Where To Start When You Want To Optimise Your Health

You could spend forever working out exactly how to live a healthy life — the internet is full of hacks meant to help you optimise each little detail. But honestly, most of the benefits of sleep, exercise, and diet come from just doing the basics right. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, here’s where to start.

Exercise, any kind

You can run, lift weights, do yoga, take classes — there are tons of options. Any exercise is better than none, and if you’re feeling out of shape, try doing a little more than whatever you’re currently doing.

A healthy week’s worth of exercise should include:

  • Some cardio

  • Some strength training

You might be a runner who gets in a few quick strength sessions, or a lifter who hops on the rower for a little cardio once or twice a week. Or maybe you play a sport that gives you a good mix of both in every practice.

If you’re new to everything, explore until you find something you love. Then find a program, team, coach, or long-term goal to structure the rest of your training.

The Right Amount Of Daily Exercise - For Every Fitness Level

Zero exercise is not enough. Going for a walk every day is probably a good thing. And if you're training for a marathon, you'll be on your feet for a couple hours of hard workouts every week. But what is the benchmark for a human being just trying to squeeze enough healthy exercise into their life? Let's break it down.

Read more

Sleep enough

There are entire industries that sell things to people who don’t have enough “energy.” You could buy their vitamins, gadgets, or motivational advice...or you could just get enough sleep in the first place.

If you routinely get six hours or less, fixing that will probably solve a huge number of what might otherwise seem like health or “energy” related problems. Most people need between six and nine hours. The way to get more sleep is usually just to rearrange your morning and evening schedules to allow yourself enough time in the sack.

Eat a non-crappy diet

There are many healthy ways to eat, so don’t worry too much about whether you’ve found the optimal one. All of the healthy diets involve lots of fruits and vegetables, and not too much sugar.

If you’re trying to lose weight, know that all of the diets and fasting schemes out there work the same way: they result in you reducing your calorie intake. Beyond that, they each have their own pros and cons: you might feel more full and satisfied on the high-fat content of the keto diet, or you might prefer the simplicity of intermittent fasting, or maybe you enjoy a lot of the foods you can eat on an old-school low-fat diet.

Whichever you like is fine, but if you’re relying on a diet to manage calories, pick one and stick to it. And remember that your diet matters more than exercise when it comes to weight management.

Reduce stress

This one is a bit more nebulous, but if you’re feeling stressed out all the time, it may be hard to stick to any of the above changes.

Techniques like meditation can help, but often stress comes from everything else in your life: are you working long hours? Worried about making ends meet? Dealing with a new baby or a sick parent?

You may not be able to make those stresses go away, but you may be able to take a look at your life and find ways of coping better with what’s going on, and planning around the stresses you can’t change. Getting actual therapy will help mental health problems more than any amount of meditation or life hacks.

Don’t change everything at once

You’re just setting yourself up for failure if you try to get a ton of exercise and totally change your diet and get a whole new evening routine all at once. (If you tried all that in January and fell off the wagon, you know what I mean.)

Even within each of these domains, pick one thing at a time. Add a cycling class once or twice a week and see how that feels. Next week, find a few healthy lunches and get into the habit of packing them. Take stock of each change after you make it — has this changed things for the better? Would I like to do more? What challenges are in my way? — and before long, you’ll be living a healthier life.


    I disagree that diet matters more than exercise.
    If you dramatically ramp up the amount of aerobic exercise you are doing, eg going from sedentary to running marathons, your weight will drop unless you start eating a lot more calories. And even if you do eat more food, there is still a high chance the weight will drop simply because of the caloric demands of long distance running, cycling eyc. This is even more true if you are obese to begin with and if your body can adapt to the high mileage without breaking down.

      I strongly disagree, diet does matter more than exercise for losing weight

      I feel like you've completely misunderstood their point, they're not saying exercise doesn't affect weight loss, they're saying it's not as effective in weight loss than diet, which it isn't.

      Yes, you will more than likely lose weight if you start running more and no other variable changes, but the impact of eating better is more significant on weight loss than exercise.

      It's obvious they can both contribute to weight loss, however, you can already maintain a normal weight by healthy eating alone, but have you seen how much exercise it takes to burn off a cheeseburger?

      A quick google told me a single Maccas cheeseburger has 263 calories. According to BUPA.com.au's calorie calculator, it takes 30 minutes of running @ 70kg to burn off 245 calories. That's for one cheeseburger..... and not including the rest of the shit one might eat throughout the day.

      How long do you expect people to exercise a day to burn off a poor diet?

      It's simple, eat fewer calories than you burn and you'll lose weight. If you're already a healthy weight and you want to exercise to be healthy, you will obviously need to eat more to maintain said weight.

      TL;DR: Maintain a normal healthy diet for weight, focus on exercise for health.

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