A woman takes a quick walk on her lunch break and smiles.
A quick walk on your lunch break is all it takes to start the journey to better health. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Only 6.3 percent of adults follow the five basic “do’s and don’ts” that could give them the best chance of being healthy and avoiding often fatal conditions such as heart disease and cancer, according to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A helpful message to the remaining 93.7 percent: Step away from the lounge chairs and put down the junk food.

Two Spectrum Health experts say following just one or two of the recommended items can significantly improve a person’s health.

The five do’s and don’ts:

  • Don’t smoke.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get seven hours or more of sleep each night.

Sounds pretty simple, right? Yet you’d be surprised at how many people have a hard time following just a few of these items.

Kim DeLaFuente, MA, a community exercise educator for Spectrum Health, said that establishing an exercise routine can also help people sleep. When individuals are physically active, they sleep better.

Those who are moderately active should exercise 150 minutes a week, DeLaFuente said, while those who are in top condition only need to exercise about 75 minutes a week.

“The more fit you are, the less you have to exercise as long as you maintain a regular routine,” DeLaFuente said.

If you aren’t in top shape or you aren’t moderately active, you can start by walking, she said. If you have a desk job you should get up every hour, just for a few minutes, and at lunch you should walk for five or 10 minutes.

Even activities such as cleaning the house and gardening are good. And find things to do standing instead of sitting.

“People overestimate what they do,” DeLaFuente said. “Don’t get too hung up on that—something is always better than nothing.”

Eating right is a practice that should become a daily routine, said Jessica Corwin, MPH, RDN, a dietitian and nutrition educator for Spectrum Health Healthier Communities.

You should plan your meals just as you plan your physical activity.

Kitchens should be stocked with fruits, vegetables and whole grains, Corwin said. A balanced diet will have lean proteins and healthy fats such as those found in fish and nuts.

Eating a snack such as potato chips may be OK as long as you don’t overindulge, but it’s certainly better to eat heathy foods such as baby carrots or string cheese, Corwin said.

“Don’t stress yourself out about fulfilling all five at once,” Corwin said. “Do something with one of the steps you’re struggling with.

“Go to bed a half hour earlier, add one new vegetable to your diet, or walk for 10 minutes,” she said. “Take one small step and build from there.”