Step-up to Good Health

There is nothing I can tell you that you haven’t heard before if you are concerned about your health and are looking for ways to improve it – or sustain it.

The basics listed below still apply:

  1. Eats lots of fruits and vegetables.
  2. Eliminate sugar and white flour from your diet.
  3. Avoid junk food and fast foods
  4. Exercise
  5. Get plenty of rest.

All of the above are much easier to think about than to actually put into action.

I don’t have any magic bullet for you and I can’t change the rules, but I hope you are ready to step-up to good health and make some changes in your behavior – even if it is a single step at a time.

Every small change makes a difference.

Which leads me to the focus of today’s posting. I want to share a few easy practices that will do good things for your body – but do not require huge life-style changes.

Take time to relax:

Image by Dmitriy Shironosov
Image by Dmitriy Shironosov

When you are faced with a hectic schedule between work and family, getting enough rest is not always possible (even though I encourage you to do so as often as you can.)

This makes it even more important to create enough space in your day for a little downtime. This is crucial to your health.

It doesn’t have to be a lot of time. Fifteen minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon or evening will do wonders for your energy and outlook.

Take this time to do something you really like, for example:

  • Dance around the living room to your favorite music.
  • Take a walk by yourself to enjoy the quiet and the fresh air.
  • Sing, play the piano, or any other instrument.
  • Read from your favorite book of poetry
  • Have a good book handy that you can pick up and read.
  • Make a healthy smoothie or a nice cup of coffee/tea and sit on your patio.
  • Paint or draw.
  • Take a power nap.
  • Sit outside and enjoy the sunshine.
  • Or – simply sit and do nothing, letting the stress bubble up and away from you.

Drink a lot of water:

Filtered Drinking Water

Drinking lots water is one of the easiest and least expensive habits you can form that will contribute to good health. There is scientific evidence that drinking water regularly throughout your day increases your metabolism.

It is very easy to get dehydrated – especially in the winter months and if there is a lot of humidity in the air.

In addition to slowing your metabolism which leads to weight gain, dehydration can also create multiple problems including a drop in blood pressure, dizziness, lightheadedness, dry mouth, and dry skin.

The average person should drink a minimum of 64 ounces/day.  Six 12-ounce bottles of water will do it – starting with one in the morning as soon as you get up to rehydrate your body after sleeping and fasting overnight.

Pay attention to everything you drink:

Yes – fluids are critical, but drink fluids that are good for you – especially water as listed above.

In addition, it is important to pay attention to other liquids you consume. Particularly note the sugar and caffeine content. Both ingredients are very detrimental to your health. The liquid intake is great, but the rest of it is not.

When you start tracking your intake, you may be surprised at how many extra calories of sugar and milligrams of caffeine you are ingesting on a regular basis.

This is especially important if you are a fanatic about “energy drinks” such as Red Bull and monster – or even Starbucks products – both the hot, fresh cups of coffee and the bottled drinks.

Even though such products are touted to increase your energy, there are a number of studies that show an increase in cardiac problems (including cardiac arrest), headaches, migraines and anxiety in young people who consume several of these drinks each day.

By substituting a bottle of water for even one of these drinks every day, you will be moving in a positive direction.

Enjoy your food:

Eat slowly, chew slowly, and enjoy every bite. With the hectic lives that people live today, the tendency is to quickly gulp down food and go onto the next thing they “must” do.

The art of “fine dining” and savoring the pleasure of a good meal with good company has almost disappeared.

You may have heard that you should chew every bite –  anywhere from 10 to a 100 times. That may sound like an old wives’ tale, but it is actually good advice. The number of times you chew each bite has a direct correlation to how well you digest your food.

The bottom line, however, is to slow down when you are eating. Take your time, chew your food, enjoy the flavors, and enhance your health.

When you eat slowly, you feel full more quickly with less food. It also helps resolve many common digestive problems like heartburn and indigestion.

Eat good fats:

AvocadoYes, you read that correctly.  The body needs goods fats to function well.

The USDA recommends that 25-30% of calories should come from fats (with a minimum of 10%).

Notice I said, “Good fats.”

Eating mono- and polyunsaturated fats in moderation can help reduce cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Avocados, cheese, whole eggs, and fatty fish are all good sources of healthy fats.

On the other hand, avoid trans fats completely, if possible – or at least keep them at a minimum.

Move your body:

Believe me, I am not an exercise fanatic. You do not have to exercise a couple of hours every day to be healthy – BUT, you do need to be active.

Regular physical activity of some kind is crucial. I am not saying that you must go to the gym on a daily basis. There are many other options.

Taking a 15-20 walk each day is a great start (and can help you with the relaxation that we mentioned in the beginning of this post).

Walk at a comfortable pace for you. It does not have to be FAST, but remember the livelier the walk the more calories you’ll burn. Start slowly and build up to at least a medium-brisk pace overtime. You know what your body can handle.

The most important thing is to start!