Ten small health changes that can have a big impact on your health
People usually think that getting healthy involves a major overhaul of your current way of living, but it doesn’t have to be! Changing up your daily routine can be easy when you take it one step at a time. Try some of the following tips to make small changes that can have a big impact on your health. Add one, two or all of the below to your daily routine:
1.) Take a walk. Walking is an easy exercise you can do almost anytime, anywhere! Studies have shown that walking just 30 minutes a day can have a major positive impact on your health. To get started, try setting reminders on your phone, email or calendar to get up once every hour for a brief walk—even just to the drinking fountain. Challenge your coworkers to see who can walk more in a week, schedule walks to take on your lunch or plan a walking meeting with your colleagues.
2.) Eat healthier foods. It can be tempting to go for a sweet, salty or processed snack when you’re hungry between meals, so be prepared and have healthy alternatives stocked up before disaster strikes! Try some dried fruit, whole-grain crackers, rice cakes, granola bars, low-fat yogurt, raw fruits and veggies, soup, nuts or low-salt pretzels. To get started with healthy meals, try to swap in better choices. Try protein bars, peanut butter, oatmeal, whole grain toast or fresh fruit for a healthy, filling breakfast. For lunch and dinner, add more whole grains: healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil and salmon; fiber filled foods; leafy greens; reduced-fat options and carb alternatives, such as cauliflower rice or zucchini noodles. It’s also important to try a variety of fruits and vegetables for your daily vitamin and nutrient intake.
3.) Try everything in moderation. Most things can be part of a healthy diet in moderation. If you’re a snackoholic, try portioning your snack out into a bowl instead of eating right out of the bag or container. This will prevent overeating and limit the temptation to eat the whole bag at once. However, it’s also important that you don’t limit yourself and completely cut out your favorite things. If you like soda, simply cut down the number of glasses you drink in a day.
4.) Plan your lunches ahead of time. This helps you avoid fast food trips, or skipping lunch altogether. Planning and preparing all your lunches on a Sunday can take a little time, but helps you stick to a healthier diet during the week. Pick up reusable containers and portion out your lunches so they’re in your fridge and ready to go. Salads will last a day or two, while other meals can be stored in your freezer and heated up once you get to work.
5.) Drink more water. Water keeps you hydrated, but there are other reasons to add more to your day. Water helps essential bodily functions such as kidney filtration, regulation of blood pressure, production of hormones and regulation of body temperature. Swapping out water for soda and other sugary beverages can even help with weight loss. If you don’t like plain water, try adding fresh fruit, such as berries, pineapple, lemons, oranges and cucumbers to give it some zest.
6.) Force a smile. Even if you don’t feel like it, smiling and laughing can trick your brain and boost your mood. Studies have shown that even forcing or faking a smile has proven to reduce stress and lower your heart rate. This is because smiling creates a chemical reaction in your brain that releases dopamine and serotonin. Show those pearly whites for a potential health boost.
7.) Get some sleep. You might not realize it, but having a set sleeping schedule can make you calmer, improve your mood, help your metabolism, and regulate your body’s production of melatonin (the hormone involved in the sleep-wake cycle.) Most people need 7–8 hours of sleep per night. Relaxing before bed is important because it helps you fall asleep more easily. You can unwind by taking a warm bath or shower, listening to some soothing music or using essential oils before bed. Try lavender, vanilla or jasmine scents. Leave all electronics across the room, so you’re not tempted to use them all night.
8.) Take deep breaths. Often times when you’re angry or stressed, you hold your breath unconsciously, which can harm your health. Taking time every day to simply breathe deeply can help reduce stress, lower your heart rate and stabilize your blood pressure. If you have an Apple® watch, you can set reminders to pause and breathe deeply a few times a day. If you don’t have an Apple watch, try to take a couple of deep breaths during your lunch or downtime to de-stress and relax.
9.) Be safe in the sun. Practicing sun safety is important for the health of your skin. The warmth of the sun is enjoyable after a rainy day or a long winter, but its UV rays can have irreversible damaging effects. If possible, cover up with long sleeves, pants and a hat if you’re in the sun for an extended period of time. Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 before heading outside and remember to reapply every two hours to make sure it stays effective. Don’t forget to apply it to your lips, ears, hands, feet and scalp. Unprotected long-term exposure over the years to the sun can result in wrinkles, damage to your skin cells and skin cancer. If you notice any skin changes, such as oddly shaped, raised or discolored moles, it’s important to contact your doctor or dermatologist for a checkup.
10.) Take the stairs. Simple changes, such as taking the stairs or parking your car farther away are good for your health! Taking the stairs burns more calories, helping you to strengthen your bones and muscles. Studies have shown that taking the stairs over time improves cardiovascular health and can help lower blood sugar.
Start living healthier now!
Get started by gradually adding some of these tips to your daily routine to develop new healthy habits. It can take about two months for a new habit to form, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t notice an impact right away. Practicing healthier habits can lead you to an overall happier, healthier life.
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*This article is for informational purposes only, and is not meant as medical advice.