Proper nutrition and physical activity are important aspects of healthy livings as their contribution to reducing the rates of chronic diseases is a well-established fact. On the other hand, unhealthy eating habits and lack of physical exercise lead to diseases such as diabetes, obesity, stroke, heart diseases, and osteoporosis, which can sometimes be fatal.
The findings of a study conducted in 1990 established that 14% of all deaths in the U.S. could be attributed to poor eating habits and physical inactivity with sedentary lifestyles, a contributor to 23% of disease-related deaths. Healthy eating habits involve the inclusion of fruits, vegetables, and important minerals in the diet and the reduction of saturated fat intake.
Regular physical activity is essential for healthy living as it reduces the chances of developing coronary heart disease. The reduced physical activity and the changes in eating and dieting habits have long-lasting health consequences on the general health of the public, particularly the children and adolescents.
Nutrition and Healthy Eating
Developing good eating habits for children and adolescents is important for their long-term nutritional well-being. Proper nutrition, together with regular physical activity, enhances proper physical growth, promotes positive self-esteem, and promotes the children’s capacity to learn. In addition, good nutrition and physical activity also prevent diseases such as obesity.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been a rapid increase in the rate of children becoming overweight over the past twenty years, attributed to poor nutrition and exercise habits. Proper nutrition and physical exercise habits are important in maintaining a healthy living, and this can be started at an early age.
The parents eating habits influence the children’s feeding practices, and therefore, teaching children healthy eating habits in schools would make them practice healthy behaviors throughout their lives. Increased consumption of vegetables and fruits with a reduction in fat intake coupled with physical activity are among the healthy habits to curb the overweight problems in children.
The consequences of physical inactivity and poor dietary habits in children and adults alike are obesity, which is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30k/m2.
The prevalence of obesity increased among the population between 1991 and 2000, affecting all the segments of the population in the U.S. Obesity is the major cause of health complications, including diabetes (type II), hypertension, heart diseases, stroke, osteoarthritis, respiratory complications, and some cancers.
The socio-economic consequences of obesity, now an epidemic, are overwhelming. The intervention strategies usually focus on promoting good eating habits, including a reduction in calorie intake and helping people increase their physical activity. In children, breastfeeding prevents excessive weight gain and obesity in early childhood and adolescence and, thus, a good strategy of reducing childhood obesity.
For adults and young people, poor dietary habits and lack of physical activity increase the risk of developing health-related complications. These segments of the population have an increased risk for chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels.
By establishing healthier eating habits combined with physical activity, the onset of these diseases would be prevented. Additionally, active lifestyles and healthy eating behaviors help people with chronic diseases to cope with or control the effects of the diseases and prevent deterioration of their physical condition.
Healthy Living Strategies
In order to promote healthy living and prevent complications arising from poor eating habits such as obesity, various healthy living strategies involving behavior change are important. To reduce health-related complications in the elderly, regular physical exercises and sporting, including jogging and regular visits to the gym, can be very helpful.
Given the immense benefits of physical exercises, social support is one way of motivating people to remain physically fit and live healthy lifestyles. This can be achieved by providing programs that help people incorporate exercises into their daily routines.
Furthermore, increasing community-based programs and facilities would encourage people to exercise and in the process, live healthy lifestyles. Increased consumption of vegetables and fruits with lower calorie intake lowers the incidences of diseases, including cardiovascular diseases and some cancers.
Excessive intake of saturated fats is the major cause of cardiovascular diseases and cancers. Therefore, to achieve healthy living, the diet should constitute plenty of fruits and vegetables and less saturated fat. Daily consumption of at least two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables is recommended for healthy living; however, less than 25% of the U.S. population consumes this.
For young children and adolescents, school-based physical education (PE) enables students to engage in physical activities to promote their physical well-being and learning. Prolonged television watching among children and adolescents increases overweight incidences among children.
This may be because television watching leads to a decline in calorie-burning physical activity and reduces the children’s metabolic rate. Furthermore, television watching may influence the children’s eating habits contributing to an increased risk of obesity.
Physical inactivity and poor eating habits cause health-related complications such as obesity and heart diseases. The intervention methods usually focus on promoting physical exercises and healthier eating habits. Given the current increase in health-related diseases, it is evident that reduced physical activity and unhealthy eating habits have adverse impacts on the general health of the public, more especially the young people.
CDC. Healthy Youth! Childhood Overweight, 2006.
DHHS. Healthy People 2010. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. 2000.
McGinnis, John, and Foege, Wrights. “Actual causes of death in the United States.” JAMA 37.2 (1993): 2207-12.
Ness, Amie, and Powles, Jacobs. “Fruit and vegetables and cardiovascular disease: a Review”. Int. J Epidemiol 26.4 (1997): 7-13.