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A new study into the health of Americans shines a light on just how healthy – and unhealthy – we are, both mentally and physically. The good news? People are less worried about their weight or being “perfect.” The bad news? People are confused about just how to be healthy. 

The survey, What it Means to Be Healthy Now, is a joint initiative between Parade Magazine and the Cleveland Clinic. And while it highlights Americans' health, the results apply to anyone who is frustrated with trying to live a healthy lifestyle.

"For years, Americans have heard conflicting information about diet and exercise, and many of them are so confused they have just given up," says Mark Hyman, M.D., Director of Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine.

    The Survey Results

    The Good News: We don't buy into the myth about being perfect

    • * 88% think society’s body image expectations are unrealistic. 
    • * 75% would rather be seen as strong than thin.
    • * 68% strongly believe mental health is as vital as physical health

    The Bad News: We're not taking steps to improve our health 

    • 72% wrongly see exercise as more important than diet. 
    • 40% wrongly believe you can eat whatever you like if you work out 1 hour each day.
    • 63% believe there’s too much conflicting information out there.

    We're Confused: Four Things You Can Do Now To Improve Your Health

    The survey authors also provide recommendations on what people can do to become stronger and healthier. The key, they say, is to focus on habits you can do consistently, and to not beat yourself up when you fail. The survey finds that while most people want to be healthier, they are overwhelmed by conflicting information they receive and don't know what to achieve that goal.

    "I tell my patients to look at the quality of food, as opposed to quantity," says Hyman. "Eat foods that come from nature and try to eat them as close as possible to their natural state. The staples in your diet should be food you recognize like vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, and quality meats."

    The authors recommend eating five servings of vegetables a day (see what is considered a serving here). In addition to diet, the study says people should:

    • Get sufficient sleep.
    • Drink 8 glasses of water a day.
    • Get an annual physical or checkup. 

    Watch: Many of us are confused about what it means to be healthy. 

    Strong is the New Healthy

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