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Although we know developing healthy routines and daily habits are beneficial, their true worth is often overlooked. However, these incredibly important aspects of daily life have significant influence on our long-term quality of life. With Americans living longer, it is more important than ever we strive to live a healthy lifestyle to truly enjoy our golden years.

How do we live better? We live better by adopting healthy daily habits, which then become routines helping to prevent and manage lifestyle diseases. Lifestyle diseases are any disease associated with the way a person or group of people live. Obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and diseases associated with inactivity, smoking, alcohol, and drug abuse are all examples of lifestyle diseases. They result from a combination of factors such as our genetics and physiology as well as our environment and personal behaviors.

We should all strive to live a healthy lifestyle, no matter our age. A healthy lifestyle includes consistently consuming nutritious foods, engaging in regular physical activity, effectively managing stress, and getting adequate sleep.

Our lifestyle consists of many daily routines and habits. Establishing and maintaining healthy routines and habits, may sound like they are the same. However, they are two different behaviors. A routine is a repeated behavior involving a brief time commitment, requiring little conscious thought. A habit much like a routine, requires little conscious thought, however it requires a cue. And after a prolonged absence of the cue, the habit may gradually no longer exist. Whereas a routine is not dependent on a cue.

A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, reported it took on average 66 days before habits became automatic for participants. However, more complex combinations of behaviors, such as physical activity behaviors took 1.5 times longer to become automatic compared to eating or drinking. Therefore, when adding new health behaviors (habits) to your daily routine it is important to understand it will take time and persistence to make them part of your overall lifestyle.

Tracking your habits is a great way to develop healthy routines. Tracking motivates you to act by providing a visual cue about your accomplishments. And it allows you to see your progress on the days you need reassurance. Tracking also holds you accountable. Knowing you will need to track your activity for the day will help you to stay consistent, while providing a great sense of accomplishment when completed. Tracking will also allow you to gain self-awareness to help you live your best life.

Source: Diane Reinhold, MPH, MS, RDN is a University of Illinois Extension, Educator, Nutrition and Wellness, serving Jo Daviess, Stephenson & Winnebago Counties

References:

Arlinghaus, K., & Johnston, C. (2018, December 29). The Importance of Creating Habits and Routine. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6378489/

Lally, P., Jaarsveld, C., Potts, H., & Wardle, J. (2009, July 16). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ejsp.674