When most people think of the impact of a healthy lifestyle, they imagine having more energy or a better beach body. The truth is that a healthy lifestyle has far-reaching benefits that might surprise you.
Of course, the physical benefits of a healthy lifestyle are the most well-documented, and these effects are typically also the most obvious. Getting regular exercise helps you control your weight, which in turn lowers your risk for many of the most common diseases and health complications. It can also increase your energy, helping you power through errands on your to-do list instead of crashing on the couch after work.
Other benefits to prioritizing health include a longer life and prolonged independence, and you can feel good that you’re helping set a positive example for others to follow. Beyond these familiar benefits, though, living a healthy lifestyle can enhance your well-being in these three less-expected ways.
1. A healthy lifestyle can save you money.
Being healthy is expensive, right? In some cases, eating healthy foods does cost slightly more upfront, but research suggests that it could help you save in the long run. According to the Centers for Disease Control, reducing an overweight individual’s weight by 10 percent could cut lifetime medical expenses by as much as $5,300.
A healthy lifestyle can also save you money every month in the form of a lower health or life insurance premium. Life insurance companies such as Health IQ offer reduced rates to customers who embrace healthy habits such as regular exercise, adherence to a healthy diet, or a high level of health literacy. Likewise, health insurance companies such as UnitedHealthcare work with employers to provide healthcare savings to customers who reach certain goals while wearing a provided Fitbit fitness tracker.
2. A healthy lifestyle is good for your career.
You probably haven’t considered that a healthy lifestyle can improve your career outcomes, but it’s true. Opting for a handful of nuts instead of a donut before your morning meeting will improve your energy level, while sugar-filled processed foods can leave you feeling sluggish. I know I need energy to be able to deliver a keynote and then turn around and teach a three-hour workshop! If I’m feeling groggy, I may be present for those tasks, but the quality will suffer. Reducing the time you spend sitting is another health improvement that will benefit your work. A study by Texas A&M University’s Health Science Center School of Public Health found that stand-capable desks can improve both your physical health and your productivity.
Speaking of productivity, if you’re trying to accomplish more work by skipping your lunch break, you’re probably sabotaging yourself in the end. Research from Tork shows that employees who set their work aside during lunch perform better during the rest of the day. The study found that not only do 90% of workers feel refreshed after a lunch break, but 81% of employees who take regular lunch breaks want to be active members of their company. Taking a lunch break is one good way to avoid the negative effects of burnout and stress.
3. A healthy lifestyle will brighten your outlook.
Studies have linked healthy lifestyles with improved mood for decades, but the connection might be stronger than previously thought. Numerous psychologists suggest that even gentle exercise such as walking can help alleviate depression. And research has shown that the amount of sleep you get affects your mental health. Ensuring you get enough shut-eye will improve your mental health and make it more likely that you’ll succeed at your tasks. That’s why I always try to prioritize sleep, even though it’s tough with a toddler at home!
Other factors in a healthy lifestyle such as a better diet can improve mental health as well. At Deakin University in Australia, Professor Felice Jacka has found that plant foods and healthy fats and proteins improve mental well-being in remarkable ways. “We’re increasingly understanding that the gut is really the driver of health, including mental health,” she says, “so keeping fiber intake high through the consumption of plant foods is very important.” You don’t have to go vegan to reap these benefits. Start with small, easily manageable changes to your daily diet and stick with them to see results.
Making healthy choices isn’t always easy, but keep in mind that a healthy lifestyle has broader implications than you think. Prioritizing your health will impact almost every facet of your life in some way or another, and these three examples are just the beginning.