5 Reasons to Start Living a Healthier Lifestyle

The new year has officially started, and many people are still looking for ways to make positive improvements. One of the best things you can do is begin to live a healthier lifestyle, whether it be dieting or going to the gym; there are numerous benefits associated with making changes to live a healthier lifestyle, and it is easier to get started than you may believe.

#1. Reduce risks of serious illness from Covid-19
As of January 2022, Omicron is the dominant variant in the US. All data shows that it seems to be a mild infection. However, for people in the Central Valley, the new, less lethal variant is still less prominent than the older Delta variant. The new cases count in Kern County has documented only 63 new Omicron cases, compared to the 1855 new Delta cases.1 With this in mind, an excellent way to avoid serious illness or death from the virus is to live a healthier lifestyle. According to the Center for Disease Control, “Obesity increases the risk for severe COVID-19- associated illness.” 2. In addition, data from the CDC indicates that a majority of hospitalizations were among people with higher BMIs. Now, this is not to say that if you are overweight, you will be hospitalized from COVID; however, it does increase your chances of a severe reaction to the virus. On the other hand, the CDC states, “Risks for hospitalization, ICU admission, and death were lowest among patients with BMIs of 24.2 kg/m2, 25.9 kg/m2, and 23.7 kg/m2, respectively, and then increased sharply with higher BMIs.” 2 This data shows that people with lower BMIs are at relatively more minor risk than those with higher BMIs; however, the CDC still states that vaccination is the best preventative measure against hospitalization and death.

#2 Reduced risks of heart disease
A healthier lifestyle can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Unfortunately, much of what people eat today is full of saturated fats, sugar, and empty calories; overconsumption of these foods can lead to an increased risk of heart disease. Doctors realize that “junk food consumption is associated with premature heart disease.”3 It is believed that the high amounts of saturated fats in these foods can increase one’s risk of obesity and high blood pressure, putting additional strain on one’s heart. However, the condition most associated with heart disease is obesity, when one’s BMI (body mass index) is much higher than it should be. BMI is a measure of one’s body fat proportional to their height. Obesity-related deaths have skyrocketed in the recent past, “with high BMI accounting for 4.0 million deaths in 2015, more than two-thirds of which were caused by cardiovascular disease (CVD)” 4 The risk of heart disease can be reduced by minimizing the amount of “junk food” and taking measures to control your BMI.

#3 Reduced stress and Increased self-satisfaction
Today’s world is full of stress; everything seems to move at such high speed, with endless amounts of information in the palm of our hands. In addition, many students are returning to in-person classes for the first time in two years, many have diminished social skills due to quarantines. However, making a positive lifestyle change can reduce stress and anxiety and improve self-satisfaction and body positivity. It is cited by many experts that “exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever” 5 Whether it be running, mountain climbing, or swimming, exercise reduces stress. Furthermore, many experts believe that along with stress-relief, exercise also offers a range of mental health benefits and has been shown to “increase self-confidence, improve your mood… and lower symptoms of mild depression and anxiety” 5 However, while helpful, exercise isn’t necessary to reap the benefits, even moderate dieting can lead to positive mental health changes.

#4 Longer Life Expectancy
Probably the best reason to start living a healthier lifestyle is its link to a longer life expectancy. Data from the Nation Institute of Health Research show that people who already have some morbidities “can expect to live 6-7 years longer if they adopt a healthier lifestyle.”6 This indicates that it’s never too late to start living healthier. Even if you don’t want to adhere to a diet, regular exercise has been shown to increase life expectancy. The goal is to relieve some stress put on the body over the years and allow the body to function at normal capacity. When there’s too much stress on the body for too long, then your body struggles to keep up, making it harder to function the older you get.

#5 Being Less Susceptible to Addiction
Everybody enjoys a snack now and then; however, problems arise when people stop tracking how much they eat. When you overeat junk food too often, it can become an addiction, making it harder to live a healthier lifestyle. According to an article from Scientific American, foods “rich in fat and sugar can supercharge the brain’s reward system,”7 making it hard for someone to stop eating. The receptors that fire are similar to the stimulations of some addictive drugs. “Drugs of abuse, such as morphine, stimulate the brain’s reward systems the way food does,” says Paul Kenny from the Scientific American.7 When someone learns to control the temptation of foods high in fat, they become less susceptible to addiction to some addictive drugs. You also learn to control urges for other unhealthy behaviors such as drinking or smoking.
Where to get started

The most common mistake when people start to make changes in their lifestyle is doing all or nothing. When they do this, they often make one mistake then fall off their new routine altogether. A common misconception is that the key to losing weight is watching what you eat, but the key is watching how much you eat; however, healthier foods definitely don’t hurt. Many people often try to make sudden significant changes in their lifestyle. In fact, the best method is to create a series of small changes over time. For example, instead of cutting out all your favorite foods at once, cut out one food at a time. The most important thing when making lifestyle changes is consistency and patience. Results don’t come overnight or even within a week; in fact, it may take a month or two to even see a change, but if you stick with it, you’ll feel accomplished and proud when you see results.