Let’s face it, our health isn’t always the first thing on our minds. We all have school, work, relationships, kids (for some of us), bills to pay, etc., and sometimes our health takes a backseat to everything else we have going on in our hectic lives. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; you have to make a serious commitment when it comes to your health. And I know it’s not always easy. But there ARE some simple things you can do everyday to stay healthy. Here’s a list of 10 things you can easily incorporate daily to keep your body and mind in great shape.
1. Drink Plenty of Water
Obviously, the primary reason to drink lots of H2O is to keep your body hydrated and to keep a good balance of bodily fluids. Your body loses fluid constantly; through sweat, pee and even breathing! If your water input (amount you’re drinking) is less than the output, you become dehydrated. And water has no calories, so it’s the best option to rehydrate without the excess sugar. Water helps energize muscles, keeps your skin looking good and maintains kidneys and normal bowel function. Drink enough so that your pee is a light yellow and doesn’t have a strong smell. If it’s a dark yellow, that means you need to drink more water. I keep a bottle of water with me wherever I go, and refill it two or three times a day, so it’s always readily available. So throw a bottle in your purse before heading to class or work every morning.
2. Work Up a Sweat for 20-30 Minutes a Day
We all know how important exercise is. And I know you’re busy, but even a quick 20-minute workout can do wonders for your body! If you’re short on time, try a HIIT workout, where you do intense exercise for a minute then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat for about 20 minutes and you’ll get your heart rate up enough to see tangible results. Of course, you can always go for a jog, or spend 20-30 minutes on the elliptical. HIIT workouts tend to offer the most bang for your exercise buck, however. Do things like jumping rope, jumping jacks, squat jacks, high knees, short sprints, mountain climbers, lateral hops. You can find a plethora of these types of workouts online. Pinterest has some great ones. Not only will exercise help to keep your weight in check, but it can decrease risks for diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. And you’ll feel much more energized throughout the day!
3. Eat as Many Servings of Vegetables as You Can
Vegetables are the healthiest of all the food groups. They offer the most nutrition for the fewest amount of calories. And both fruits and veggies are chock-full of cancer-fighting phytonutrients, too. Those same chemicals that fight off cancer can also boost your immune system. Plus, you’ll just feel better overall by eating natural, non-processed food. It’s recommended that we get about nine servings of fruit and vegetables every day, which translates to about two cups of fruit and two and a half cups of veggies. Sounds like a lot? Not really. Throw some strawberries or blueberries on your breakfast cereal or oatmeal. Grab a banana for a mid-morning snack. Each a half cup of steamed broccoli and carrots at dinnertime. I make a fabulous green smoothie everyday that has about a half cup of spinach, half cup of kale, half a banana, a handful of grapes and some frozen pineapples and mangoes. It’s a great-tasting, easy way to get my daily servings.
4. Pay Attention to Portion Sizes
If there was one way to control calories without depriving yourself of your favorite foods, paying attention to how much you’re eating at each meal and snack would be it. The serving sizes of pretty much every food has gotten far too big over the past 20 or so years. You need to read the nutrition labels of EVERYTHING you put in your mouth. It’s very easy to eat twice the recommended serving size of many foods if you don’t know what a serving size is. Eat half a bagel each morning. Measure out your breakfast cereal. Opt for just a cheeseburger at McDonald’s instead of a Big Mac. Have a half class of OJ, and maybe just a half cup of ice cream. When eating at home, I frequently use my measuring cups so I know how much I’m eating. It’s harder to gauge when eating out, but a simple “rule” would be to eat about half of your meal, and save the rest for the next day.
5. Take a Multivitamin
This is especially important if you’re not getting the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables every day. We’re supposed to get all our nutrients from food. But, a lot of us don’t always eat a perfectly balanced diet. There has been some controversy in the health field about the necessity of multivitamins. Research has been inconclusive about preventing disease, but taking a high-quality multi-vitamin is a good insurance policy if your diet is less than optimal.
6. Take Frequent “Movement” Breaks
Humans are meant to be active. So put more activity into your day to help ward off what’s now being called “the sitting disease.” Americans sit far too much; on our commutes, at our desks and then on our couches. And this lack of activity can be very detrimental to our health. Even if you exercise everyday, you still need to move frequently, and it doesn’t have to be high intensity movement. Just getting off the couch, or taking a break at work to walk around the office, or walking over your lunch break, can do wonders for your health. So every hour, make it a point to get up and move. Even standing up while talking on the phone is better than sitting.
7. Floss Your Teeth
Even if it doesn’t feel like you have food stuck in your teeth, you still need to floss everyday. There are still microscopic bacteria hiding out between your teeth that need to be removed. I made the mistake of never flossing for many years, and paid for it dearly after a dental checkup found I had gingivitis. And the “deep cleaning” I had to endure was actually painful and time consuming. So by skipping the floss, you run a very high risk of gum disease (and not to mention very stinky breath). But perhaps even more importantly, gum disease is linked to heart disease! According to WebMD, people with periodontal disease were more likely to have heart disease. I know many of you are much too young to think about heart disease, but by getting into the habit of daily flossing NOW, you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.
8. Turn Off Your Phone At a Reasonable Hour and Go to Bed!
Sleep is critical to health. And I know how distracting our phones can be. I’m guilty of this too, staying up much too late trolling Facebook and Twitter. Lack of sleep is linked to many, many health problems. Skimping on sleep weakens your immune system, which leads to more frequent colds. It also messes up your hormones, and even causes weight gain! Not to mention, your skin looks much better after a good night’s sleep. You won’t be as grouchy, you’ll be more productive, and more likely to exercise and engage in physical activity. So GO TO BED! And try to keep a consistent schedule every day, even on the weekends.
9. Carve Out Some “Me-Time”
We all need some time to relax and recharge. Taking a few moments each day to turn off your phone or the television and spend a few minutes in quiet reflection will do wonders for mental health. Our lives our busy and hectic, and carving out ten minutes to just “be” will help you relax and recharge. For some of us, it might be a relaxing bath. For others it could be sitting in silence on your back porch. Or maybe it’s catching up on Twitter. Find whatever calms and relaxes you, and carve out 10-15 minutes each day to do it.
10. Laugh with Friends
It’s been said that laughter is the best medicine. And that may be true. A study from Brigham Young University found that loneliness and isolation can shorten lifespans, as well as put you at bigger risk for obesity. The negative effects were surprisingly seen in younger people, too. Laughter decreases stress hormones, triggers the release of “feel-good” endorphins and actually increases immune response. So make sure you connect with family or friends every day and enjoy a good belly laugh.
Try to incorporate these ten things into your day, everyday, and I can almost guarantee that you’ll feel better, look better, and stay healthier! It may take time to incorporate each habit, but be consistent and you’ll see the results. And you are definitely worth it.