Many people approach health with the all or nothing extremism that can potentially derail your attempt at making lifestyle changes. Start with gradual changes that can get you closer to your overall goals. Here are 8 changes you can implement to improve your health. Pick one and after you have been consistent for 3 weeks, then pick another one. Normally it takes 3 weeks for a habit to become a permanent behavioral change.
1. Kick up your exercise
2. Reduce your sugar intake
3. Drink more water
4. Decrease processed foods
5. Limit your intake of red meats
6. Manage your stress
7. Aim for 8 hours of sleep
8. Be kind to yourself
1. Kick up your exercise – According to the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine, we should be exercising 150 minutes per week. While this may sound like a lot of time, it equates to only 22 minutes per day. This includes strength training at least twice a week. Find an activity you enjoy and make this your routine. This could be a Zumba class, a CrossFit workout or an exercise program at home. The benefits of exercising are numerous and lead the way with increased longevity and vitality.
2. Reduce your sugar intake – The World Health Organization advises no more than 10% of your total calories should come from sugar. However in the last 30 years sugar consumption has increased by 30%. When you take into account drinks loaded with sugar, processed foods with excess sugar and sodium, or the availability of bakeries on every corner, it’s no wonder sugar consumption has increased to 22 teaspoons per day on the average.
3. Drink more water – Water is in every cell of our bodies. Our bodies are composed of 60-70% water. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, and decreasing immune functions. It can dry out your skin, hair and every area of the body. The human body can go 2-3 months without food, but can only go 2-3 days without water. Aim for half your body weight in ounces per day ( ex: 100lbs = 50 ounces). Instead of consuming beverages with high calories and sugar, drink water. Rule of thumb- don’t drink your calories.
4. Decrease processed foods – Processed foods have so much sugar, sodium, and artificial chemicals you can’t even pronounce. The nutrient value is extremely low compared to vegetables and fruits. One medium package of M & M’s equals approximately 500 calories whereas it would take 8 apples to get 500 calories. Staying away from junk food is a real challenge but in the long run will contribute greatly to your well-being.
5. Limit your intake of red meats – Limit your intake of red meats. According to the American Cancer Society a high intake of red meats is linked with prostate, breast, colon and other cancers. Going vegetarian for a few meals can help. Having a good source of lean proteins is important, but it’s not always necessary to get it from red meats.
6. Manage your stress – High levels can take it’s toll on the body and wreck havoc with your immune system, endocrine and hormonal systems and eventually lead to increased ability to store fat. Whether you take 5 minutes each morning to breathe deeply, do a yoga class or go for a walk out in nature, you need time to meditate and contemplate.
7. Aim for 8 hours of sleep – Not getting enough sleep is very stressful to the body. When sleeping your body is in recovery mode. It builds muscle, repairs and renews. If you are not getting 7-8 hours a night your body is unable to recover properly, which could lead to weight gain, illnesses or injuries. Exercising and healthy eating is a major contributor to sleeping well throughout the night. Keeping the room digital free, dark and cool also contributes to a good nights sleep.
8. Be kind to yourself – As humans we are always striving for perfection. When we hit below our goals we gravitate toward self deprecating behavior. We can become critical, engaging in negative self talk. We need to be kind to ourselves and accept setbacks not as failures but as opportunities to learn and re-evaluate. If you fell off the nutritional bandwagon, then allow yourself 3 days to regroup, then get back on track and start again. Lasting change takes time. Know that missteps are normal and forgivable.
The secret of a healthy lifestyle to getting in shape is really about how you will live in the future. The changes you make now will determine the quality of life you will have 10 years from today. Health and fitness isn’t about getting in shape in 21 days and then you are done. True health is about laying a foundation now for a quality life in the years yet to come.
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