Lifestyle medicine is a new approach to primary care that emphasizes making healthy lifestyle choices. The American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine notes that many chronic conditions—diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease—respond positively to changes in diet, fitness, and sleep. Clinicians who practice lifestyle medicine may prescribe changes to a patient’s daily routine instead of (or in addition to) medication. Sufficient changes to a patient’s lifestyle may even diminish hereditary conditions passed down from one generation to the next.

The six pillars of lifestyle medicine

The American College of Lifestyle Medicine has identified six categories, or pillars, of good health:


Physical Activity

Restorative Sleep

Social connection

Stress management

Avoidance of risky substances

Each pillar is a lens through which daily activities can be assessed. Every patient has their own challenges. For some diet is the primary concern. Others may have great social connections but consume too much alcohol. Kinwell clinicians can help patients identify unhealthy habits and guide them toward a healthier routine. They can identify which pillars a patient should focus on and may provide customized lifestyle prescriptions. Kinwell patients can work with a health coach to create a plan for gradual or significant changes to their daily habits. Health coaching is free for established Kinwell patients.

Lifestyle medicine and traditional primary care

Lifestyle changes can be used alone or in conjunction with traditional medical therapies to treat and help prevent disease. Implementing healthy habits can reduce the need for expensive healthcare services, hospitalizations, and medications. Most importantly, healthy habits can improve a patient’s quality of life.

The American College of Lifestyle Medicine has recommendations on each health pillar.

  1. Nutrition:  Make nutritious, fiber-filled food the staples of your diet. Favor more fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. Avoid fast food, processed products, and refined sugar. Drink plenty of water.
  1. Physical activity:  Build more activity into your day. Park farther away from your destination to encourage walking. Take the stairs instead of an escalator. Increase activity slowly, with a goal of at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week.
  1. Stress management:  Distance yourself from stressful situations by making time for fun, hobbies, and other activities you enjoy. Try meditation, yoga, dance, gardening, or spending time in nature.
  1. Restorative sleep: Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. To help fall asleep, avoid caffeine (especially after noon), get at least 20 minutes of sunshine during the day, and develop an evening relaxation routine.
  1. Avoidance of risky substances: Reduce or eliminate smoking, vaping, and alcohol to lower your risk of cancers and heart disease. A free resource to help you quit smoking is 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
  1. Social connectedness: Spend time with friends and family who lift your spirits. Set regular times to engage with others. Social connectedness is essential to emotional resiliency.

Want to know where to start changing your daily routine? Kinwell is here to help. Make an appointment with your Kinwell clinician to discuss how lifestyle changes can prevent or help reverse disease and increase your overall well-being.