The following 10 tips to stay fit and healthy have been filched from far and wide. Unbeknownst to them but the NHS, WHO and a number of leading health and nutrition authors have collectively contributed to the 10 tips. Thanks!
Many of the 10 tips to stay fit and healthy are super simple and some are just common sense. But, irrespective of their apparent obviousness, they are still recommended by the leading authorities on human health. So, there must be something in them.
If your objective is to lose weight and improve health, for the best effects apply the weight loss tips alongside an exercise program. This way you will be reducing your exposure to lifestyle habits that undermine weight loss goals while increasing habits that reinforce them. That’s known as a win-win!
For those that have already taken steps to improve their health, but feel that there’s still more to be done, you could be more selective in your approach. As it’s likely that you’ve already implemented some of the strategies, browse the list below and use the quick finder to take you to the tip that you’d like to try out.
10 tips to Stay fit and healthy
Tip #1: Cook at home (and from fresh)
Tip #2: Move more
Tip #3: Stop snacking
Tip #4: Exercise every day
Tip #5: Don’t diet
Tip #6: Live life on the Veg!
Tip #7: Portion control
Tip #8: Form positive relationships and get involved in social groups
Tip #9: There are no quick fixes
Tip #10: Don’t try more than one Tip at a time!
Tip #1: Cook at home (and from fresh)
In his terrific book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollen identifies one key factor that (typically) separates the healthy from the unhealthy, the slim from the fat. That factor is not the consequence of genetic fortuitousness or some fad fitness program (10 tips to stay fit and healthy #9: There are no quick fixes).
Pollen tells us that, across all the years of researching and writing on the subject, a consistent predictor of health is whether people cook at home. The reason? Home-cooked food (from fresh ingredients) is generally much lower in salt, sugar, saturated fat, and refined carbohydrates.
These foods and ingredients have become synonymous with ill health. High salt consumption, according to the New Optimum Nutrition Bible, ‘is associated with hypertension and increased risk of heart disease and stroke.’ The author of The Diet Myth labels sugar as an ‘addictive poison’ and some popular nutritionists have even suggested that it can cause cancer. Saturated fat, Dr Campbell reminds us, has been ‘tied to atherosclerosis and, ultimately, to coronary heart disease.’ And do we need to hear from a leading authority on the health-eroding effects of refined carbohydrates? Okay, then, you asked for it. An article on a respected medical website cites research showing that a ‘high intake’ of refined carbohydrates – such as white bread – can ‘contribute to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes,’ (Medical News Today).
The remedy to removing these foods from your diet couldn’t be simpler. Start cooking at home more. Both your health and your bank balance will thank you for it. Get started with the multi-award-winning cookbook Forks Over Knives.
10 tips to stay fit and healthy - Tip #2: Move more
According to the author of Exercised: The Science of Physical Activity, Rest & Health, the average person in the west spends 90% of their waking day in a sedentary state. That is, sitting on their derriere.
This shocking reveal might be hard to swallow but, when you sketch out the average day of a westerner, it might be a bit conservative. Let’s have a look.
Wake up and watch TV while eating breakfast. (Sedentary!) Drive to work. (Sedentary!) Sit at a desk and type for 8 hours. (Sedentary!) Drive home. (Sedentary!) Make dinner (or order in – tut, tut!). Eat dinner. (Sedentary!) Wash up. Spend the rest of the evening back where we started – in front of the TV. (Sedentary!)
Satirical though that snapshot is supposed to be, it’s sadly quite accurate.
Of course, when the body is idling in a sedentary state, it’s not required to use up as many calories. This means that when our basal metabolic rate has been provided for, which to keep ticking over requires about 1200 calories, much of the surplus will be stored as fat. And considering that we consume between 2000 and 2500 calories in a 24 hours, that’s a sizable surplus.
Simple remedy: start moving more. But how! See the suggestions below:
Cycle or walk to work
Implement this morning exercise routine
Park further away from the office
Set a repeat 20-minute bleeper to remind you to get up and move
Remain in the horizontal position at your desk
Do this 7-minute workout during your lunch break
Go for an evening walk instead of watching the TV. I love my TV though!
Then get a budget exercise bike and peddle while you watch
Try these 7 simple ways to stay active
Tip #3: Stop snacking
Snacking is a surefire way to undermine healthy body weight. A biscuit (or three) here, a chocolate bar, or a bag of crisps there may seem like insignificant treats. And sparingly they probably are. But if these calorie-dense foods are consumed consistently, they can contribute to an increase of fat mass. Here’s what I mean.
Let’s say that the combined calories of your breakfast, lunch and dinner equate to 2000. This amount will happily power your metabolism and leave you with enough energy in the tank for supplementary activities. Now throw a few snacks into the mix and see what happens.
Mid-morning you enjoy a couple of bourbons with your brew. That’s an additional 134 calories. After lunch, you satisfy that sweet tooth with a snickers bar from the canteen. Add another 488 calories to the tally. Around 7 pm you’re feeling peckish and so break open that bag of sugar-coated cashews. Bam! Chuck 364 calories in the kitty.
These three snack foods have ballooned your daily calorie intake by a whopping 50%. Yet, you’ve not increased your activity levels to compensate. If left unchecked, you can see from this crude example how easy it would be to start packing on the pounds.
The problem of snacking is easily rectified. Stop! However, as most of us know, breaking a bad habit is fiendishly difficult. To help ease the burden a bit, I’ve created a simple 7-Step Action Plan for you to try.
7-Steps to Stop Snacking
Step 1: Stick to your three squares: breakfast, lunch, and dinner
Step 2: Sip water throughout the day as it suppresses appetite
Step 3: Swop sugary, salty, saturated fat-laden snacks for calorie-deficient substitutes – celery sticks and cucumber cubes
Step 4: Strike off all snack foods from your shopping list
Step 5: Celebrate the success of a snack-free day – not with a takeaway though!
Step 6: Seek support from friends and family and tell them to keep snacks out of sight
Step 7: Stop! When you’re about to chow down on a snack say the following phrase 50 times: Snacks make me fat! Snacks make me fat! Snacks make me fat! Snacks make me fat...
10 tips to stay fit and healthy - Tip #4: Exercise every day
A mistake many people make when they resolve to lose weight and improve their health is to prioritise exercise. ‘Wait, why’s that a mistake?’ you may well ask. ‘After all, isn’t exercise the panacea to all our health problems?’
Exercise is an essential lifestyle factor that can confer loads of health and fitness benefits. For example, according to Dr Greger, people who consistently keep active enjoy a significantly reduced risk factor for a multitude of medical maladies – type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and certain types of cancer.
Exercise is important but not imperative
But, when it comes to losing weight, exercise is not nearly as effective as we’ve been led to believe. Dr Greger tells us that, ‘actually, physical inactivity ranks down at number five in terms of risk factors for death,’ (How Not To Die). And, in his superb book Willpower, leading psychologist Roy F Baumeister exposes a paradoxical relationship where peoples’ diet gets worse when they start an exercise regimen. (A consequence of the ‘I’ve earned it’ fallacy – ‘I’ve earned this fry up because I went for a plod around the park this morning.’) Yet even though people prioritise exercise, a poor ‘diet is by far our greatest killer, followed by smoking,’ (How Not To Die).
Now, I’m not trying to cast exercise in a negative light. Far from it. Studies abound showing the many positive ways that exercise can improve health, and not just physical health but also psychological and emotional health.
However, it should not supersede diet. In addition, exercise should not be used to justify or exonerate other unhealthy habits. Instead, exercise should be used to support the transition to a healthy lifestyle.
Related: Try these 5 Hacks For Improve Fitness
Tip #5: Don’t diet
Could there be a more contradictory tip title? The ineffectiveness of dieting is well documented. The authors of Willpower serve up a banquet of studies that dispel the diet myth.
What these studies show is that when people enter a period of dieting, they usually do lose weight. But then that should not come as surprise considering most diets involve restricting calorific intake. (The famous Atkin’s diet, which consisted more or less of consuming meat, limited participants to a mere 1200 calories a day – less than is required to sustain our basal metabolic rate.)
Here’s the rub.
After the diet, people put the weight back on. It’s as though your body fights against your attempt to lose weight (Motivation and Emotion). But as we’re reminded in Willpower, often dieters put on more weight and wind up heavier than when they started.
The world's most famous dieter
This is illustrated in the case study of Oprah Winfrey, the ‘world’s most famous dieter’. We are told that when Winfrey’s weight hit 212 pounds, ‘she gave up solid food for four months, subsisting on a diet of supplements, and got back down to 145 pounds. But within a few years, she was heavier than ever, at 237 pounds.’
The cause of this contradictory outcome is a result of complex biological mechanisms. Yes, a reduction in food intake ‘will bring about rapid weight’ reduction. But the ‘system’s response’ triggers ‘other changes that will serve to limit the amount’ of fat lost.
Thus, the effectiveness of dieting diminishes each time. This makes it ever increasingly harder to lose weight in the future and in part accounts for why people who diet find themselves in a frustrating cycle (10 tips to stay fit and healthy #9: There are no quick fixes).
Another negative of dieting is that they are not sustainable. It’s neither desirable nor healthy to subsist off just meat or a single super-sized meal. The single best way to maintain a healthy body weight is to cultivate a plant-based diet that’s rich in fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
Get started with these 10 Super-Healthy Vegan Recipes
10 tips to stay fit and healthy - Tip #6: Live life on the Veg!
In the epic book, The China Study, Dr T. Collin Campbell discusses arguably one of the most important findings in nutritional science: how food impacts human health. The book ‘describes a monumental survey of diet and death rates from cancer in more than 2,400 Chinese counties.’
And after the lifestyle and dietary habits of nearly 100,000 Chinese citizens were meticulously documented, Campbell and his team of dedicated researchers extrapolate a provocative result.
That is, the consumption of meat and/or animal protein increases cancer risk. In support of this link, Campbell cites over 700 research papers and studies that uncover similar findings.
But a diet of animal protein doesn’t just increase cancer risk. Dr Greger, in his book How Not To Die, which is essentially a monolithic literature review of nutritional research, associates the following list of diseases and conditions with an omnivorous diet:
Type 2 diabetes
Coronary heart disease
and more . . .
The great news is that many of these diseases can be completely prevented. And for those that can’t, the risk factor can be dramatically attenuated. ‘My four decades of biochemical research,’ Campbell tells us, which includes the ‘findings from a twenty-seven-year laboratory program’ have yielded a conclusive truth: ‘that eating right can save your life.’
So, what does eating right look like? Simple, it’s living life on the veg! To help you cultivate a longevity lifestyle, Dr Campbell has produced the China Study Cookbook.
Related: 5 Hacks to Improve Health
10 tips to stay fit and healthy - Tip #7: Portion control
If you live life on the veg (10 tips to stay fit and healthy #6) portion control is not so much of a concern. Of course, it would be improper to say that it’s impossible to put on podge when subsistent on a diet of flora (in his book The Starch Solution, Dr Jim McDougal broaches the question of why are some vegans fat). But to do so you’d have to make eating a full-time occupation (or forgo flora for chips, crisps, and confectionaries – which is McDougal’s answer).
Herbivorous animals dedicate most of their day to grazing. Carnivores, in contrast, can go for days between meals. This is a consequence of the disparity of energy that the two food groups contain.
A pound of meat, about a fist-sized portion, is packed to bursting with energy (primarily protein and saturated fat). To get the same quantity of calories from veg, you’d have to eat 12 florets of broccoli, 7 large carrots, and 4 medium-sized potatoes – about a dustbin lid-sized portion. Before you troughed your way through that lot, though, it’s likely you’d acquiesced to jaw ache and/or the ensuing gastronomical fallout.
Vegetables are low in fat but high in nutrients
Because veg is phenomenally low in fat but enormously high in nutrients and insoluble fibre, you can eat it until your heart’s content – or your jaw ceases up. The same cannot be said of the ‘standard western diet’ (SWD).
The SWD is characterised as consisting of high quantities of animal protein, saturated fat, refined carbs, and processed junk. Optimally, it’s best to transition from the SWD to a plant-based whole-grain diet. While making the transition, it’s wise to start cutting down the volume of these foods consumed. You can achieve this by:
10 tips to stay fit and healthy #3: Stop snacking
Reduce the size of meals
There is a third alternative and that’s to alter the ratios of food groups. For example, you could decrease the portion of meat and refined grains (white rice/pasta/bread) while increasing the quantity of veg, whole grains, and legumes.
By implementing this strategy, you’ll reduce your consumption of foods associated with obesity and disease while increasing foods associated with health and longevity (10 tips to stay fit and healthy #1: Cook at home).
10 tips to stay fit and healthy - Tip #8: Get involved in social groups
The winds regarding what constitutes health are changing. Since the early 70s the guiding model – biopsychosocial (BPS) – placed biological health above psychological and social. It is true that the BPS model ‘emphasis the interactions’ between the three factors (Washington University School of Medicine). However, it’s largely assumed that the placement of the factors determines their order of priority.
Hence why diet, exercise, and abstention – not smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, reducing red meat and processed food – are almost universally prescribed as the only methods of improving health.
In the exceptionally well-researched book The New Psychology of Health, the authors propose a reformation and reordering of the old model. While they agree that diet, exercise, and avoiding unhealthy habits are key predictors of longevity, they argue that other, potentially more potent factors ought to take precedence.
Sport and exercise is beneficial for your mental health
For example, they outline studies showing the positive impacts of sports participation. The outcome of the studies is consistent: playing sports and taking part in recreational activities is good for our health. However, the authors identify other positive outcomes that weren’t explicitly explained in the studies.
‘More strikingly,’ they write, in their review of the data, ‘the benefits were not restricted to those who actually’ participate in the sport. It was discovered that people involved in organising sports clubs – coaches, volunteers, and even supporters and spectators – enjoy similar positive health outcomes to the players.
This led to the conclusion that ‘what also matters for health – but what is often overlooked – is the social connection and sense of community that sport provides,’ (The New Psychology of Health – p1) (italics not in the original). Emerging research supports and strengthens this contention. And it explains why the authors have proposed and are propagating the sociopsychobio (SPB) model.
Whereas its predecessor emphasised the biological underpinnings of health, the SPB model flips the ordering in favour of social factors. ‘As recent research has highlighted, social connectedness makes a contribution’ to the reduction of ‘mortality risk’ independently of orthodox interventions.
Tip #9: There are no quick fixes
Keeping fit and healthy is not all about lifestyle interventions. Our psychology, mindset, and motivation arguably play as big if not a bigger role than how much exercise we do or how many pieces of fruit and veg we eat. After all, lifestyle interventions are but theory until we resolve – that is get motivated – to put them into practice.
Thus, with that said, we need to consider our psychological approach before undertaking a lifestyle improvement program. Embarking on something as challenging as a daily exercise routine without first recognising the commitment required will likely result in retrogradation. For not only does exercise place physical demands on us, which many find uncomfortable, but it also eats into our schedule – which often means reshuffling our commitments or jettisoning another activity.
An additional factor that few think about before taking steps to reform their health is how hard it can be. Perhaps it’s just me but the prevailing sentiment of our times is that nothing needs to be worked for. We’re constantly being drip-fed the get-rich-quick ethos. In the real-world worthwhile pursuits – health, fitness, wellbeing – take time and persistence to obtain.
Cultivating a healthy diet and resisting culinary temptations are constant battles. So is deciding to do an hour’s exercise instead of sitting in front of the TV. Reminding yourself that health is hard and that there are no quick fixes will strengthen your resilience when times get tough.
Tip #10: Don’t try more than one Tip at a time!
Forming a new habit takes a ton of effort. How hard was it to get out of bed early and go running for the first time? How much of a challenge was it to cut out chocolate and change to celery sticks? In a word, Herculean!
Anyone who’s attempted to improve their lifestyle knows that breaking bad habits and building good ones is hard work. The fact that positive habit formation is tough is evident in the numbers. Over 85% of New Year’s resolutions are rescinded – before the end of January! And some 90% of smokers committed to quitting cave in after just three days.
The infinite power of Willpower!
As is the case with anything worth pursuing, there are right and wrong ways to go about it. The principal force that powers positive lifestyle change is willpower. And, according to the authors of the book of the same name, Willpower is analogous to a muscle. That is, its strength diminishes with use which weakens its capacity to exert force against a resistance.
It's for this reason that they advocate a one-goal-at-a-time strategy. This way you can focus the full force of your willpower on one lifestyle change. Once the change has been habituated, it takes far less effort to sustain, which explains why that early morning run gets easier as your form a routine. At this point, you’re ready to move on to another tip.
This process is what researchers call ‘performance control.’ It’s about ‘focusing your energy on the task at hand, finding the right combination of speed and accuracy, managing time,’ marshalling resources, and, most importantly, ‘persevering when you feel like quitting,’ (Willpower – p37).
10 tips to stay fit and healthy
Armed with a wealth of ideas on how to stay fit and healthy, all that's left is to implement the tips. Remember, though, don't try more than one or two tips at a time. Also, don't expect instant results. When it comes to weight loss, increased fitness, and improved health the process takes time before results show.
It's for this reason that it's wise to take measurements before implementing the 10 tips to stay fit and healthy. For example, if you fancy yourself a little on the heavy side, and your goal going into these tips is to lose weight and trim up, consider weighing yourself prior to implementing the interventions.
One last thing. If you do decide to have a go at the 10 tips to stay fit and healthy, give us some feedback on how you got on.
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References for 10 tips to stay fit and healthy
Curtis, A. J (2000) Health Psychology. Rutledge. London.
Baumeister. F. R., Tierney. J (2012) Willpower: Rediscovering Our Greatest Strength. Penguin. USA.
Greger, M. Stone, G (2017) How Not to Die. Macmillan. USA.
Haslam. C. Jetten. J. Cruwys. T. Dingle. G. Haslam. A. (2018) The New Psychology of Health. Rutledge. New York.
Holford, P (2004) The Optimum Nutrition Bible. Piatkus. London.
Lieberman, D (2021) Exercised: The Science of Physical Activity, Rest, and Health. Penguin. USA.
Medical News Today article: Bread: Is it food or bad for you? Accessed: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/295235#when_is_bread_not_healthful / (cited on 15/12/2022)
Pollen. M (2011) The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Search for a Perfect Meal in a Fast-Food World. USA. Bloomsbury.
Spector, T (2015) The Diet Myth. W&N publication. London.
Colin Campbell, Ph.D. and Thomas M. Campbell II, M.D (2005) The China Study. BenBella Books. United States.
Washington University School of Medicine article: Three Aspects of Health and Healing: The Biopsychosocial Model in Medicine – accessed: https://surgery.wustl.edu/three-aspects-of-health-and-healing-the-biopsychosocial-model/ (cited on 15/12/2022)