The 5 Most Basic Rules of Health and Fitness

I write about health and fitness basics all the time. In a world full of mindless hacks and cleanups, doing this is more important than ever. In an effort to further reduce the noise, I’ve teamed up with Michael Joyner, a physician, researcher, and expert in human health and performance at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to present the most essential basics: seemingly obvious principles to follow if you’re trying to run a marathon or just live a long and healthy life.

Do Something Active Every Day

You don’t have to make heroic efforts, but you do have to use your body every day, whether it’s a brisk walk, a hike, or an hour in the garden.

Decades of studies show that just 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily reduces the risk of heart diseaseAlzheimer’sdepression, and many types of cancer.

Do Stay Engaged in Life

Participating in activities that you find meaningful and in groups that interest you increase the quality and quantity of life. Studies show that people who have a strong sense of purpose—in other words, a reason to wake up every day—tend to outlive those who don’t.

Other research points to strong social interaction as critical to mental and physical health.

Don’t Overeat

Keeping calorie intake in balance with calories burned is critical. Obesity is one of the most serious threats to health in the world. A recent study in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine found that obesity has doubled in more than 70 countries since 1980 and is responsible for more than 4 million deaths each year.

Another study found that obesity is now the second leading cause of premature death, after tobacco.

Don’t Drink to Excess

Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with a number of chronic diseases such as liver cirrhosis, throat cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

Drinking too much also impairs sleep and daily function. The good news is that if you like alcohol, drinking reasonably (one drink a day for women and up to two for men) poses minimal risk.

Never Smoke

At this point, it’s common knowledge, but it bears repeating: There’s absolutely nothing more damaging to health, wellness, and fitness than smoking.

It is associated with dozens of cancers, as well as heart disease, dementia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

According to the American Cancer Association, smoking causes one in five deaths in the United States, killing more people than alcohol, car accidents, HIV, guns, and illegal drugs combined.

If you smoke, there’s good news: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, your body literally begins to repair the damage caused by smoking within days of quitting.

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