According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the typical American diet is classified by oversized portions and unhealthy foods. In addition, many Americans do not get the recommended amount of physical activity. Adults 18 to 64 should exercise at a moderate intensity for at least five hours a week or at a vigorous intensity for two hours and 30 minutes a week. A sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits can lead to heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and cancer. With diet and exercise, the body and mind become healthier and the chances of developing chronic disease and other conditions are reduced.
The President's Council on Physical Fitness maintains that the combination of diet and exercise is the single most powerful tool in reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. Weight loss and weight maintenance come down to calories consumed through diet versus calories expended by exercise. To lose weight, the body must expend more calories than it consumes. Through diet and exercise, the body can reach a healthy weight and reduce body fat. In this state, there is a decreased risk of developing chronic disease and other conditions associated with being overweight or obese.
Coronary artery disease is caused by the build-up of fatty deposits and cholesterol in the arteries that pump blood to the heart. A high-calorie, high-fat diet contributes to this build-up. The American Heart Association recommends eating a diet based on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins that are low in calories and high in fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Exercise also has an impact on heart health. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the heart is strengthened by exercise just as any other muscle in the body. The stronger the heart becomes, the more easily it can pump blood and the more open and flexible the blood vessels become.
The Mayo Clinic has found that exercise alleviates depression and stress. Exercise releases "feel-good' chemicals in the brain that reduce feelings of depression. In addition, exercise provides a positive outlet for coping and socialisation and helps people gain confidence when they achieve their goals or when they feel better about their appearance.
Food also has an impact on mental health. A 10-year study published in 2010 revealed that women who ate a diet high in fat and processed foods were more likely to feel depression and anxiety. The Alzheimer's Association also cites a long-term study that found obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure in middle-age adults increased the chances of developing dementia later in life.
To keep the brain healthy, the Alzheimer's Association recommends eating foods like dark-skinned fruits and vegetables that have high levels of antioxidants, as well as fish, which is high is Omega-3 fatty acids. This nutrient is believed to help the brain function more efficiently.
Foods rich in calcium and vitamin D build strong bones. These include milk, yoghurt, cheese and fish. Likewise, a diet void of these nutrients can cause bones to lose mass, leading to an increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Almost all of the body's calcium is found in the bones. When the body does not get sufficient amounts through food, it takes it from the bones instead.
Just like muscles, bones become bigger and stronger through exercise. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends regular weight-bearing exercises to help people build healthy bones. Exercise is especially important for kids to help them develop bones to their maximum density.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Exercise
- Mayo Clinic: Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms
- President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports: Exercise and Weight Control
- Reuters: Healthy diet may benefit women's mental health
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Obesity and Overweight
- National Osteoporosis Foundation: Exercise for Healthy Bones