Read Time: 5 minutes

The westernized lifestyle—lack of physical activity combined with poor diet—has led to rampant levels of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and early death. The reasons for this are well documented: time, money, fatigue, stress, and lack of desire. Chronic disease is largely preventable, but we must think differently about our lifestyle—and luckily, lifestyle management has become a trendy thing to do.

Girl reading a book

1. Take care of yourself all day.

Some 76 percent of Americans do not get the recommended amounts of daily exercise. We often think exercise happens at the gym, where for 30 minutes we run ourselves into exhaustion. This can be effective, but few stick with it for more than a few weeks. Lifestyle physical activity, on the other hand, accumulates throughout the day. Walking is one of the most physician-recommended forms of exercise, and daily physical activity can take other forms. Gardening and yard work combine exercise and enjoying the outdoors—plus gardening has the potential for a delicious, nutritious harvest. Inside chores also provide physical activity. Hiking is inexpensive, with quality time for socializing.

2. Don’t worry about joining a fitness club.

Club memberships can be expensive, especially when you add in the cost of clothing and water flasks. Instead, enjoy local parks. Throw a Frisbee to the family pooch. Kick a soccer ball. Play pickleball. Walk or bike local trails. Take a friend and talk through life’s joys and challenges. Many lifestyle choices cost little to nothing.

3. Cook from scratch when you can.

Food is another lifestyle trap. We may eat preprepared dishes with long shelf lives. They are handy but expensive and less nutritious! Add eating out to our food choices and we have a high-calorie, budget-busting recipe for chronic disease.

4. Fight fatigue in a healthy way.

An occasional nap is a great idea. But the real key to fighting fatigue is to produce real fatigue. What you do when you are tired gets you in shape. If you stop when you are getting tired, your body doesn’t change. This is the overload principle. Do a little more than you are used to doing to get in shape. Start easy and work your way up. In hardly any time, you will have the energy you need to get through the day.

5. Recognize your stress.

Mother and son gardening together

Not all stress is bad stress, or distress. Certain types of stress are good stress, or eustress: meeting a challenge, say, or starting a job. Physical stress can be good, such as physical activity, or bad, such as catching the flu. The same goes for emotional stress. The key is identifying the type of stress and using an appropriate coping strategy. If you are emotionally or mentally exhausted, get physical! This releases brain chemicals called endorphins. For half of people with depression, exercise is as effective as medication. Students can lessen mental fatigue with physical activity. For physical stress, such as having a cold, curl up with your favorite book or movie for emotional therapy. This cross-therapy approach to stress is often overlooked. Choosing the right kind of therapy for our stresses takes practice, but it really helps.

6. Find the payoffs that motivate you.

Exercise for exercise’s sake is not the greatest motivator. So find some other payoff: hike to fish a quiet stretch of mountain stream. Or walk with a loved one to build companionship. Gaining good health is about ensuring that you can continue doing things that bring you joy. It is about quality and longevity. Make room for things that matter most—family, friends, and memories. It really is about choosing your lifestyle.

Picture of Keven Prusak

Keven Prusak has spent the past 34 years in the field of physical education and coaching. After graduating from BYU in 1986, he taught math and physical education and coached four sports for 11 years at the secondary level. He holds master’s and doctoral degrees in physical education and, since coming to BYU in 2002, has published dozens of scholarly articles and served as the administrator of the Learning and Teaching Technology Lab in two departments.


Written by Keven Prusak

Photography by BYU Photo