The three pillars of a healthy life

Do you know what the three pillars of a healthy life are? It’s diet, exercise and sleep. Improving just one of these lifestyle practices can lead to a longer life while several studies in recent times suggest that improving all three may be a better way to improve physical and mental health. Diet, exercise and sleep impact one another in many ways. Studying how these practices can influence one another is a main part of understanding why research has shown that the more you improve your lifestyle practices, the better your well being.


Nutrition and diet have an effect on all aspects of your health. Having a healthy and balanced diet reduces the risk of innumerable health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity. It also affects your mental health. Studies suggest that certain diets can reduce the risk of developing anxiety and depression. 

According to research, integrating both a healthy diet and adequate exercise provides more benefits than improving just your diet. You can improve athletic performance and reduce fatigue, when the fluids, carbs and protein are taken in the right combination at the right time. Exercise can become challenging when poor dietary choices are made.

Sleep quality and duration of sleep are also impacted by what we eat. Caffeine is a culprit that makes it tough to fall asleep and eating just before bedtime can lead to disruptions in sleep. Health experts recommend refraining from caffeine before bedtime. Diets that are deficient in nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, vitamins A, C, D, E and having many calories in your diet may make it challenging to get enough sleep.


Exercising has several benefits such as reduced anxiety, lowered blood pressure, and better sleep and they can be noticed immediately. Some of the long term benefits of consistent exercise are better weight management, stronger bones and a reduced risk of more than 35 diseases. There is a decrease in appetite after a high intensity workout for at least 30 to 60 minutes. Physical activity can also make you feel a sense of satisfaction and fullness after a meal whereas sedentary activities have an opposite effect. Research has proven that people who spend more time watching TV consume more calories and they are more likely to be overweight.

A substantial amount of research has shown that 

  • Regular exercise can improve sleep. 
  • Aerobic exercise (such as cardio and running) and resistance exercise (such as weightlifting) can improve quality of sleep.
  • Movement improves sleep but younger people need more exercise than older people to see the same benefits.
  • Exercise at noon or early evening helps with sleep
  • Exercise that’s done before sleep will boost up stress hormones which can worsen sleep problems.
  • One can reduce problems like insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and restless leg syndrome (RLS) by working out. 
  • Exercise can reduce pre-sleep anxiety and improve sleep quality in people suffering from insomnia.
  • 12- week practice of aerobic and resistance training led to a 25% decrease in the seriousness of OSA.
  • 12- week exercise regimen for people with RLS  had lowered the severity of their condition by 39%


It is sleep that gives the body and brain the time to restore and recover, and has an effect on almost every tissue in the body. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the majority of adults require a minimum of 7 to 9 hours of sleep, but nearly one third of Americans are sleeping less than 6 hours per night. Diabetes, heart disease and stroke are some of the health conditions that can arise due to lack of sleep. Concentration and other cognitive functions are impacted due to prolonged sleep deprivation. 

People are likely to overeat and go for unhealthy foods or are more drawn towards high-calorie foods when they don’t get sufficient sleep. Having a larger waist circumference and a high risk of obesity are all associated with chronic sleep loss.

Not only is energy required to exercise but sufficient sleep contributes to a good workout. Sleep gives the muscle tissue time to rest between workouts. Lack of sufficient sleep can lead to being less physically active during the day and lowered muscle strength. More sports injuries have been reported by people who are sleep deprived.

Tips to improve sleep through diet and exercise:

Among the three pillars, sleep is quite often overlooked by most people. In order to improve sleep, having good sleep hygiene promotes  quality of sleep. Here are some tips that improve sleep hygiene through exercise and diet:

  1. No late meals: Make sure you give your body time to digest after consuming large meals. It is suggested to have early dinners.
  2. Stay away from Caffeine: Coffee, energy drinks and soda are stimulants so be aware of them. If you consume caffeinated drinks, try to have them early in the day. In case you are consuming a lot of caffeine during the daytime, question yourself if you are doing it to battle the excessive daytime sleepiness.
  3. Give movement to your body: In order to improve your sleep, schedule regular exercise. Any movement during the daytime is good but it’s much better to exercise regularly a few days a week. Also, try to avoid exercising close to bedtime so that you give your body a few hours to relax before bed.
  4. Get exposed to natural light: Exercising outdoors gives exposure to sunlight that helps in keeping your body in tune with its natural sleep rhythms.

Diet, Exercise or Sleep: Which is the most important one?

All three pillars of a healthy life are deeply intertwined in a way that it’s impossible to say that one is more important than the other. For people who have a busy, hectic life, and are unable to manage all three, they can talk to a wellness expert for customized recommendations. A doctor understands a person’s unique health history and prioritizes lifestyle changes accordingly. They can also refer their patients to wellness experts such as dieticians, nutritionists, physical therapists and sleep specialists for more personalized advice.


Jayashri Jambu
Wellneste Editorial Team
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