The research is really very clear. Health, longevity, and happiness are associated with staying active intellectually and socially, maintaining a positive attitude, and especially with keeping oneself physically fit.
In 2003, Dr. James Fries identified four physical health habits that are protective against disability. In fact, individuals who do not smoke, drink only moderately, follow a diet, and exercise regularly are four times less likely to be disabled than those who behave differently. Studies of the aging process have similarly demonstrated that healthy lifestyles are associated with less cognitive decline, less depression, and fewer medical problems among the elderly.
If you don’t feel good physically, it is hard to be upbeat and positive and as productive as you might otherwise be. Most of us can relate to the fact that it’s hard to think about anything else when we have a headache or toothache or sore toe that rubs against a shoe – even if it’s a temporary and non-disabling problem. Not all physical impairments are preventable, but it makes no sense to not try to prevent whatever we can.
While activities such as starting an exercise program or quitting smoking can be beneficial at any age or stage of physical condition, it can best be accomplished as part of a healthy lifestyle that is implemented as soon as possible.
There is no contradictory evidence.There are no credible studies that suggest that obesity or a sedentary lifestyle or excessive alcohol use is associated with improved cognitive functioning or longevity. However, a healthy lifestyle is not enough. The Mental Health Gym formula for achievement and happiness includes the importance of pursuing intellectual interests and maintaining active social involvements. But a healthy lifestyle is the foundation that enables the building of a solid positive structure for the self that can remain a source of pride indefinitely.