Physical Health and Wellness


Congratulations on taking an interest in your health! On this page, you'll find information and links to resources that well help you reduce your risk of chronic diseases and keep you healthy and fit.

Risk factors associated with chronic diseases

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services defines a chronic disease in general terms as an illness that lasts a long time, does not go away on its own, is rarely cured, and often results in disability later in life.

The four leading causes of non-communicable diseases are cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes, and chronic lung diseases. Chronic diseases account for nearly 2 out of 3 deaths each year in this country. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reports that chronic disease accounts for 7 out of 10 deaths in our state.

Despite being the most common and costly of all health problems in the United States, chronic diseases can be prevented. The four primary risk factors that lead to chronic diseases are:

  1. Lack of physical activity
  2. Poor nutrition
  3. Tobacco use and exposure
  4. Excessive alcohol consumption

The sixth and latest edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, places stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity. Below, you will find easy ways to increase your physical activity and follow a more nutritious diet to reduce your risk of chronic disease and live a healthier life.


Get enough fruits and vegetables

Information from GO Chippewa Valley (Sacred Heart/St. Joseph's Hospital) and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

  • Two cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables per day are recommended for a reference 2,000-calorie intake, with higher or lower amounts depending on the calorie level.
  • Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. In particular, select from all five vegetable subgroups (dark green, orange, legumes, starchy vegetables and other vegetables) several times a week.
  • Canned vegetables can be just as healthy as fresh vegetables, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. However, be mindful of sodium content (which is added sometimes to enhance flavor) and look for low-sodium options.
  • Use the MyPlate diagram as a portion guide for your meals

Be physically active

Information from GO Chippewa Valley (Sacred Heart/St. Joseph's Hospital)

To reduce the risk of chronic disease in adulthood: Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, above usual activity, at work or home on most days of the week.

To help manage body weight and prevent gradual, unhealthy body weight gain in adulthood: Engage in approximately 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity on most days of the week.

To sustain weight loss in adulthood: Participate in at least 60 to 90 minutes of daily moderate-intensity physical activity while not exceeding caloric intake requirements. Some people may need to consult with a healthcare provider before participating in this level of activity.


Tips to keep motivated:

  • Don't fall for "all or nothing" thinking. To condition your heart and lungs, regular exercise does not have to take more than 30 to 60 minutes, three or four times a week. If you don't have 30 minutes in your schedule for an exercise break, try two 15-minute periods or even three 10-minute periods.
  • Focus on the benefits, such as burning calories, finding more energy and stamina, lowering risks of heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases, building muscle strength, and losing weight.
  • Do what you enjoy. If dislike organized sports, choose an easy activity that you enjoy such as walking, dancing or swimming.
  • Make goals you can keep. If your long-term goal seems difficult to reach, break it down into shorter, more manageable goals. For example, if you want to walk a mile a day, begin with a quarter mile, and work your way up. By setting short-term goals, you’re less likely to get discouraged.
  • Focus on your progress. As you start feeling more fit, remember how you felt when you were just starting out and feel proud of what you're accomplishing.
  • Be flexible. If your current routine is losing its appeal, look around for other activities you might enjoy. Consider getting friends or family members involved so you can encourage each other.

From the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the American Council on Exercise (ACE)

Drink less sugary beverages

Why should you be mindful of sugary drinks? Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reports these health facts:

  • People who consume sugary drinks regularly—1 to 2 cans a day or more—have a 26% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who rarely have such drinks.
  • A study that followed 40,000 men for two decades found that those who averaged one can of a sugary beverage per day had a 20% higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from a heart attack than men who rarely consumed sugary drinks. A related study in women found a similar sugary beverage–heart disease link.
  • A 22-year-long study of 80,000 women found that those who consumed a can a day of sugary drink had a 75% higher risk of gout than women who rarely had such drinks. Researchers found a similarly-elevated risk in men.
  • Dr. Frank Hu, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, recently made a strong case that there is sufficient scientific evidence that decreasing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption will reduce the prevalence of obesity and obesity-related diseases.

According to, regular soda, fruit drinks, and energy drinks have the highest median sugar content at 24 to 29 grams (totaling 100 to 110 kcal) per 8-ounce serving. However, many drinks had much more sugar than this. For example, just one serving of Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid Cranberry Juice Cocktail contained 57 grams of sugar.

Tips for choosing healthy drinks:

  • Water is always the best choice – for variety, add pieces of fresh fruit, veggies or fresh herbs
  • Choose plain, low-fat or fat-free milk – make sure to avoid flavored milk, which may contain 13 grams or more of added sugar
  • Choose 100% juice in moderation (no added sweetners)
    • Children under age two should not consume any juice
    • Children over two should have no more than a small serving per day


Eat less high-energy-dense foods that are high in calories

In general, people eat a fairly consistent volume of food every day. Think of it as an average number of mouthfuls of food. By choosing foods that are lower in calories but higher in volume, you will feel full without taking in a high level of calories.


Select foods that have one (or more) of the following attributes:

  • Low in fat (fat delivers double the calories of carbohydrates or proteins)
  • High in fiber (fiber delivers bulk or volume but no calories)
  • High in water (water adds volume but zero calories)

Some strategies when at the store:

  • Vegetables are naturally low in calories but high in nutritional quality and volume because of high fiber and water content
  • Whole grains are naturally high in fiber but low in calories
    • make sure you see the word “whole” on the ingredients listing, not just the front packaging.
  • Fruits are high in fiber and water content as well.
    • be careful of dried fruit, which means water has been removed and calories concentrated
  • Fish, poultry and leaner cuts of meat are good sources for lower energy density foods