Following a healthy lifestyle often seems incredibly complicated.

Advertisements and experts all around you seem to give conflicting advice.

However, leading a healthy life doesn’t need to be complicated.

To gain optimal health, lose weight and feel better every day, all you need to do is follow these 5 simple rules.

Many things people put in their bodies are downright toxic.

Some, such as cigarettes, alcohol and abusive drugs, are also highly addictive, making it hard for people to give them up or avoid them.

If you have a problem with one of these substances, then diet and exercise are the least of your worries.

While alcohol is fine in moderation for those who can tolerate it, tobacco and abusive drugs are bad for everyone.

But an even more common problem today is eating unhealthy, disease-promoting junk foods.

If you want to gain optimal health, you need to minimize your consumption of these foods.

Probably the single most effective change you can make to improve your diet is to cut back on processed, packaged foods.

This can be tough because many of these foods are designed to be extremely tasty and very hard to resist ().

When it comes to specific ingredients, added sugars are among the worst. These include sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup.

Both can wreak havoc on your metabolism when consumed in excess, though some people can tolerate moderate amounts ().

In addition, it’s a good idea to avoid all trans fats, which are found in some types of margarine and packaged baked foods.

Summary You can't be healthy if you keep putting disease-promoting substances into your body. These include tobacco and alcohol, but also certain processed foods and ingredients.

Using your muscles is extremely important for optimal health.

While lifting weights and exercising can certainly help you look better, improving your appearance is really just the tip of the iceberg.

You also need to exercise to ensure your body, brain and hormones function optimally.

Lifting weights lowers your blood sugar and insulin levels, improves cholesterol and lowers triglycerides ().

It also raises your levels of testosterone and growth hormones, both associated with improved well-being ().

What’s more, exercise can help reduce depression and your risk of various chronic diseases, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer's and many more ().

Additionally, exercise may help you lose fat, especially in combination with a healthy diet. It doesn’t just burn calories, but also improves your hormone levels and overall body function.

Fortunately, there are many ways to exercise. You don’t need to go to a gym or own expensive workout equipment.

It’s possible to exercise for free and in the comfort of your own home. Just do a search on Google or YouTube for "bodyweight workouts” or “calisthenics,” for example.

Going outside to hike or take a walk is another important thing you should do, especially if you can get some sun while you're at it (for a natural source of vitamin D). Walking is a good choice and a highly underrated form of exercise.

The key is to choose something that you enjoy and can stick with in the long run.

If you're completely out of shape or have medical problems, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or a qualified health professional before starting a new training program.

Summary Exercise doesn't just help you look better, it also improves your hormone levels, makes you feel better and reduces your risk of various diseases.

Sleep is very important for overall health and studies show that sleep deprivation correlates with many diseases, including obesity and heart disease (, , ).

It’s highly recommended to make time for good, quality sleep.

If you can't seem to sleep properly, there are several ways you can try to improve it:

  • Don’t drink coffee late in the day.
  • Try to go to bed and wake up at similar times each day.
  • Sleep in complete darkness, with no artificial lighting.
  • Dim the lights in your home a few hours before bedtime.
  • For more tips on how to improve your sleep, check out this article.

It may also be a good idea to see your doctor. Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, are very common and in many cases easily treatable.

Summary Getting quality sleep can improve your health in more ways than you can imagine. You'll feel better both physically and mentally and lower your risk of various health problems down the line.

A healthy lifestyle involves a wholesome diet, quality sleep and regular exercise.

But the way you feel and how you think is also very important. Being stressed all the time is a recipe for disaster.

Excess stress can raise cortisol levels and severely impair your metabolism. It can increase junk food cravings, fat in your stomach area and raise your risk of various diseases (, , ).

Studies also show that stress is a significant contributor to depression, which is a massive health problem today (, ).

To reduce stress, try to simplify your life — exercise, take nature walks, practice deep-breathing techniques and maybe even meditation.

If you absolutely cannot handle the burdens of your daily life without becoming overly stressed, consider seeing a psychologist.

Not only will overcoming your stress make you healthier, it will also improve your life in other ways. Going through life worried, anxious and never being able to relax and enjoy yourself is a big waste.

Summary Stress can wreak havoc on your health, leading to weight gain and various diseases. There are many ways you can reduce your stress.

The simplest and most effective way to eat healthy is to focus on real foods.

Choose unprocessed, whole foods that resemble what they looked like in nature.

It’s best to eat a combination of animals and plants — meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, as well as healthy fats, oils and high-fat dairy products.

If you're healthy, lean and active, eating whole, unrefined carbs is absolutely fine. These include potatoes, sweet potatoes, legumes and whole grains such as oats.

However, if you're overweight, obese or have shown signs of metabolic issues such as diabetes or metabolic syndrome, then cutting back on major carbohydrate sources can lead to dramatic improvements (, , ).

People can often lose a lot of weight simply by cutting back on carbohydrates because they subconsciously start eating less (, ).

Whatever you do, make an effort to choose whole, unprocessed foods instead of foods that look like they were made in a factory.

Summary Choosing whole, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, seeds and whole grains is very important for your health.

It's important to keep in mind that a dieting mindset is a bad idea because it almost never works in the long term.

For this reason, it’s critical to aim for a lifestyle change.

Being healthy is a marathon, not a sprint.

It takes time and you need to stick with it for life.