Sometimes, when we hear or talk about healthy living, it’s easy to assume that you need to make wholesale changes and turn your life upside down to make a difference to your health. The truth is that there are myriad simple, manageable ways you can boost your health and wellbeing. If you’re looking to improve your health, here are some helpful hacks you can start benefiting from today.
Being more active
Being active offers multiple benefits both for your mental and physical health. When you move your body, this triggers the release of endorphins, also known as happy hormones, and the level of serotonin in your brain increases, making you feel great. Adopting a more active lifestyle can reduce the risk of heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer, and it can also increase your energy levels and your confidence. For many people, the idea of getting into exercise is daunting. We tend to imagine the gym as a scary place filled with chiselled, toned bodies. The reality is that you may encounter people who are very fit and strong at the gym, but you don’t have to live in a gym to shape up. It’s also worth bearing in mind, if you do want to join the gym, that everyone has to start somewhere. If you’re keen to get fit, there’s a host of different activities and sports you can try. From exercise classes like spinning, yoga and Zumba and HIIT and weights sessions to team sports and outdoor pursuits like hiking, cycling, and rock climbing, there are bound to be activities you enjoy. Give different sports a whirl, try some classes out, and if you’re pushed for time or you feel self-conscious, work out at home.
Being more active doesn’t just involve going for a run a couple of times a week. There are also some really straightforward changes you can make to your daily routine. Simple things like swapping the elevator for the stairs or leaving the car at home and walking to the store, for example, can make all the difference.
If you’re anxious about getting started with exercise, take a friend to a class with you, do a DVD or follow an online workout at home, or work with a personal trainer to enable you to learn how to use the machines at the gym and follow a program that suits your level of fitness.
Improving your diet
Many of us automatically think about losing weight when we hear the words healthy and eating in the same sentence. While eating well can help you drop dress sizes, healthy eating and dieting are not the same thing. Your diet shouldn’t be focused solely on losing weight, especially if you have a healthy BMI. Instead, it should provide you with the essential nutrients, minerals, and vitamins you need. If your diet isn’t perfect, you don’t have to implement radical changes or cut out entire food groups to improve your health.
When you’re planning meals and creating a healthy eating regime, tailor your diet to suit your individual needs. If you’re a very active person or you have a job that is physically demanding, you will need more protein and carbohydrates than somebody who has a sedentary lifestyle. If you’re pregnant, or you’re breastfeeding, it’s particularly important to follow a menu plan that will nourish your body and support your baby. The best foods to eat when pregnant include leafy green vegetables such as spinach, lean meat and fish (not fish with bones or fish that may have come into contact with mercury, for example, tuna), and calcium-rich foods like yogurts and milk. If you have mineral or vitamin deficiencies, or you have underlying health conditions, altering your diet could help to alleviate symptoms. Ask your doctor or a dietitian for advice.
If you are in the overweight or obese BMI category, and you want to lose weight, it’s really important to opt for sustainable weight loss methods. Resist the temptation to crash diet or try new fads, and follow a healthy eating plan instead. Combined with regular exercise, this will help you to drop pounds at the same time as boosting your health and making long-term changes that will make it easier to keep the weight off. Use an app or a food diary to keep track of calories, allow yourself the odd treat to prevent cravings, and try and vary your diet. You don’t have to cut out carbs or give up pizza for the rest of your life to get into that healthy BMI range. If you love burgers, for example, swap beef mince for lean turkey, use tomatoes, onions, and lettuce as a garnish rather than adding sauces that are packed with sugar and salt, and go for a wholemeal bun.
If you’re exercising frequently and turning body fat into muscle, it’s worth pointing out that your weight loss may not be as rapid as you hoped. Instead of weighing yourself, judge your progress based on how you look, how your clothes feel, and your chest, waist and hip measurements. You may find that you slim down a huge amount without losing a lot of weight.
Getting more sleep
Did you know that up to 70 million Americans have trouble sleeping? Sleep plays such a crucial role when it comes to looking after your body and protecting your health. When you’re asleep, your body has a chance to rest and recover, but this period of downtime also allows for essential repair and restoration work to be carried out. If you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll find that your mental wellbeing and your physical health suffer. A lack of sleep can affect your mood, your energy levels, your cognitive abilities, and your immunity.
There are several reasons why people can’t sleep. It’s very common to have the odd night when you find yourself wide awake at 4am staring at an alarm clock, wondering why you can’t doze off even though you feel exhausted. Most of us can cope with isolated nights of disturbed sleep, but if you’re prone to sleepless nights, it’s a good idea to take action. Start by adjusting your sleep routine. If you go to bed at 10pm one night and 1am another, your body clock is going to be all over the place. Set a bedtime and a time to get up each morning, and try and stick to these hours. This will encourage your body clock to adapt to a new routine and make sure you’re getting enough rest. Another good idea is to devote an hour or so to relaxation each evening. Run a hot bath, read a book, listen to music, or watch TV before you try and nod off. When you go to bed, don’t get your phone out and start looking at emails or scrolling through social media feeds. Turn the light off, get comfortable, and wind down.
In some cases, people struggle to sleep because of their sleeping environment. If it’s noisy outside, there is light streaming through the curtain, or the bedroom is messy or cluttered, this could affect sleep quality. Keep your bedroom tidy, and make sure it’s a tranquil, serene haven. Use blackout blinds or lined curtains to provide darkness and sleep with earplugs if noise is an issue.
Look after your teeth and gums
Most of us know that it’s important to clean our teeth to keep our smiles in check, but did you know that caring for your teeth and gums can also help to improve general health? Numerous studies have linked poor oral health, most notably, gum disease, to an array of complications, including an increased risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and complications during pregnancy and labor in expectant moms. Decay and gum disease are common, but they are also preventable. To keep your smile sparkling and reduce your risk of health problems, brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes, see your dentist every 6-12 months for a routine check, and try and steer clear of sugary and acidic foods. It’s particularly beneficial to avoid snacking between meals. This is because the bacteria in your mouth release acids when you eat, which attack and weaken the enamel. If you graze throughout the day, this means that the enamel never has a chance to recover. It’s also advantageous to increase your intake of calcium. Calcium is essential for strong bones, nails, and teeth. Good sources include dairy products, leafy green vegetables, pulses, and nuts.
Changing your lifestyle to improve your health doesn’t have to be complex, arduous, or time-consuming. There are several simple ways you can boost your health and wellbeing today. Try and move more and take an interest in physical exercise, adjust your diet to incorporate nutritious foods and tailor your menu to suit your individual needs and preferences, get more sleep by adopting a new sleep routine, and look after your smile. You should start noticing a positive difference in a matter of hours.