced nutrition
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    Exercise in moderation. Working out too long, too often or with too much intensity can increase your risk for injury. Make sure to build in some rest periods between your workouts.
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    Know what you weigh. Being overweight and being underweight are not healthy states of being. Consult your doctor or a reputable weight chart that shows ideal weights for your age and body type.
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    Avoid smoking and alcohol intake. Smoking is associated with a variety of health risks, including heart or liver disease and many cancers. Alcohol is also associated with health risks, including liver disease, cancer, heart disease, alcohol poisoning, and depression.[19]
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    Don't skimp on sleep. Studies have shown that those who sleep less tend to weigh more. Adults should aim for between 7-9 hours of sleep per night.[20]
    • Children and teens need even more sleep. Young children may need between 10-14 hours of sleep, school-age children between 9-11, and teenagers between 8-10.[21]
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    Don't skip sunscreen. Sun exposure creates many health risks, including cancer. Whenever you're outdoors, wear protective clothing and a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Wear sunscreen even on cloudy days.[22]
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    Shower every day. Shower again if you have performed an activity that has made you sweat.[23] This will cut down on body odor, body acne, and hygiene-related diseases such as scabies.
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    Brush and floss your teeth daily.[24] Regular flossing prevents not only bad breath but also gum disease.[25]
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    Clean your feet. Make sure to scrub between your toes to prevent athlete's foot and unpleasant odors.
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    Wear clean clothes. In particular, always change your underwear and socks once daily.[26]
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    Wash your hands.[27] Wash your hands before and after preparing food, after using the toilet, before and after treating a minor wound, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.[28]
    • The CDC recommends that you wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, or about the length of time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice.