You probably know that maintaining healthy habits, such as eating well and exercising regularly, is important for your overall well-being. But did you know that there are other things you can do to help keep yourself in tip-top shape? Here are seven ways to promote good health and improve your quality of life.
Eating right is one of the best ways to avoid illness and disease—and it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive (although when you’re on a tight budget, sometimes food choices can get especially tricky). The basics of good nutrition include getting enough protein, carbs, fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Eating nutritious foods helps prevent chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, etc., while also providing energy needed for daily activities and exercise.
The CDC recommends consuming 5–8 servings from each of the major food groups every day. Food groups consist of vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy products, proteins, fats/oils, and liquids. Each group provides different nutrients that support our bodies’ needs. For example, carbohydrates provide energy, while fibers lower cholesterol levels. Proteins contain essential amino acids that allow us to grow new cells, muscles, and tissues. Fats and oils help absorb certain vitamins and provide necessary fatty acids. And last but not least, water keeps everything moving smoothly inside and outside our body. Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day supports proper digestion and elimination.
It’s easy to stay away from processed and unhealthy foods by choosing whole fresh produce over prepared meals and snacks. Avoiding trans fats, saturated fats, sodium, and refined sugars can go a long way toward improving your diet. If you’ve been tempted by fast food lately, consider making healthier versions at home with leftovers from dinner. You don’t even need fancy kitchen equipment! Just grab some tortillas, spices, onions, tomatoes, ground beef, and cheese for homemade nachos. Or whip up this quick guacamole salad starter using store-bought ingredients.
One of the easiest ways to eat better is to make smart decisions about what we buy at grocery stores and restaurants. When you head out for lunch, try ordering something green instead of fried chicken sandwiches. Opt for lean cuts of meat whenever possible, skip salt added soups and sauces, and choose low-fat milk over creamier options. You can always ask for substitutions if you’re having trouble following these guidelines.
Exercise and Move Regularly
Regular physical activity has many benefits, including weight control, improved mental health, increased immunity, stronger bones, and more efficient functioning of organs and systems. Exercise is also linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, and anxiety disorders.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Americans should engage in 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week. This includes walking, running, swimming, biking, hiking, dancing, playing sports, and other types of physical activities that elevate our hearts and lungs to varying degrees. In addition, they recommend doing strength training exercises two times weekly to build muscle mass and bone density.
If you haven’t exercised in a while, start slowly. Take baby steps, work within your limits, and listen to your body. Remember, no matter how much you exercise, it won’t help if you don’t follow a healthy lifestyle overall. Try incorporating these suggestions into your routine:
Wear comfortable clothes and shoes so you can move around comfortably without feeling uncomfortable.
Keep track of your progress through journaling. Seeing positive changes will motivate you to stick with your goals.
Start small and gradually increase intensity or duration.
When first starting out, focus on form rather than speed. Slow down and take breaks between sets.
Don’t forget to stretch before working out or after resting. Stretching improves flexibility and circulation, which can lead to greater comfort during workouts.
Try yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, or another relaxing practice. These practices involve movement combined with deep breathing and meditations, often accompanied by music and guided imagery. They may also incorporate meditation techniques, stretching, breathwork, and relaxation. Find a class near you here.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is essential for both physical and mental health. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), adults require 7–9 hours of sleep nightly to function optimally. Sleeping less disrupts hormonal balance, weakens the immune system, reduces memory, concentration, and mood, and increases the risk of developing conditions such as hypertension, obesity, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s dementia, arthritis, back pain, headaches, car accidents, etc.
Getting adequate amounts of sleep isn’t difficult. One helpful strategy is to create a bedtime ritual that works for you. Turn off electronics, dim lights, and wind down with soothing music or audiobooks. Consider keeping a dedicated nighttime workspace that promotes relaxation and encourages winding down. Another option is to set your alarm 15 minutes earlier each morning, allowing time to unwind and prepare for the day ahead.
Stress causes problems in multiple areas of our lives, from emotional and psychological issues to poor health. It affects people differently based on their personal history, genetics, social status, personality traits, coping skills, and environment. However, stress management strategies are available to anyone who wants to reduce its harmful effects. A few simple actions can significantly decrease tension and worry:
Meditate or pray. Meditation and prayer can help calm your mind and emotions. Both practices involve focusing on one thing at a time and letting go of thoughts that cause distress.
Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness means paying attention to present moment experiences. By being mindful, you become aware of the feelings, sensations, and thoughts happening all around you, without judgment or reaction. The practice of mindfulness involves sitting quietly with your eyes closed or lying still, noticing whatever comes into awareness without reacting to it. Over time, mindfulness becomes easier to practice because you are able to notice distractions without reacting to them.
Learn how to relax. Learn how to breathe deeply and relax your muscles. Techniques such as progressive relaxation, massage therapy, hypnosis, visualization, and guided imagery are effective ways to relieve stress and manage anxiety.
Seek professional help. If you feel overwhelmed by constant stress, seek counseling and medication. Talk to your doctor about whether medications or talk therapies would benefit you.
Address underlying causes. Identifying triggers that cause excessive stress can help you develop new ways to cope. Sometimes, identifying why we react negatively to stressful situations can give us a sense of perspective.
Water is essential to our survival, yet most of us drink far too little of it. Many studies show that drinking 8 glasses of water everyday can boost energy, sharpen vision, regulate bowel movements, cleanse the kidneys, and improve skin complexion. Water hydrates the entire human system, including the brain, nerves, muscles, and internal organs. Properly hydrated humans perform better physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Hydration starts with knowing how much fluid you actually consume. To calculate how much water you need daily, divide your weight by 0.007. If you weigh 65 pounds, you’ll want to drink approximately 64 ounces of water per day. If you’re unsure how much fluid you normally drink, try keeping a log for a couple weeks. Then you’ll have a baseline that you can compare against future measurements.
Your best bet is to drink half of your bodyweight in ounces of water. So, if you weigh 65 pounds, aim to drink 32 ounces of fluid per day. If you find that you tend to underhydrate, try adding a natural electrolyte beverage supplement (such as Emergen-C) to your diet.
Taking Vitamin D if You’re Deficient
Vitamin D deficiency is common among older adults, women, African Americans, and those with darker complexions. Most people only receive sufficient amounts of vitamin D from sun exposure. People who spend most of their year indoors, live farther north, or wear sunscreen can experience severe deficiency. Even though UVB rays from sunlight activate vitamin D production, skin pigmentation plays a role in determining one’s ability to synthesize vitamin D3 in the liver. Darker skin makes it harder for ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation to penetrate deeper layers of skin where vitamin D is produced.
While everyone is susceptible to vitamin D deficiency, pregnant and lactating women, young children, and dark-skinned individuals are at higher risk. Lactose intolerance, malabsorption issues, kidney disease, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, autoimmune disorders, and hyperthyroidism are other factors that contribute to vitamin D deficiency.
Unfortunately, taking supplements alone does not usually correct a true vitamin D deficiency. Supplementation is recommended for severe cases. Consult your physician if you think you might have a nutritional deficiency, particularly
Wrapping It Up
In conclusion, there are many ways to get in shape and stay healthy. While some of these methods may be more challenging than others, they are all worth the effort. It is important to find a way of life that works for you and makes you happy. Remember to drink plenty of fluids, eat a balanced diet, get enough sunlight, and exercise regularly.