July 15, 2024 5 min read

Sticking to a healthy lifestyle requires time, energy, and motivation — things many of us can’t find enough of and that prevent us from making positive changes. To make matters worse, there’s no shortage of contradictory opinions on what constitutes a healthy lifestyle, even among experts. But that doesn’t mean there is no such thing as proven and science-backed healthy habits. With that said, here are 8 well-known lifestyle hacks proven to help anyone stay healthy.

1. Follow a Mediterranean Diet

The U.S. News & World Report has ranked the Mediterranean diet as the healthiest of them all for six years in a row [1]. Studies carried out over the past four decades found this diet reduces your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer [2]. It’s not a specific diet, however, but a nutritional model based on how people in the Mediterranean eat. The diet is based primarily on plant-based foods and incorporates lean meats, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seafood. It also relies on olive oil as the primary source of fat. 

2. Try to Be More Physical Active 

Meeting the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week is the bare minimum required to stay healthy [3]. If you can include even more hours into your week, the better! This could be anything from aerobic exercise and strength training to running errands, doing chores, and playing with the kids. Staying active benefits all aspects of your health: your muscle strength, bone density, cardiovascular system, metabolism, and even mental functioning [4]. To make physical activity doable and safe, start slowly and incorporate more activity as you gain strength. 

3. Start Breaking Bad Habits

While this may sound obvious, it’s important to remember that good health also depends on avoiding bad habits like smoking, excessive drinking, and drug use. Such habits put you at risk of heart disease, cancer, and other health consequences. One of the biggest problems with these habits is that they can be physically and emotionally addictive. These habits can also lead to poor mental health, and poor mental health can lead to increased substance abuse, leading to a vicious cycle [5]. Look for support in the form of counseling, medication, apps, and self-help literature if you’re determined to quit bad habits for good.

4. Spend More Time Outside

Besides increasing feelings of well-being, spending more time outdoors can help increase your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient naturally produced by your skin when exposed to sunlight and found in some fortified foods. Vitamin D helps keep your bones and teeth strong and your immune system working normally. But many people today don’t get enough of this vitamin, unfortunately [6]. Low levels have been linked to poorer health and even worse outcomes in disease. While supplementing your diet can help keep your vitamin D levels optimal, the best and most convenient way to get vitamin D naturally into your system is by spending 30 minutes in broad daylight with the skin exposed [7].

5. Pay Attention to Your Gut Bacteria

It’s been known since at least Hippocrates' time that health begins in the gut. And one reason for this is that bacteria inhabiting your gut have profound effects on your general health [8]. The gut microbiome regulates immunity, produces short-chain fatty acids that suppress inflammation, and protects normal brain functioning via the gut-brain axis. Ways to protect and enhance your gut health include eating more fiber-rich foods, limiting processed foods and saturated fats, and taking probiotics. Limiting exposure to antibiotics and improving your general health in other ways can also reflect well on your gut health. 

6. Prioritize Stress Management

Stress is an unavoidable part of living, but too much of it has been found to impact us physically and emotionally. Unmanaged stress causes hormonal imbalances that can result in poor physical health but also structural changes in the brain [9]. More specifically, stress can cause brain shrinkage to the extent that it causes trouble with mood, thinking, and memory. Stress is also known to cause digestive and gut health issues, which can have far-reaching consequences for overall health. For all these and other reasons, take time to unwind, take a break, connect to others, and focus on your well-being. 

7. Take Part in Meaningful Work 

While the primary reason we all work is to pay our bills, data show that a growing number of employees also want their work to have meaning. We can define meaningful work as doing something in line with your values, interest, or a greater social purpose. A 2020 survey by McKinsey & Company showed that over 80% of employees believe meaning is important in work [10]. Furthermore, case studies have found that meaningful work provides a sense of belonging, connection, and greater satisfaction with life [11]. All this can translate to better mental health, well-being, and physical health too. 

8. Don’t Neglect Sleep

In our fast-paced, 24/7 world, people often forget the importance sleep plays in our health, well-being, and ability to function [12]. Just like eating and breathing, sleep is an essential physiological function. It allows the brain to rest and consolidate memories. It also seems to regulate metabolic functioning and promote healing and growth. Not getting enough, refreshing sleep has been linked to poor performance, memory, and metabolic derangements as a result. Reasons you might not be getting enough sleep include insomnia, overwork, a noisy sleep environment, and even snoring and sleep apnea. To get the sleep you need and deserve, work on your sleep hygiene, speak to your doctor about any sleep issues, or try  oral appliances if snoring is disrupting your sleep. 


References: 

  1. Best Diets Overall 2023. The U.S. News & World Report. Updated January 3, 2023.https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-diets-overall

  1. Cena H, Calder PC. Defining a Healthy Diet: Evidence for The Role of Contemporary Dietary Patterns in Health and Disease.Nutrients. 2020;12(2):334. Published 2020 Jan 27.doi:10.3390/nu12020334

  1. How much physical activity do adults need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last Reviewed: June 2, 2022.https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm#:~:text=Each%20week%20adults%20need%20150,Physical%20Activity%20Guidelines%20for%20Americans.&text=We%20know%20150%20minutes%20of,do%20it%20all%20at%20once.

  1. Miko HC, Zillmann N, Ring-Dimitriou S, Dorner TE, Titze S, Bauer R. Auswirkungen von Bewegung auf die Gesundheit [Effects of Physical Activity on Health].Gesundheitswesen. 2020;82(S 03):S184-S195.doi:10.1055/a-1217-0549

  1. Kamimura A, Ashby J, Tabler J, et al. The association between tobacco, alcohol, and drug use, stress, and depression among uninsured free clinic patients: U.S.-born English speakers, non-U.S.-born English speakers, and Spanish speakers.J Ethn Subst Abuse. 2017;16(1):122-136.doi:10.1080/15332640.2015.1102114

  1. Amrein K, Scherkl M, Hoffmann M, et al. Vitamin D deficiency 2.0: an update on the current status worldwide.Eur J Clin Nutr. 2020;74(11):1498-1513.doi:10.1038/s41430-020-0558-y

  1. Chalcraft JR, Cardinal LM, Wechsler PJ, et al. Vitamin D Synthesis Following a Single Bout of Sun Exposure in Older and Younger Men and Women.Nutrients. 2020;12(8):2237. Published 2020 Jul 27.doi:10.3390/nu12082237

  1. Hills RD Jr, Pontefract BA, Mishcon HR, Black CA, Sutton SC, Theberge CR. Gut Microbiome: Profound Implications for Diet and Disease.Nutrients. 2019;11(7):1613. Published 2019 Jul 16.doi:10.3390/nu11071613

  1. Yaribeygi H, Panahi Y, Sahraei H, Johnston TP, Sahebkar A. The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI J. 2017;16:1057-1072. Published 2017 Jul 21.doi:10.17179/excli2017-480

  1. Purpose: Shifting from why to how. McKinsey & Company. Accessed July 2023.https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/purpose-shifting-from-why-to-how

  1. Grueso Hinestroza MP, Antón C, López-Santamaría M. Meaningful Work and Satisfaction with Life: A Case Study from a Supported Employment Program-Colombia.Behav Sci (Basel). 2022;12(7):229. Published 2022 Jul 13.doi:10.3390/bs12070229

  1. Worley SL. The Extraordinary Importance of Sleep: The Detrimental Effects of Inadequate Sleep on Health and Public Safety Drive an Explosion of Sleep Research. P T. 2018;43(12):758-763.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6281147/



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