We know by now that we need to work out, eat the right foods, get plenty of sleep, spend time in the sun and nature, take long walks, and do all the stuff that is “healthy for us,” but sometimes when we’re waking up at 5 am to hit the gym before work or shunning the donuts at the breakfast meeting, it’s easier said than done. To avoid losing sight of just how important staying healthy is for our quality of life, it’s helpful to ruminate on exactly how healthy living can benefit us.
So here’s the quick & dirty top 9 long- and short-term reasons you should stay healthy, eat well, move often, get sunlight and adequate sleep, and generally lead a healthy lifestyle. Stick this list up on your fridge, bookmark it on your phone, slip it into your workout bag, and constantly and frequently refer to it throughout the day to keep you on the straight and narrow.
This is also a great post to share with people who don’t share your intrinsic, instinctual views on health, nutrition, and longevity. It’s a nice way to gently persuade people who haven’t thought of health in this manner.
Healthy living means you get to do more of it. Every aspect and result of a healthy lifestyle helps you live longer:
I could go on and on, but the point is that a healthy lifestyle will almost certainly add to your life both qualitatively and quantitatively.
Thrive Not Just Survive
What good are a few extra years on the calendar if you’re barely conscious and mobile enough to take advantage of them? Extension of mortality is nice, but it’s useless without compression of morbidity. You need to live long and live well at the same time. You need to be able to enjoy your final years, to retain the ability to dance and laugh and play and run and jump as long as you can.
Have More Energy
It might seem counterintuitive that when you are feeling fatigued, you should go exercise, but the reality is working out—be it a quick walk around the block, a heavy lifting session at the gym, participating in a yoga class, or going for an intense hike—can give you the kick that you need to keep going through the day. In the acute sense, exercise stimulates the release of feel-good endorphins that not only make you feel better but also up your energy levels. You have to burn energy to make energy. In the long term sense, the fitter you are, the better you are at generating and accessing ATP in your mitochondria. Getting stronger means you can participate in reality and move through time and space in a more efficient manner.
Avoid Aches, Pains, and Minor Illnesses
All those little niggling bumps, bruises, coughs, congestions, and minor maladies seem to disappear when you take care of the basic healthy lifestyle interventions. All those things that most people assume are simply part of every day life and thereby unavoidable and inevitable turn out to be anything but. It turns out that your body’s immune and detoxification systems rely on the physical substrates and behavioral inputs you provide through diet, exercise, sleep, sun, and other lifestyle considerations. What we’re doing when we live healthily is creating a healthy internal environment that supports and promotes a healthy immune system.
Avoid the Doctor
Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States.5 While that doesn’t mean you should avoid the doctor if you need medical assistance or have a serious injury, it does mean you should minimize avoidable visits. The healthier you live your life, the less frequently you’ll need to visit the doctor and the more likely you’ll be to avoid any serious medical errors.
That doesn’t just save you from unnecessary or necessary medical interventions that go badly. It saves you money. Many senior citizens see their hard-earned wealth frittered away to medical fees in the last couple decades of their lives. Imagine if instead of spending your retirement funds on diabetic amputations and hip replacements you could spend it on your grandkids, travel, fine dining, or adventure.
Be There for your Kids and Grandkids
As a grandpa myself, I relish having the ability to play with my grandkids. Actually play. To get down on my knees and wrestle with them. To take them for “airplane rides.” To toss them up in the air and to simply be a physical presence for them rather than a doddering old man resting on the couch. To see your kids grow up and have kids themselves is a powerful thing, and it’s something that people have been doing for millions of years. I don’t intend on breaking the chain now. Do you?
For my money, looking good is a really underrated reason to live a healthy lifestyle. Before you complain, there’s nothing wrong with caring about how you look. After all, aesthetics in many ways reflect the health of an organism. A beautiful house is a soundly built house that will stand the test of time. A tall proud tomato plant bears healthy delicious fruit. And the same goes for you. Now, you shouldn’t compare yourself with others. I’m talking about improving the way you look to yourself within the context of your own trajectory. Losing excess body fat, building muscle, standing a little taller, a little prouder—these are unequivocally good aesthetic developments that anyone can make.
Exercise is one of the most potent promoters of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a compound that improves cognitive function and even builds new pathways in the brain.6 If we want to learn, if we want to think deeply and agilely, if we want to be creative, BDNF helps with that. The good news is that there’s no strict specific exercise routine you need to do in order to improve cognitive function. Anything works. Going for a walk works—in fact, it’s how I do most of my brainstorming. Lifting weights, going for a run, doing cycle sprints, or playing a game of pickup basketball are all effective ways to boost cognitive function and keep your brain healthy especially as you age.
So much for the dumb jock myth, eh?
Have Better Sex
Did you know that one of the first signs of metabolic issues in men is sexual dysfunction? Did you also know that the primary drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction, Cialis and viagra, also happen to improve health health and increase longevity? That’s all because our health is inextricably linked to our sexual function. The healthier you are, the healthier you live, the better all your parts work, and the more pleasure you can have and give.
This makes total sense. From the perspective of your endocrine system, if your health is poor you probably shouldn’t be reproducing. It’s harsh, but it makes sense on a purely biological level.
It also means that living a healthy lifestyle, getting plenty of sun and exercise, and eating right will probably do more for your libido and ability/desire to perform than any pill.