One of the principles of membership at Zion HealthShare is practicing healthy habits and trying to live a balanced lifestyle. Striving for balance and health can be easier said than done. With the daily demands of taking care of our families, our homes, and our careers, our health can easily fall to the bottom of the priority list. When things like time and money are in short supply, prioritizing your health can become even more complicated.
With that in mind, we came up with a few free and simple things that anyone can start doing right now to improve their health. We believe that better health doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.
1. Drink More Water
Drinking water seems like such a simple thing to do, but it is all too easy to get to the end of your day without having enough water.
We all know that water is one of our most basic needs, mostly because we know that prolonged water deprivation could literally kill us. But even a small reduction in our water intake can cause issues for a number of our bodily functions.
Your body is roughly 60% water. Every minute of the day, we are losing some of that water by breathing, sweating, and going to the bathroom. If you do even moderate exercise, you will lose even more. If you drink or eat things that mess with your hydration balance, like alcohol, caffeine, salt, or sugar, you will need to drink more water to rebalance your body.
So, how much water should you drink? According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, women need 11.5 cups a day, and men need 15.5 cups a day. However, they note that this amount is an average estimate. Some bodies will need more than others, depending on a variety of factors like age, weight, diet, and activity level. If you eat foods that have a high water content, you may be able to drink less. On the other hand, if you go on a 4-mile hike, you will need to account for the extra water you will lose with the extra activity.
How can you up your water intake? A few easy ways include:
- replace one beverage with water—skip a soda, energy drink, or beer and have a glass of water instead
- eat more fruits and vegetables (a strategy that will do much more for your health than just hydration)
- set reminders to drink water throughout the day (on your phone or even an old-fashioned sticky note)
Learn more about water consumption and health.
2. Get Some Sleep
It’s no secret that we feel best when we are well-rested. But getting that good rest can be complicated and frustrating. According to the Mayo Clinic, the average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep, and if you get less than that, your body won’t forget that you missed it.
If you are getting less than seven hours of sleep a night, you are at risk of much more than just irritating your loved ones with your cranky attitude. According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there is a long list of ways your body will respond to a lack of sleep. These various bodily responses to losing sleep have both short- and long-term consequences.
So how do you get some sleep? Or how do you get consistent sleep? Some recommendations from the Mayo Clinic include getting your body and mind in the mood for sleep by “easing in.”
This might mean turning off your phone—or all screens—for a period of time before you climb into bed. Blue light gets a bad rap these days, but it’s not the only reason to turn off your screen before bedtime. The constant barrage coming from your devices can be overstimulating if you are trying to wind down for bed.
You could also try doing a few stretches before getting in bed. Gravity is wearing you down and pulling on your body all day. Decompressing some of that strain before you shut down for the night might help you sleep better.
Most importantly, and perhaps the most difficult strategy, set a bedtime and stick to it. Your circadian rhythm is a powerful ally in setting a bedtime. If you can commit to a routine bedtime, your body will start to crave that pattern and let you know when it is time for bed.
Learn more about your circadian rhythm and how your body’s natural sleep and wake patterns work.
As Americans, we move way less than we think we do. If you have a sedentary job, you may walk less than 2,000 steps before dinnertime. According to the Mayo Clinic, the average American walks around 3,000 steps a day. However, our step goal for optimal health should be around 10,000.
Why should we walk? Well, walking can actually do wonders for your health. Walking stretches out tense muscles, boosts immunity by getting your lymph system moving and your blood circulating and improves mood by releasing endorphins that promote happiness and reduce stress. In doing all this, walking helps reduce your risk of stroke, heart disease, breast cancer, weight gain, and joint pain. In addition, walking may even help strengthen your bones.
If you are barely getting in 3,000 steps by the time you hit the hay, 10,000 steps may seem like a huge goal right now. There’s no need to panic, you can get started by just adding a few extra steps each day. You can park a few spots further away at work or when you run errands; take a stroll after dinner; or use your dog as an excuse to get out for a few more steps.
Over time, as one strategy begins to work for you, try adding another. Each month, set a goal of adding a certain number of steps per day until you reach your ultimate goal of 10,000 steps.
If you are skeptical about the benefits of adding a few extra steps, you should know that even 2 minutes—that’s right, 2 minutes—of walking each hour can be hugely beneficial for your health. In a study from the University of Utah School of Medicine, researchers found that a few minutes of light activity each hour added up to significant health benefits for the subjects. That’s why your activity tracker is always bugging you to stand up for a few minutes each hour, and you should listen!
You Can Do It!
Starting a new routine or adding new items to your existing one can be challenging. So, make your starting point simple and doable. Make it a goal to drink an extra glass of water each day, park a few spots further away on your next trip to the market, or do a couple of stretches before you crawl in bed tonight.
Each small step can result in better health now!
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