What (Really) is Healthy?

{By Taylor Cartee}

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m constantly bombarded by different exercise programs and diets and cleanses, and it can be difficult to sort out what is truly healthy.

How can you set goals to be healthier if you don’t know what that actually is?

Before we dive in, I want to make an important distinction between healthy habits and weight loss.

While the two are not mutually exclusive, they are not always equivalent. I think a lot of confusion arises when certain diets or exercises are recommended, but the purpose behind the recommendation is not made clear. For example, high intensity interval training, or HIIT, it often touted as being far superior to lower intensity, longer duration aerobic exercise. From the perspective of efficient weight loss this is true because HIIT workouts rev up your metabolism so it burns calories even once the exercise ends.  However, low intensity aerobic activity is crucial to overall health, and it shouldn’t be neglected. If your goal is weight loss, great. Perform a 15-25 min HIIT workout a few times a week. But remember that aerobic exercise is important for the health of your cardiovascular and nervous systems.

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Food:

When it comes to weight loss, food is a simple matter of input vs output. When it comes to athletic performance, the research is also fairly clear: runners and other endurance athletes need a higher percentage of carbs in their diet than weightlifters, who need a higher percentage of protein in their diet.

But what about Paleo vs Plant Based vs Gluten Free vs Raw Juicing vs [insert name of product your acquaintance markets on social media ]? To be honest, you can find research to support just about whichever camp you want to join. The most recent research suggests that food tolerances are highly individualized. So if you feel your diet needs an overhaul, stick the basics: keep a journal of what you eat and how you feel. Focus on eating more real, whole foods than processed foods. Read labels to educate yourself on the content of food. For example, many people think that peanut butter is a good source of protein. It’s not! Most natural peanut butter has 2 grams of fat for every gram of protein, and each gram of fat has over twice the calories of one gram of protein.

Exercise:

Regardless of your fitness goals (or sedentary preferences J ), the surgeon general recommends 150 minutes per week of low intensity aerobic exercise OR 75 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise. You should also perform some sort of strength training 3 times a week. How you strength train will vary according to your activities. At the bare minimum, aim to include a core exercises (such as planks), postural strengthening (pullups or rows), learn to squat with good form (this is a highly functional activity), and an exercise for your lateral hip muscles (such as clamshells).

If you like to run or dance, you’ll want to include single leg stability, and if you swim or do gymnastics or lift weights, you’ll want to incorporate shoulder stability.

Sleep:

This is the least controversial aspect of a healthy lifestyle but it is so often overlooked. Aim for 7-9 hours, preferably the same time every night. Limit screen time in the 1-2 hours before bed.

 

What are your healthy habits? Or what habits do you need to change?

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