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10 Ultimate Rules of Good Health

Attaining total health can feel like a juggling act. You've got a chia-seed yogurt in one hand, a kale-spinach salad in the other, and all too often, you drop both to catch a big ol' flame-broiled burger.

But a healthier life is attainable if you turn that juggling act into a balancing act: Eat right, sleep well, de-stress enough, work out and, oh yeah, manage your day-to-day responsibilities.

It can be done. We're here to help, with advice from Dr. Steven Lamm, director of the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Men's Health at New York University Langone Medical Center, and author of No Guts, No Glory: Gut Solution—The Core of Your Total Wellness Plan.

Here are the 10 fundamental rules you need to get happy and healthy—for life. Step one: Cheer up! Even just remembering to smile is a way to stay healthy and keep your blood pressure down:

You Need a Doctor Focused on Wellness

"Get a doctor that meets your personal needs and understands the difference between treating an illness and helping and guiding you through the wellness process," advises Lamm. You need to find a doctor who will be interested in the steps you've taken to overhaul your total health, rather than simply treat a respiratory infection or draw blood for an annual checkup, says Lamm.

Food Should Be a Nutrient, Not a Drug

woman eating salad

"Think of your body as a Ferrari. You want to put in the best fuel you can at least 80–90 percent of the time," says Lamm. People often use food as an antidepressant and choose treats with little nutrient value that they think will make them feel better, notes Lamm.

Unsure about the comparison? Foods containing high-fructose corn syrup as well as sugar, fat and taste enhancers can lead to behavioral reactions similar to those caused by drugs such as cocaine, reveals a 2013 study by Francesco Leri, associate professor of neuroscience and applied cognitive science at the University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada. And in a 2013 animal study, researchers found that Oreos had a greater effect on the pleasure centers of the brain than even morphine or cocaine.

Sleep Is As Critical As Food and Water

"If you cannot sleep, you cannot be well," says Lamm. Failing to get a good night's sleep can disrupt a person's circadian rhythm, which regulates blood pressure and hormones, he notes.

Your mood and work performance aren't the only things that will suffer, though. Sleep plays a critical role in maintaining properly functioning memory and sexual performance as well as avoiding weight gain, says Lamm. Getting enough sleep is crucial to regulating the fat storage hormone, cortisol, and the I'm hungry hormone, ghrelin—meaning, getting adequate rest may make slimming down far easier.

Your Mind and Brain Need a Breather

woman meditating
Taking a few moments out of the daily grind is essential to reduce stress, which makes you vulnerable to illness. Ways to give your mind and brain a "time-out" include breathing exercises and meditation, suggests Dr. Gregory Lewis Fricchione, director of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Better yet, try doing some yoga. You'll not only banish stress, but also tone your body in the process. Check out the 7 Reasons You Should Be Doing Yoga Now for a complete run down of all the ways it does a body good.

An Exercise Regimen Should Be Balanced

Your regular exercise routine should include a mixture of muscle building, stretching and aerobics, which provides cardiovascular conditioning, says Lamm. The Mayo Clinic recommends that a workout regimen have five elements: aerobic fitness, strength training, core exercises, balance training and flexibility and stretching. Need more motivation to skip your favorite class once a week? It will help you slim down. Not mixing up your workouts is one of 7 Fitness Mistakes That Prevent Weight Loss.

Recovery Is As Important As Exercise Itself

woman stretching after workout

Recovery is an essential component of fitness that enables the body to adapt to stress, helps restore energy reserves and allows for repair of body tissue. "If you don't recover, your pulse rate is going to go up every morning instead of down, and then you've got a problem," says Lamm. Try combining high-intensity activity with low-intensity periods, which proved effective for cyclists in a study at the University of Stirling, in Scotland.

Keep Your Waist Slim

Maybe you're not looking for chiseled 6-pack abs. That's ok, too. If you're aiming for a basic level of fit and healthy, track your waist measurement for an easy guideline. Waist circumference can give you a better indicator of obesity more so than body weight, according to Lamm. "If you can keep your waist below 34, you're probably in pretty good shape," he says. A waist circumference over 34 means "you're starting to build enough fat that puts you in danger of developing diabetes, heart disease or cancer," notes Lamm.

Be Social

friends having coffee
No, we're not talking about Facebook. Make a date to spend some quality time face to face; your body and mind will thank you. Social people are predisposed to better health, according to Fricchione. Make sure you put down the smartphone and focus on your friends once you're together, too. Social support and expressing love can improve overall resiliency, "and your capacity to give social support also has a tendency to feed back to you and pay dividends to your own health," notes Fricchione.

Keep Attainable, Realistic Goals

Mix in some reality into your training plans as well as your aspirations for healthy living, advises Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, founder of the University of Ottawa's Bariatric Medical Institute and author of Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work. That doesn't mean you can't give yourself a good challenge, just make sure your goals are a mix of the two. "Setting goals that aren't attainable is a recipe for disappointment," Freedhoff says. Don't forget to go easy on yourself, either. Getting to the gym 4 days a week rather than the 7 you were aiming for is still a great result.

Think Long Term, Not Short Term

father and son having ice cream

"It doesn't matter about your weight or fitness a month from now or two months from now; it matters a year or two from now," says Freedhoff. When we're talking about your health years down the road, we're talking about your ability to play with your kids and grandkids, travel well into your older years and maintain some of your favorite hobbies. Let that be your motivation. Long-term health is more important than setting an arbitrary weight-loss goal for two months from now, according to Freedhoff. "People take these really short-term outlooks," he notes. "They try hard and then quit."

That's How Maria Menounos Lost 40 Pounds and kept it off. She follows what she calls her "50-year plan" for staying fit, happy and healthy. And it sure hasn't failed her yet.

Courtesy of Men's Fitness

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