Healthy Habits – How Many Do You Have?

Recent research reveals that 97% of Americans don’t have all four of these basic healthy habits.

What are the most important things you should be doing for your health? While there’s a ton of advice out there, most doctors agree that it boils down to four basic habits: watch what you eat; exercise moderately and regularly; keep an eye on your body fat percentage; and don’t smoke.

Just doing these four things lowers your risk of many health issues, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Seems simple, right? But according to recent research, only 2.7 percent of American adults adhere to all four habits.

When researchers from Oregon State University and the University of Mississippi looked at the behavior of 4,745 adults from across the United States, they were shocked to discover how few people had all four habits. Ellen Smit, senior author on the study and an associate professor in the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences, remarked on the findings in a news release. “This is pretty low, to have so few people maintaining what we would consider a healthy lifestyle,” she said. “This is sort of mind boggling. There’s clearly a lot of room for improvement.”

Not smoking was the most popular healthy habit, with 71 percent of subjects avoiding cigarettes. 46 percent of subjects hit or exceeded their activity level goal. 38 percent ate well. A mere 10 percent had a body fat percentage in the normal range.

Rather than simply asking the subjects about their behavior and relying on self-reported data, the study also used actual behavioral measurements. Each subject wore an accelerometer, which is a device that measures movement. The goal was 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week. Smoking status was confirmed by blood samples. X-ray absorptiometry was used to determine body fat percentage. Subjects who were in the top 40 percent of people who ate foods recommended by the USDA were considered to have a good diet.

Some other remarkable findings of the study were:

  • Having a normal body fat percentage appeared to be the most important factor in achieving healthy levels of HDL and total cholesterol.
  • While only 2.7 percent of the subjects had all four healthy habits, 11 percent had none, 34 percent had one, 37 percent had two, and 16 percent had three.
  • There were differences in habits according to gender. Women were less likely to get enough exercise, but were more likely to avoid smoking and eat well.
  • Mexican Americans scored higher on the healthy eating scale than non-Hispanic white or black adults.
  • While adults over 60 had fewer healthy habits than adults ages 20-39, they were more likely to be non-smokers and eat a healthy diet.

While the findings of the study were alarming, hopefully they will serve as a wake-up call to the many American adults who have unhealthy habits. Experts agree that more research needs to be done to discover the best ways to help people incorporate healthy behaviors into their daily lives.

 

Article Sources

News release: Oregon State University

 

 

 

5 Easy Ways to Squeeze Exercise into Your Day

 

You already know you should exercise more. You’ve heard that it’s good for your heart, helps maintain a healthy weight, strengthens muscles and bones, improves mental health and mood, reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes and some cancers and could increase your life span. Even knowing all this, it still can be tough to find the time to exercise when your day is jam-packed with work and family obligations.

The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise to improve cardiovascular health and decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke. That works out to approximately 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week.

Michael Jonesco, DO, a sports medicine physician at the Ohio State University (OSU) Wexner Medical Center, suggests that shorter spurts of intense exercise could be just as good for your health. “More intense activity is equally effective at preventing premature morbidity,” he says. “The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggests 20 minutes of vigorous activity 3 days per week as a less time-intensive alternative.”

Jonesco goes on to say that, according to the ACSM, “duration matters little, meaning 10 minute bursts of activity several times a day are equivalent to one longer duration of exercise.”

If you’ve been skipping exercise altogether because it feels impossible to fit in long sessions at the gym, this is great news. Scattering short bouts of exercise throughout your day feels more manageable than carving out 30 minutes to hit the gym. Several mini workouts can add up to a huge impact on your health.

We asked health and fitness experts for simple ways to squeeze exercise into a busy day. Here are their suggestions.

  1. Walk to work

You have to get to the office somehow, so why not exercise on your way to work? Ditch the car, subway or bus, and lace up your walking shoes instead. Walking is an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise that people of all shapes, sizes and ages can do.

What if it’s too far to walk the whole way? Brad Thomas, a fitness trainer, wellness expert and founder of Brad Thomas Mind Body in New York City, suggests you “stroll the final forty [city] street blocks. This distance is equivalent to 2 miles. The average man or woman would burn over 300 calories walking just one-way.” If you don’t live in the city, park your car a reasonable distance from your workplace and walk the rest of the way.

  1. Take the stairs

Once you’ve made it to work, “take the stairs instead of the elevator”, says Dan Inglis, director of Sports Performance at the OSU Wexner Medical Center. Climbing stairs has numerous benefits. It increases aerobic capacity, raises the amount of HDL (“good”) cholesterol in the blood, strengthens the legs, and improves bone density in post-menopausal women.

  1. Core work on the couch

You don’t have to be a couch potato when you’re lounging around watching TV after a long day. Exercise your core muscles while catching up on your favorite shows. Mindy Kim, a yoga instructor at TruFusion in Las Vegas, NV, suggests the following exercise: “Sit up and lean back, back long, belly button to spine. Lift legs onto the coffee table and do toe taps up and down with the option to alternate legs. You’ll start to feel the burn!”

  1. Cut loose with the kids

What could be better than spending quality time with your kids while reaping the health benefits of exercise at the same time? Activities that kids do all the time just for fun are also excellent workouts for adults. Playing hopscotch, jumping rope, running around the yard, riding bikes, doing jumping jacks, and splashing in the pool are all ways to increase your heart rate and burn calories.

From Dr. Jonesco: “I use my toddler as my own personal kettlebell.  I lift her overhead, let her ride my back as I do pushups, or add some knee bends when I’m rocking her to sleep.  She sleeps, I sweat. It’s a win-win.”

  1. Strengthen at the supermarket

While walking up and down the aisles of the supermarket, use your groceries to strengthen your arms. Cristina Osorio, a kettlebell instructor at TruFusion, suggests using baskets instead of a cart. Baskets full of food act as weights to challenge your arm muscles.

The trip home from the market is an opportunity for exercise too. “Pile up as much as you can carry and walk home (if you can) with bags in-hand,” says Osorio. “Two miles with about 10-15lbs of groceries in your hands leaves you sweaty by the time you get home.”

 

Article Sources:

Dan Inglis, director of Sports Performance at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Michael Jonesco, DO, sports medicine physician at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Mindy Kim, yoga instructor, TruFusion

Cristina Osorio, kettlebell instructor, TruFusion

Brad Thomas, ACSM, MFA, MA, fitness trainer & wellness expert

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “The Benefits of Physical Activity”

American Heart Association: “Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults”

Duke University: “Benefits of Taking the Stairs”