The Eat Smart, Move More Core Behaviors are eight evidence-based lifestyle behaviors that can improve overall health.
Physical activity is critical for lifelong weight management and overall health. Physical activity refers to any bodily movement that requires energy expenditure, whether it’s for work or play, daily chores, or daily commuting. Because of its role in energy balance, physical activity is a critical factor in determining whether a person can maintain a healthy weight, lose excess weight, or sustain weight loss. Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week and should perform musclestrengthening activities at least two days a week. Adults who want to maintain weight loss or lose more than 5% of their body weight should increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to at least 300 minutes per week. People with chronic conditions or disabilities who are not able to follow the key guidelines for adults should adapt their physical activity program to match their abilities, in consultation with a healthcare professional or a physical activity specialist. Children ages 6 to 17 need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day and should get a mix of bone strengthening, muscle building, and aerobic activities.
Eat more healthy foods, less junk and fast food
Today’s typical American diet is often higher in calories than needed and consists of food and beverage choices that lack nutrient-density. These empty calories are mostly from unhealthy fat and sugar. Similar to a financial budget, food choices can be evaluated by their cost to a daily calorie budget. In these terms, foods high in empty calories are also “expensive” calorie choices that may not fit into a daily calorie budget. Tracking food choices can help determine when and how many calories to spend. To meet vital nutrient needs while staying within a calorie budget, choose more nutrient dense foods, close to their natural state such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean meats, and low-fat dairy, and limit empty calorie foods.
Eat more fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables in their natural state are low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables makes it easier to consume fewer calories. The consumption of low-calorie foods such as fruits and vegetables is associated with better weight management. It is recommended to eat 2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of non starchy vegetables each day, whether fresh, frozen, canned or dried. It is important to choose a variety of colors, with an emphasis on deep green and orange fruits and vegetables, such as spinach, kale, collards, turnip greens, arugula, cantaloupe, and carrots.
Drink more water
Sugar sweetened beverages include any drink that is sweetened with any form of sugar: i.e., corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, or sugar. This includes but is not limited to lemonade, sweet tea, cola, sports drinks, energy drinks. Sugar-sweetened beverages are the leading source of added sugar in the American diet. Sugar-sweetened beverages are ubiquitous in our society and are consumed by an estimated 49% of adults and 63% of children daily. Drinking sugarsweetened beverages is associated with weight gain, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Limiting sugar-sweetened beverages can help maintain weight and protect against weight gain. Make water your go-to beverage.
One in four adults sits for over eight hours per day. This sedentary lifestyle, regardless of physical activity, can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality in adults. The more sedentary a person is, the less likely they are to maintain a healthy weight. Moving more and sitting less, even short episodes of physical activity, has proven immediate and long-term health benefits. Light-intensity physical activity can be a beneficial first step in replacing sedentary behavior. Given the high levels of sitting and low levels of physical activity in the US population, most people would benefit from sitting less and moving more. When adults with chronic conditions or disabilities are not able to meet the above key guidelines, they should engage in regular physical activity according to their abilities and should avoid inactivity.
Start and continue to breastfeed
The health benefits of breastfeeding are well documented. Breastfeeding is associated with a decreased rate of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood overweight and obesity. The duration (the length of time a child is breastfed) and exclusivity (providing only human milk) of breastfeeding are both linked to reducing childhood obesity risk by up to 25%.
Get enough sleep
Insufficient sleep is a widespread problem in the US with as many as one in three adults not getting at least seven hours. Sleep is a restorative process and plays an important role in overall health of the entire body and mind. There is a growing body of evidence on the importance of sleep as it relates to increased risk of obesity. There is a link between low sleep quality and short sleep duration (less than 7 hours) to increased risk of obesity and poor obesity treatment outcomes. Poor sleep (either duration or quality) results in many metabolic and endocrine alterations that can impact risk of obesity. Improving sleep quality and quantity is important in addressing overweight and obesity.
High levels of stress are common in our society. Demands from work and family may cause stress. There are added stress burdens in those who are living in poverty or are food insecure. Stress has been linked to overweight and obesity through multiple interactions. The stress hormone cortisol is secreted during times of stress. This hormone causes higher levels of insulin and can trigger overeating. Stress also interferes with cognitive processes including self regulation. Stress also causes physiological changes that may be related to overweight and obesity, including changes to hunger and satiety hormones as well as changes to the gut microbiome. Studies have shown a relationship between stress and weight in children and adults. Managing stress through mindfulness, physical activity, or other means is an important part of addressing overweight and obesity.