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What are the Benefits of an Active Lifestyle?

In order to understand the key benefits of a healthy lifestyle it is firstly important to understand what the definition of a healthy lifestyle is.

The definition provided by Edexcel states,

“An active, healthy lifestyle is a lifestyle that contributes positively to physical, mental and social wellbeing and which includes regular exercise and physical activity”.

The key factors that contribute to an active and healthy lifestyle include diet, exercise, sleep, and a positive mental attitude. All of these factors are equally important and therefore focussing merely on 1 or 2 of these points will not result in you living that lifestyle.

 

Diet

You wouldn’t put diesel in a vehicle that is designed to use petrol as it is the wrong fuel and would lead to the vehicle breaking down. The same can be said about the food that we consume as this is the fuel for our bodies. There is no one type of food that provides the nutrients necessary for a good diet and therefore it is necessary to eat a variety of food types in order to consume these essential nutrients.

In order to achieve a healthy and balanced diet you should consider the following points;

1. Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day. This includes not only fresh fruit and vegetables but also frozen, canned, dried and juiced.

2. The best starchy carbohydrates to consume are high fibre and wholegrain varieties of pasta and rice. This is due to the fact that they contain more fibre and nutrients and are slower to digest which in turn leads to a “fuller feeling” for longer.

3. Protein is provided from a variety of sources and includes fish, eggs and meat. It is vital when selecting the meet product to also consider the fat content and the method of cooking it.

4. You can survive for 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food. Therefore it is vital that you stay hydrated. Water regulates your body temperature, lubricates your joints, transports nutrients around the body and is essential for good digestion. You should aim to drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluid per day. However this amount will need to be increased if engaging in physical activity or when living in hot climates. Although it is considered by many that this count should be restricted to water it can also include lower fat milk, sugar free drinks, tea and coffee.

5. The recommended calorie intake per day for a female is 2000 whilst in a man it is 2500. It is vital that this is adjusted to suit your lifestyle. A person who is more physically active will need to consume more calories.

6. Avoid smoking. Not only does it cause about 90% of lung cancer it is also responsible for causing cancer in many other parts of the body. It also damages your heart and blood circulation which can lead to coronary heart disease, heart attacks, strokes and damaged blood vessels. Smoking also damages your lungs leading to illnesses such as emphysema and pneumonia.

7. Avoid drinking alcohol. Although this is the best advice many people would consider this unrealistic and some would even say it is not necessary. It is however vital to limit your alcohol intake. In order to keep the health risks associated with alcohol consumption to a minimum men and women are advised to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week. This amount should be spread over the week. It is common knowledge that excessive alcohol can lead to various diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and liver disease. What many people forget is the increased calorie intake when consuming alcohol.

 

Sleep

It is important to have a regular sleep pattern. However it is very difficult to achieve this when things such as work, family and social life can restrict your amount of available sleep time.

Your internal clock (circadian rhythm) functions best when you have a regular pattern. If you have irregular patterns such as sleeping in at weekends or working shifts then your internal clock is out. Not only can this lead to being not fully rested but it can lead to other health issues including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

There is no set minimum amount of sleep required as everyone is different. However NHS guidelines suggest that an adult should have 7 to 9 hours, a child should have 9 to 13 hours and toddlers/babies should have 12 to 17 hours.

 

Regular Exercise

Doctor Nick Cavill states, “If exercise were a pill it would be one of the most cost effective drug ever invented”.

It is medically proven that by undertaking regular exercise you reduce your risk of developing the following common illnesses;

1. Coronary heart disease and stroke by 35%.
2. Type 2 diabetes by 50%
3. Colon cancer by 50%
4. Breast cancer by 20%
5. Osteoarthritis by 83%
6. Depression by 30%
7. Dementia by 30%

Most importantly however is the reduction in the risk of early death by 30%.
Various studies have produced what is considered is the acceptable amount of daily physical activity. Some state that 20 minutes of vigorous activity a week is sufficient however NHS guidelines recommend 150 minutes of exercise per week.

 

Positive Mental Attitude

 

 

It is considered that people who have a positive mental attitude tend to live healthier lifestyles through undertaking more physical activity and following a healthier diet.

It is difficult to prove exactly what the benefits are however it is suggested that they include;

1. Increased life span
2. Lower rates of depression
3. Lower levels of distress
4. Greater resistance to common cold
5. Better psychological and physical well-being
6. Better cardiovascular health and a reduced risk of death from related diseases
7. Better coping skills during hardships and times of distress.

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