We never get tired of emphasizing the benefits of exercise – this is shown again and again. But a healthy lifestyle consists of more than exercise, and a recently published study from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore recommends four healthy habits for a long and healthy life:
- Regular exercise
- Eating a Mediterranean-style diet
- Keeping a normal weight
- No smoking
Not surprisingly, these habits are especially associated with a decreased risk of heart disease, one of the world’s leading causes of mortality. The researchers examined data on more than 6200 subjects aged 44-84 of different ethnical backgrounds, with all participants being followed for an average of 7.6 years. Those who adapted all four healthy behaviours had 80 % lower death rate over the time period compared to those with none of the healthy behaviours. None of the participants had heart disease by baseline, but during the follow-up time, development of such disease was studied as well.
As a part of the study, the researchers developed a lifestyle score for each of the participants, ranging from 0 (least healthy) to 4 (healthiest), based on their diet, body mass index (BMI), amount of regular moderate-intensity physical activity and smoking status. Only 2 % of the participants satisfied all four healthy lifestyle criteria.
Once again stated: there are no shortcuts to a healthy life. However, the different factors often interact with each other, making it easier to make healthy choices. For instance: do you feel like smoking after a hard training session? Or gobble up the largest burger ever? Probably not – and as a side effect, your weight stays healthy. Starting lifestyle changes with exercise may therefore be smart – hopefully, it gives you more energy and motivation to change the other unhealthy behaviours. Maria Henningsen, CERG