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4 everyday ways to improve your physical and mental health

By Alice Gomstyn

Has your doctor ever suggested you work out more, eat better, cut down on stress or go to bed earlier? You’re not alone. Experts widely consider exercise, good nutrition, relaxation and sleep crucial to healthy living. And your Medicare plan may be able to help you incorporate these so-called “four pillars” of good health into your daily routine. Some Aetna Medicare plans, for example, offer health coaching, no added cost membership to a participating gym or fitness location, and help finding local resources to help caregivers and members.

While the four pillars of good health help keep your body running, they also do wonders for your emotional well-being. The key is to pay equal attention to each pillar, as ignoring one could impact your ability to sustain the others, says Dr. Jamie Sharp, chief medical officer for Aetna Medicare. Eating foods that are heavily processed or high in sugar, for example, could leave you feeling sluggish, slow and heavy, making it harder to stay active and energized. Likewise, you may find it hard to fall asleep if you’re still tense about something that happened earlier that day. "It’s important to create a balance among the four pillars, such as ensuring a healthy diet, taking daily walks or bike rides and devoting 7-8 hours to restful sleep each night,” Dr. Sharp explains. “We all know life can get in the way and cause us to go off track. But resuming our dedication to the four pillars as often as possible will lead to a sharp mind and strong body."

Here’s a closer look at how each pillar can impact your mood, plus simple ways to work each element into your daily routine.

The 4 Pilliars of Health infographic

The Four Pillars of Health


Taking care of your body isn’t just good for your physical health – it can also improve your emotional well-being. For best results, try for a balance of these four components of wellness.

Nutrition, Exercise, Relaxation, Sleep. These pillars work together to keep your mind and body healthy.

Nutrition. A healthy diet promotes bacteria in the gut that helps “feel good” signals get through to the brain.
Tip: Make healthy food swaps, like trading white rice, pasta and bread for whole-grain versions.
Aim for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Exercise. Moving your muscles produces endorphins and a chemical that helps the brain deal with stress.
Tip: Walking, aerobic exercises, weight training, and yoga or Pilates are all good activities to consider when starting a fitness plan.
Aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day.

Relaxation. Mentally unwinding can reduce stress and anxiety as well as increase energy and focus.
Tip: Deep breathing, visualization and meditation are all effective relaxation techniques.
Aim for 10-20 minutes of deep breathing practice a day.

Sleep. A good night’s sleep helps lower stress, improve concentration and boost emotional stamina.
Tip:  Put away electronic devices an hour before bedtime. Their light can confuse your internal clock.
Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night.

The 4 pillars of health

About the author

Alice Gomstyn is a veteran parenting blogger and business reporter. She is an admitted sugar addict but plans to cut back on the sweet stuff and load up on veggies like never before. Bring on the broccoli!

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