It is a new year and a great time to set goals that will take you one step closer to a healthier, happier, more vital you. Your key to success? Make your resolutions, simple, doable and fun things that are easy to incorporate into your everyday life.
Need some inspiration? Below you will find my top 10 list of things you could and probably should be doing to promote your long lasting health and vitality. Always remember though, if you are going to attempt something new, make it realistic and attainable. Pick something you know you can do, setting yourself up for success, and incorporate it into your life before moving onto something that may be more challenging.
1. Stand on one foot. Now maybe I am a bit biased here, being a yoga instructor, but balance training is a vital component to any well ‘balanced’ exercise or daily living program. Why? It actually protects the knees and ankles in active people and enhances coordination and postural alignment in everyone. Balance training also develops and keeps sensory feedback systems sharp and well trained, meaning many things, but especially less falls in the elderly.
2. Keep active. This could mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people but most health experts agree that 10,000 steps a day is one definitive way to gauge your activity level. Walking is accessible to most of the population and all you need is a pair of walking shoes and in this case a pedometer to measure how far you are going. Need more incentive? The Journal of the American Medical Association shows that briskly walking a total of 2 and a half hours a week can lead to significant improvements in memory and can reduce your risk of certain breast cancers.
3. Find time to relax. According to the Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource, relaxation is a vitally important process that decreases mental and physical wear and tear. Recharging your proverbial batteries through relaxation can reduce your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, reduce headaches, improve concentration and provide many other benefits.
4. Eat the right fats. Most of us know by now that not all fats are created equal. Heart healthy omega 3’s can do more than reduce your risk for heart disease; they can fight inflammation and may even help keep your brain cells healthy. Studies have even shown that EPA (a type of omega 3) has been shown to be effective in fighting depression! Aim to eat some form of omega 3 most days of the week. This includes fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, and herring), flax seeds or oil, walnuts, soy beans, hemp oil and more.
5. Go to bed and stay there for a while! We all know that a poor night sleep can affect our concentration, our mood, our energy levels, our appearance and more. But did you know that people who sleep less weigh more? Did you also know that people who get on average 1 less hour of sleep than they need also have more calcification in their arteries? Heed this message and go to bed earlier tonight!
6. Reduce your sugar intake. Refined sugar is not only void of nutrients; it can actually rob your body of what is already there. One of sugar’s major drawbacks is that it raises the insulin levels, which inhibits the release of growth hormone, which in turn depresses the immune system. High insulin levels also promote the storage of fat and contribute to diabetes and insulin resistance. High blood sugar levels have also most recently been associated with age related memory loss.
7. Supplement Wisely. When it comes to obtaining the micronutrients your body needs, your best possible source is food, especially fruits and vegetables. But circumstances may prevent you from eating optimally every day. According to Dr. Andrew Weil the main reason he take supplements is for insurance against gaps in his diet. Also, researchers are finding that some important vitamins (D and E particularly) and minerals are protective against disease in amounts that may be difficult to obtain through diet alone, no matter how conscientious you are. As a basic foundation for nutritional insurance I recommend a daily multivitamin (naturally sourced), calcium and magnesium (500:250mg), 1000iu of vitamin D3 and 1000 omega 3’s in the form of fish oil.
8. Count the colours on your plate. According to www.realage.com one of the four ways you can add 14 years to your life is to pack your plates with colourful fruits and veggies. Aim for at least 3 colours on your plate, and white and brown don’t count. Fruits and veggies are nutrient dense, while also being low calorie; they are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and health promoting phytonutrients.
9. Lose weight. We all know that excess weight doesn’t make for a bikini body but more than that, it is just plain unhealthy. It has been directly linked to this countries number one killer, namely heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke. Along with being linked to a host of other conditions such as sleeplessness, varicose veins, joint pain and more. Even though the most significant problems crop up when a person is clinically obese the health risks start creeping up even when you are on the high end of what is considered ‘normal’. On a happier note, even modest weight loss of 5 to 10 pounds can greatly lower your risk factors for many diseases.
10. Listen to your body. Your body knows what your body needs; you just need to learn how to listen to it. It is constantly sending you messages about stress, fitness, what you are eating, what you are thinking and more. Trust me; it will keep talking until you listen. My suggestion, listen to the subtle hints before they become shouts. This way you can work on reversing small problems with small solutions before they become big problems that require big solutions.
Yours in health,
Christine is a nutritionist, yoga instructor and personal trainer who specializes in weight loss and womens health at Four Forty Fitness for Women in Burlington, Ontario. Check out the website at www.fourfortyfitness.ca