Spring is a magical season. The sprouting of flower buds, the cheerful chirping of birds and the buzz of warm weather induces a euphoric energy that pushes us towards actions centered on renewal. In preparation for the changing of the season, many people will start the annual ritual of spring cleaning their homes. With the coming of spring, the need to refresh and organize our lives becomes stronger than ever. Why not channel this powerful inclination to improve your health? After all, living a healthier lifestyle has some major benefits including preventing disease and injury; increasing energy and good mental health; and maintaining healthy weight. With that in mind, how does one jump start a healthier lifestyle? Here are five habits you can take to spring clean your health:
1. Start cooking your food instead of eating processed meals and snacks. Cooking is a necessary part of eating healthy. When you cook your meals, you know exactly what you’re eating and putting into your body. Even though the U.S. population is living longer, the rates of chronic diseases— many of which are caused by poor diet and physical inactivity— have jumped. According to The Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, approximately half of all American adults have one or more preventable, diet-related chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. Healthy eating patterns and regular physical activity can help people reach and maintain good health as well as reduce the risk of chronic diseases throughout their life.
2. Increase your physical activity by joining a gym, exercise class or playing a sport regularly. As you age, it’s critical to protect your bones, joints and muscles, which support the human body and helps you move in your daily activities. Research shows that doing aerobic, muscle strengthening and bone strengthening physical activity of at least a moderately intense level can slow the loss of bone density due to aging. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get at least two and a half hours per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or one hour and 15 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, plus muscle strengthening activities at least two days per week.
3. Get quality rest. Sleep plays a key role in good health. If you think you can get away with skimping on sleep so you can get more done in the day like most people are guilty of doing, think again. Sleep helps your brain work properly. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. Some of the internal processes that occur in your body during sleep include cellular repair and immune system replenishment which are responsible for keeping out illnesses and maintaining the body from daily wear and tear. As you can imagine, not getting enough sleep can have some serious consequences that can occur instantly or over time. Ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for chronic health problems such as obesity. It also can affect how well you react, work, think, learn, and get along with others.
4. Manage your stress. Reducing stress in your everyday life is important for supporting your overall health, as it can boost immune function and allow you to be more productive. When you allow stress to overwhelm you, you put yourself at risk of developing a range of illnesses including the common cold or severe heart disease. How can you reduce stress? Find ways of managing your stress in a healthy way such as through physical activity and/or meditation. Meditation practice can help you remove old patterns of stress, tension and distraction, and encourage a more relaxed state where healing can emerge.
5. Limit your intake of processed sugars. The human body doesn’t need added sugars to function properly, it merely adds more calories and zero nutrients to food. Yet, Americans have steadily consumed more and more added sugars in their diets, which has contributed to increased rates of obesity in the country. The major sources of added sugars in the American diet are soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pies and fruit drinks; dairy desserts and milk products including ice cream, sweetened yogurt and sweetened milk; and other grains such as honey-nut waffles and cinnamon toast. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you consume, for most American women this is no more than 100 calories or 6 teaspoons per day and no more than 150 calories or 9 teaspoons per day for men.
Living a healthy lifestyle is within your reach and starts right now. Healthy living is a life-long commitment, not a passing fad but there are steps you can take this instant to pave the way for a healthy future.