If you think of a healthy lifestyle in terms of what it can do for you in the near future, you’re not alone. It takes a mindset of trust and delayed gratification to bank on the long-term advantages of living a healthy lifestyle. 

Having a short-term goal isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most of us have just enough vanity to want to look our best when seeing people we haven’t seen in years. So, that upcoming wedding or class reunion may be the swift kick in the behind needed to get you heading in the right direction.

But those baby steps need to be part of a habit-changing, lifetime journey. The advantages of living a healthy lifestyle come from sustained commitment, not from a rollercoaster approach to diet and exercise.

Short-term benefits of cleaning up your lifestyle include desirables like shedding unwanted pounds, gaining muscle mass and having more energy. And enjoying your new glow and more fit physique will boost your self-esteem, which will inspire you to stay on-track.

The long-term advantages of living a healthy lifestyle aren’t always so visible. But they should be anchored in your mindset regarding your health and habits. You may have immediate goals in mind, but you could actually set yourself up for long-term problems if you embark on a pattern of weight cycling.

Yo-yo dieting can lead to increased weight and fat gain over time. It can also speed up muscle loss and put you at higher risk of cardiovascular problems, fatty liver and diabetes. The advantages of living a healthy lifestyle essentially lose their edge each time you cycle up and down in weight.

By committing to a proven program of healthful eating and regular exercise, you open yourself to a new (and longer) life of health benefits. 

Something as simple as adding fruits and vegetables as a main staple to your diet can reduce your risk of several diseases and chronic conditions. Because they are nutrient-dense and low in calories, fruits and vegetables will help maintain a healthy weight. And when the fat pounds come off, the risk of metabolic syndrome and the diseases in its wake decrease.

Why is this issue of weight so important? Because so many health risk factors cluster together. They occur in unison, their combined effects lead to predictable diseases, and they respond similarly to lifestyle modification. 

And what is the most visible sign that this catastrophic cluster is going on beneath the surface? Abdominal (or visceral) fat. 

One of the most obvious advantages of living a healthy lifestyle is slimming down your midsection. When that organ-weaving fat melts away, so does much of your risk for heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers.

Not sure what to aim for on the scale and tape measure? Read here for some guidelines to help you understand the relationship between your weight, waist, and health risks.

Whether you are on or off the “healthy lifestyle bandwagon,” everything you do (or don’t do) has a carry-over effect. When your weight becomes more manageable, for example, your joints get a reprieve. And when your joints aren’t aching, you enjoy exercising more. And more exercise equals more fat lost, more muscle gained, and higher bone density. It also strengthens your heart and increases your lung capacity.

And don’t forget about all the mental and emotional advantages of living a healthy lifestyle. Instead of cortisol rushing through your vessels, your body is drinking up endorphins produced from regular exercise. You feel better, sleep better and think more clearly. You also decrease your chance of getting depression, or can better manage it if you suffer from it. 

One of the most impressive advantages of living a healthy lifestyle is the decreased likelihood of suffering memory loss and dementia. It’s easy to think of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia as being limited to the very old in their final years of life. But dementia develops slowly over many stages. Living a healthy lifestyle now can help preserve a healthy life later.

Reaping the long-term advantages of living a healthy lifestyle requires that healthy living be a habit. And habits develop over time with commitment, planning and support. 

With the motivation of both a healthier life and a longer life to inspire you, isn’t now the perfect time to start a new habit?