When you think of the “image of health,” what comes to mind? Do you ever see a person in their 80s who is unable to care for themselves? Is it more common to see that same 80-year-old person living in their own house and doing their own yardwork? The latter, while seemingly unattainable to many, is not. In truth, you have complete control over the situation. Aging is a natural part of life, but it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Taking control of your own health and fitness is not only possible, but it can also be quite rewarding.

A healthy diet and regular exercise habit are the two most important components in ensuring a healthy lifestyle. Since the dawn of fitness culture, individuals have been told that the only way to be deemed “fit” is to put in long days of cardiovascular training. This is not the case, however, in terms of good health and fitness. Only one thing is required for optimum health and fitness: proper muscle tone and mass.

A lot of folks don’t give this a thought at all. The problem is that we’ve been conditioned to believe that being healthy and fit just entails being thin and eating like a bird. In no way am I implying that you need to have the physique of an Olympic body builder if you want to succeed in this endeavor. Your natural muscles can be used as a starting point for building strength and muscle tone. In order to get the best results, you should work out 2-3 times a week for roughly 30 minutes each time.

Muscles, on the other hand, naturally burn fat. You should not have to worry about fat mass because you will already be working it off while working out and toning your muscles. Clearly, this is a good first step toward a healthy lifestyle. But don’t forget to make these changes a permanent part of your life if you want them to work.

Okay, so eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is an important part of taking care of your muscles and your overall health and fitness. To put it another way, stop starving yourself and make sure you’re getting enough calories to keep your body functioning properly. The recommended daily calorie intake for the average adult is between 1500 and 1800. You’ll likely be on the larger end of the scale if you follow a decent strength training program. You’ll discover what works best for you over time, as each person is unique.

If you really want to improve your health and fitness, you should stick with fruits and vegetables, lean meats (especially poultry), low-fat dairy products like milk and yogurt and whole grains like oats and quinoa. You will be the picture of health and fitness if you consume 80 percent of your calories from these items. That 80-year-old doing his or her own yard work? That’s the kind of person everyone either envies or aspires to one day emulate.