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Obesity and Bariatric Surgery

June 2016

Many Americans Struggle to Keep Healthy Habits

Many of us want to live healthier. We set goals to exercise more, eat better, or quit smoking. But reaching those goals isn’t always easy. Many Americans have trouble living a healthy lifestyle, says recent research. Yet small steps can move you in the right direction.

Woman with a bag of groceries

How healthy are we?

In a recent study, researchers set out to see how many adults in the U.S. actually live a healthy lifestyle. They focused on 4 features of a healthy lifestyle. These were exercising regularly, eating healthy, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight.

For the study, the researchers used data from the 2003 to 2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Every year, this survey asks a sample of adults in the U.S. about their health. Participants answer questions about what they eat. They also give information about their activity level and other habits, such as smoking.

The good news: More than 7 out of 10 adults said that they don’t smoke. Plus, close to half logged in enough exercise. But many adults fell short of keeping their weight in check and eating right. And alarmingly, only about 3 in 100 people in the survey met all 4 healthy lifestyle habits.

Where do you stand?

If you’re struggling to live healthier, the study shows you’re not alone. To be successful, try making small, gradual changes. They will add up over time. Here are some tips to help you attain the basics of a healthy lifestyle.

Exercise more—Aim for at least 150 minutes of aerobic physical activity every week. That’s only 20 minutes a day. You can fit that in while watching a couple of hours of TV. Do some jumping jacks or run in place during commercials. Other easy ways to exercise include taking a walk during your lunch break or playing basketball with friends. Also keep your muscles strong by doing some strength-training activities a few days a week.

Stop smoking, if you smokeFewer people overall are smoking now. But quitting can be hard. Talk with your healthcare provider about the latest smoking cessation tools. Over-the-counter options such as the nicotine patch, or prescription medicines may help. Be sure to tell family members and friends about your goal, too. They can give you support when you need it most.

Eat healthy—The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently updated its dietary guidelines for Americans. You can find all the details here. But here’s the bottom line: Cut back on foods high in fat, sugar, and salt. Instead eat more fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products. Another good trick: Skip the sugar-sweetened drinks like soda. They lack nutrients but add lots of unneeded calories.

Watch your weight—Keeping the pounds off is one of the best ways to avoid many long-term (chronic) diseases. Being overweight or obese raises your risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other health problems. Focusing on the above 3 healthy habits will help you better manage your weight.

Here are more tips on living healthier.

 

Online Medical Reviewer: Turley, Ray, BSN, MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2016
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