It’s new year and like everyone else, you most likely have a resolution to be healthier. This is a good resolution to set, but a hard one to achieve for many. Most of us want to live active and healthy lifestyles, but don’t achieve this as we often focus on the overall goal. While it’s important to visualize the whole picture, it is more effective to build a healthy lifestyle by developing smaller, easy to maintain healthy habits that target a specific aspect of a healthy lifestyle. The start of a new year is the perfect time to start building these habits. In order to build a healthy lifestyle, start with attainable and manageable goals. For example, if you would like to exercise every day but are currently someone who never exercises, start by doing light activity once or twice a week and work your way up from there.
Now that we’ve discussed how to go about building healthy habits, let’s discuss exactly what kind of healthy habits you might want to develop. Health is about more than exercise, although physical activity plays a big role, it is important to also focus on your diet, stress management, etc. Below is a list of some of the areas in our lives that play an important role in our health and tips regarding how to improve them by building healthy habits.
As discussed previously, physical activity is essential in maintaining a healthy active lifestyle. There are many benefits to exercising regularly which include increased weight management, reduction in risks of disease, boost in memory, among many more. In general, it is most beneficial to exercise an average of three to five times a week for about an hour. If you find it difficult to schedule one full hour, try splitting it up into 30- or 15-minute increments throughout the week. If you are someone who hardly ever exercises, start by going on light walks or jogs once or twice a week and work your way towards your personal fitness goal. If you are someone who exercises regularly, keep it up and push new limits this year.
Many of us are often dehydrated as we substitute plain water for coffee, tea or sugary drinks. Adequate water in-take is essential to our overall health. There are several benefits of drinking enough water, some of which are hunger management, clearer skin, promotion of cardiovascular health, lubrication of the joints and regulation of body temperature. The Canadian Food Guide suggests 2.3 litres or 9 and a half cups of water per day. If this sounds unattainable to you, try incorporating water into your daily life by taking a reusable water bottle with you wherever you go, asking for water at restaurants or choosing to drink water with your meals over a sugary or alcoholic beverage.
Sleep is an integral part of maintaining health but it is often the one most people believe they can spare. Many of us skip several nights of adequate sleep throughout the week, with the idea that we will catch up on the weekend or another time. However, sleep does not function this way. Losing sleep radically decreases effective cognitive functioning after just one night of inadequate sleep. It is extremely important to sleep for 6-8 hours each night. One way to help achieve this is by setting a time to wake up and go to bed every night. For example, if you need to be awake by 7 am, start going to bed every night at 11 pm for a full 8 hours of sleep. If you struggle to fall asleep, try supplements such as melatonin or contact your doctor for more severe cases of sleep deprivation and management issues.
We all experience stress for a variety of reasons at each stage of our lives. Due to this, it is extremely important to develop and maintain adequate stress management habits. Stress can have severe negative effects on our mental and physical health. For example, high levels of stress may cause headaches, muscle tension or pain, chest pain and fatigue. Stress also may cause anxiety, restlessness, irritability and decrease motivation. Some simple ways to manage your stress levels include keeping a daily planner, journaling and practicing relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, yoga or meditation. If you find you are dealing with chronic stress that requires more intensive management, contact your doctor.
The fuel we put into our bodies is very important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Many of us try to maintain unrealistic “healthy” diets but the best way to maintain a true healthy diet is to make it a realistic one. Incorporate the foods you love in healthier ways by making them at home instead of buying them or eating them in moderation. Cook more often and focus on eating whole foods rather than just compensating with supplements. A key factor in eating healthily is meal planning. Most of the time, many of us eat unhealthy food because we did not have time to prepare anything. Pick one day of the week to meal prep your lunches and dinners. This is more time and cost effective, while also helping us to keep track and stay accountable for what we put in our bodies.
As you can see, there are several aspects that contribute to the development and maintenance of an active, healthy lifestyle. It isn’t just about exercising, but rather it’s about physical activity, hydration, sleep, stress management, diet and more! All these aspects have an effect on your physical and mental health as the two are correlated. Pick a part of your life that you believe you need to improve on in order to achieve a healthy lifestyle and try incorporating some of the tips mentioned above. Once you feel you have made significant improvement in that area and can successfully maintain it, move on to the next area. Good luck!