I.e. If I want to live longer and avoid diseases. Should I target to build muscles or to be resistant as a marathoner? Is more exercise always better? (Besides risk of injuries of course)
Though it's a very general question, here's a few guidelines I follow for a healthy life:
- Go active. The Western culture have become way too inactive, a way of life our body is not accustomed to. Especially if you spend hours in a deskjob, make sure you exercise or perform some jogging on daily basis. Saying that, you shouldn't go hard & heavy everyday.
- Watch your diet. It's easy to get lost in all the trends around, but the basic rules are quite simple. Maintain a sufficient intake of protein, consume fat from healthy sources and fit your carbs amount to your weight goal. The last sentence summed up the topic very briefly and you should go deeper to understand it better and create your daily menu.
- Don't overdo. More is definitely not always better. Create a routine that is sufficient but not extreme, so you would be able to follow it in the long term + you wouldn't exhaust your body to injuries. There are plenty of beginners plans for strength training online, most of them are more or less the same (or following the same principles). Marathoners and others who practice sports with extreme physical demands are not improving their health by doing so - health is improved by performing a considered level of sport, and as a hobby, and not a pro, I recommend to stick to this.
- Sleep enough. That's pretty simple actually - sleep is important and you should make sure you sleep enough (at least 7 hours, 8~ recommended).
That was a brief. If you are really hardcore into this subject, you should read about recommended foods as well as foods to avoid, but keep in mind that most of these researches are based only on statistics.
I agree with most of the above. But please remember to
- Enjoy life. There is no reason to live a long and healthy life if you spend all of it being worried about making it healthy or long enough. Live life for life's own sake, life is not a Travelling Salesman Problem to be solved.
So, if I were to be so bold, I'd amend Neria's answer a little:
- Go active - find something you like to do that uses your body. Bowling, fishing, carpenting, talking walks. Don't be afraid to try something new and there exists not a single activity which you cannot make a game of. Make activity a)routine and b)fun and you end up doing it by habit. Remember your brain, it withers as your body without use. Play games, seek out new experiences, learn calligraphy or astronomy or whatever.
I agree with Neria answer, but he missed one crucial point:
- Cold showers (cold exposure in general) has immunostimulating effects. You can see for example this study http://jap.physiology.org/content/87/2/699.short
The cold showering is often overlooked, because it is way too painful in comparison with exercise and diet.