Five, 10 or 20 years from now, what will the state of your health look like? It’s impossible to predict the future, but practicing sustainable wellness now can bolster your odds of a healthier tomorrow.
Unfortunately, six in 10 adults in the U.S. have a chronic disease, and four in 10 adults have two or more, according to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. However, taking care of your health can help nip issues in the bud before they even arise.
Sustainable health and wellness include preventive nutrition, exercise as a form of medicine, quality sleep and more. By thinking about your health and wellness in the long term, you can maintain a good quality of life for years to come.
It is important to be proactive now rather than reactive later, after a health issue has been identified. The wonderful thing about sustainable wellness and preventive nutrition and fitness is that you are in the driver’s seat — you can take control and shape the future of your health with the choices you make right now.
Building a foundation of sustainable wellness with nutrition
Nutrition is the cornerstone of sustainable wellness. Without proper nutrition, it is much more difficult to address other critical wellness factors, such as proper exercise and sleep.
A key place to start when addressing your nutrition is to focus on incorporating more whole foods into your diet. Whole foods are those that are still in the form in which they are found in nature, or as close to that form as possible. These include unprocessed, nutritionally dense foods, such as meat, fruits, vegetables, grains and healthy fats.
The National Institutes of Health published a paper in 2019 that showed that ultra-processed diets cause excess calorie intake and weight gain. People who are overweight are at higher risk for serious health conditions, such as high blood pressure, stroke, sleep apnea and more.
When focusing on whole foods, you might choose to eat an apple, for example, rather than processed applesauce, which likely includes added sugar, among other additives. You will receive more nutrients that support your health and well-being from the apple, including those that bolster your immune system, helping your body prepare to fight potential disease. As this article shows, vitamin A and zinc help regulate cell division, making them essential for proper immune response.
Looking after your nutrition can also improve your digestive health, especially by including high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and plenty of prebiotic- and probiotic-containing foods.
A good rule of thumb when choosing whole foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, is to eat a rainbow of colors. This will ensure that you get as wide a variety of important nutrients as possible.
Eating more whole foods means that you will have less room — and, potentially, fewer cravings! — for nutritionally deficient foods that can damage your health, such as too much sugar, sodium and saturated fats. According to the World Health Organization, reducing salt intake to the recommended level of less than 5 grams per day could prevent 1.7 million deaths each year.
A little movement can go a long way
Exercise as a form of medicine has a variety of benefits. It can promote heart health, bone density, healthy weight and mental health. It can also be a fun social activity or an opportunity to enjoy nature through hiking, doing yoga outdoors or taking a walk through your neighborhood. Exercise can also be empowering by allowing you to consistently set and reach new goals.
Exercise doesn’t have to be intimidating. According to this article from Harvard, you should incorporate aerobic activity, strength training, flexibility training and balance exercises for a well-rounded exercise program. This might include swimming, walking, lifting weights, yoga, tai chi and stretching.
For most healthy adults, the Mayo Clinic recommends doing at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of both, as well as strength training for all major muscle groups at least two times a week.
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Getting your beauty sleep also promotes overall wellness
Getting quality sleep is one of the most-touted ways to improve your health and well-being, both in the short and long term. Sleep is important not just for healthy functioning but for our very survival, according to this paper. The authors note that when sleep begins to dip below seven hours a night, sleep disorders can increase, and that approximately 70 million people in the U.S. have at least one sleep disorder. Poor sleep can have both short- and long-term consequences for health, from our response to stress to cognitive and memory problems and even weight-related issues.
The Sleep Foundation provides several ways you can improve your sleep hygiene, including sticking to a sleep schedule, evaluating your sleep environment, avoiding electronics before bed and more.
Other factors that contribute to sustainable wellness
Beyond nutrition, exercise and sleep, there are several other factors that can impact your future health. These include:
Family history: Make sure you are aware of any potential health problems in your family history. By being aware of patterns in your family, such as a history of heart disease or breast cancer, you can take steps now that will support your health in these areas. The CDC provides a guide with steps you can take to collect and act on your family health history
Services: Make sure you know what services are available through your local healthcare provider. These might include regular checkups, exams and other preventive services. Early detection of a problem can impact its severity and treatment.
Habits: Address bad habits now, such as smoking, excess consumption of alcohol and lack of exercise. You can also focus on incorporating new, healthy habits into your daily routine.
Investing in your future wellness, one day at a time
Remember, you have the power to make a change! Simple adjustments to your nutrition, exercise habits, sleep and the other factors listed above can have a massive impact on your future health.
By incorporating healthy lifestyle changes into your day-to-day routine, they will start to feel like second nature. Sustainable health and wellness should not feel like a burden or become a source of anxiety. We can’t predict or control what will happen to us next week or 10 years from now, but we can make smart choices today that will lay the foundation for a healthier tomorrow.