The simplest way to get healthy

The Takeaway

This story was originally reported by PRI’s The Takeaway. For more, listen to the audio above.

The idea of getting healthy can be overwhelming when people are bombarded every day by magazines and advertisements offering massive amounts of information on how to get fit. In reality, though, Newsweek reporter Kate Dailey told PRI’s The Takeaway, “there are just four things that you need to do that will make you significantly healthier.”

People need to:

1. Quit smoking.
2. Eat 5 servings (about the size of a tennis ball) of fruits and vegetables each day.
3. Get 30 minutes of exercise 5 days each week.
4. Get to a “healthy” weight. (Though this is really more of a half step, explained below.)

Following these four steps can reduce people’s risk of heart attack by 90 percent, and significantly reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, according to Dailey. The problem is that only about 3 percent of Americans actually do them.

People often focus on the weight aspect, but Dailey stresses that should be the last of the steps. Dailey urges people to think of a healthy weight as an “end result” of the other three steps, or a “state of being” rather than a goal in and of itself.

“Being a few pounds overweight does not at all exclude being healthy,” according to Dr. Andrea Price, an OB-GYN at Women’s Health Alliance of New Jersey. People with Body Mass Indexes in a healthy range often are healthier, but someone with more weight who exercises and eats healthy may be considerably healthier than a person who smokes or doesn’t exercise.

There are many conflicting studies and controversial opinions on how to lead a healthy life. And each improvement requires vigilance. But following those four steps should be enough to get anyone started toward a healthy life.

“The Takeaway” is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH. More at

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