A Healthy Lifestyle - The Basics

Beginning on the road to improving your health can be confusing. The Canyon Ranch Center for Prevention and Health Promotion wants to help you as you begin to improve your health. In this section, you'll find useful information to help get you started.

Reading Nutrition Facts Labels

Portion Sizes

Over the last few decades, portion sizes have increased considerably. Large portions of food typically have a lot of calories, so eating big portions can lead to weight gain. Unfortunately, it can be hard to tell how much you’re actually eating, especially when large portions are the new normal. Becoming aware of “portion distortion” is the first step to making better choices. It’s also key to learn how to correctly measure portions, so that you know when you’re eating too much or not enough.

Hydration and Beverage Choices

Your body is about 60% water. Hydration helps maintain bodily fluids and processes such as digestion, absorption, circulation, transportation of nutrients, maintenance of body temperature, and creation of saliva. Drinking water has many benefits:

  • Water contains no calories, fat, carbohydrates or sugar.
  • Water can help control calories when used as a replacement to high-calorie, sugar-laden drinks.
  • Water helps to energize muscles by replenishing fluids lost while exercising, which prevents muscle fatigue.
  • Water helps keep skin looking fresh, smooth and clean.
  • Water helps your kidneys function and chronically drinking too little water may put you at higher risk for kidney stones.
  • Drinking plenty of water also helps maintain normal bowel function.

Try making flavored water but adding fruits to your water! Check out our handouts for how to make flavored water.

Physical Activity Guidelines

Being physically active can improve our lives in many ways; exercise can improve sleep, reduce anxiety, reduce body weight and fat, and decrease blood pressure. It’s recommended that everyone engage in moderate to vigorous activity for at least 30 minutes a day, 3-5 days a week. You don’t have to do all 30 minutes at once. You can take a 10-minute walk at lunch and a 20-minute bike ride with the kids after dinner.

Check out for more ideas! General Physical Activities Defined by Level of Intensity


Body Fat Percentage and BMI

The Body Mass Index or BMI is a simple measurement used by health professionals to screen for overweight and obesity. BMI is a measure of weight relative to height. Based on this number, people fall into 1 of 4 categories: underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese. BMI is important because many health risks are related to being outside of a normal body weight. The BMI has some limitations, but is a good guide for most adults.

Adult BMI Calculator

BMI is an indicator of body fat for most adults, with some exceptions, such as in athletes. Having a body fat percentage that is outside of the healthy range increases the risk for many health issues. Most body fat measuring methods require special equipment and/or an experienced professional. Today, you can buy home scales that also give body fat percentage. Below are the body fat percentage ranges:

Body Fat Recommendations



Source: Gallagher et al. Am J Clin Nut 2000; 72:694-701