Whoever you are, and wherever you live on Earth, you are human, just like I am. Are there any universal truth that most scientific bodies agree upon that can be used to make you live both longer and healthier?

It turns out that the answer is yes, and it’s the job of the World Health Organization (WHO) to actually conduct studies with expert scientists of the world to come up with worldwide applicable recommendations.

Exercise and food are two of the most important aspect of a healthy and long life. And it turns out that you can directly impact this.

1. Exercise

Unlike plants, all animals are inherently moving lifeforms. As with everything, not enough or too much of something is detrimental to health. Physical activity is no exception.

Nowadays, people seems to be less and less active. The WHO notes that 25 % of adults and 80 % of adolescent worldwide are not active enough[1].

Not enough exercise simply increases the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes[1].

Minimum physical activities requirements are given in the following table[2]:

Age Group Recommendations

< 5


5 - 17

Minimum of 1 hour of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per day + 3 times a week of vigorous muscle & bones strengthening

18 - 64

Minimum of 75 minutes (vigorous) or 150 minutes (moderate) aerobic activity per week. Twice as much should actually be targeted. Muscle-strengthening at least 2 days a week

> 65

Same as the previous age group, with the addition of balance enhancing activities at least 3 days a week. If not possible due to illness, stay as active as possible.

According to your job, you may partially already meet those values.

For example, a stonemason would only need to plan for the aerobic exercise, as the muscle strengthening part would already be covered by the job. On the other hand, a waiter may already meet the moderate aerobic exercise values, but would need to plan the muscle strengthening part.

However, if you are an office worker, you will have to plan those extra hours on top of your job.

You need to adapt this to your situation.

2. Food

Food literally is the building blocks of the body. Eating well is key to a better health, and current recommendations are:

  1. Eat a variety of food;

  2. Eat as much vegetables and fruits as you want, but at least 400 g a day (not included: potatoes and other starchy foods);

  3. Prefer vegetable oils to animal fats;

  4. Less than 5% of your energy should come from free sugar (i.e. added sugar, and sugar in fruit juices).

  5. If you eat meat, prefer white meat such as poultry over red meats. Don’t eat meat often.

Food needs by the body is complicated, and it is an under-understood topic, so those recommendations are broad, but relatively easy to implement[3].

3. Conclusion

The 3 Fives poster (archive) is a good flyer that can be used to remember the key points of this article anywhere and everywhere.

Preparing to live long and healthy is something to be started as early as possible.

There are no earlier time than right now, at this very second to start to work on it.

1. Most people don’t exercise enough, according to this article from 2018-02-24: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/physical-activity (archive)
3. Most food recommendations come from 2015-09-14: http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/healthy-diet (archive)