New Year’s Day has spurred many of us to resolve to follow healthier lifestyles in 2012, but how many will carry through with their pledges? The journey to better health is not as daunting as it may seem. Slight adjustments to your eating, sleeping and exercise habits can have a dramatic impact on your overall health. Focus on these three aspects, and you’ll be well on your way to a healthier you.
Eat whole foods
While it’s difficult for many of us to stick to a diet, a few adjustments to your daily food intake can be equally effective and, more importantly, sustainable. One of the best ways to improve your diet is to increase the amount of whole foods you consume each day. Processed foods lack many of the nutrients our bodies crave and are laden with added sugars and preservatives. Whole foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, are packed with nutrients yet low in calories to help manage weight.
Not a fan of raw fruits and veggies? You can easily blend these vital food groups into your diet – literally. Toss a variety of fresh produce into a high-performance blender, add some ice and water, and you’ve got a simple, tasty way to get several servings of whole fruits and vegetables at once.
As the pace of our world continues to pick up speed, we tend to neglect important aspects of our health, including giving our bodies the rest they need. Unfortunately, fatigue has many negative impacts on physical health and personal well-being. Adequate rest is needed to complete everyday tasks effectively, including performing well at school and work. Functions like your metabolism and immune system also depend on sufficient amounts of sleep to operate properly. Sleep deprivation can lead to a number of serious health risks, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
To ensure a better night’s rest, stick to a sleep schedule, limit caffeine and other beverages before bed, incorporate physical activity into daily life and manage stress. The National Sleep Foundation suggests most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, but even one additional hour per night is proven to have a significant impact on physical, emotional and mental well-being. By making sleep a priority, other aspects of your life will improve and you’ll be living healthier in 2012.
With American obesity at an all-time high, the need for more physical activity is evident. But fitting in time to exercise can be challenging with a hectic lifestyle. Fortunately, simply adjusting your routine to increase the number of steps you take each day can truly make a difference. Combating a sedentary lifestyle doesn’t need to mean hours in the gym, and you can reap many benefits from this free and low-impact exercise. A reasonable walking goal for the average person is 10,000 steps per day. Sedentary people who may only be averaging 1,000 to 3,000 steps per day can work up to this goal by adding 500 steps each day.
To track your progress, purchase a pedometer and wear it every day for a week. You may be surprised at how many – or how few – steps you get in each day. There are many ways to increase your daily activity without major changes to your daily routine. Walking the dog, using the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther from the grocery store, and walking to a coworker’s desk instead of emailing are just a few ways you can incorporate more steps into your lifestyle and walk your way to better health.
With just a few adjustments to your everyday routine, you will see the many health benefits of improved nutrition, sleep and exercise habits. Cheers to a healthy New Year and a healthy new you.