The Internet is full of conflicting information about healthy living.
First, we’re told that fat is bad for us, now it’s good. First, we’re told that sugar is okay because it’s low calorie, now we are told that sugar is the root of all of our health problems. We know that we are supposed to exercise, but experts can’t agree on how much or of what kind is best. Smoking is bad, but now research shows that being lonely is even far worse for you than tobacco.
Fortunately, most of us can achieve solid good health by following this rather simple formula that our doctors can help us tweak if necessary. It looks like this:
Exercise most days , and exercise hard enough to break a sweat and for at least half an hour. Walk fast, jog, bike, dance, elliptical trainer, it doesn’t matter. The goal is to get your heart to speed up and your lungs to work hard. If you have ankle, hip or knee issues, try a non-weight bearing option like bicycling or rowing. The goal with this kind of exercise, called “cardio” because it works the heart and lungs, is to make it a habit. So make it fun, do it at a time of day that works for you and do it even when you don’t feel like it. If you want more, go longer or faster, or add strength training and some stretching.
Eat real food, and drink plenty of water. No matter what you see on TV or on the Internet, you can’t go wrong eating fresh, whole foods and drinking lots of water.
The obesity and other chronic disease problems we have in our culture are not the results of people eating fresh home-cooked meals. Avoid packaged and processed foods and you’ll avoid almost all the added sugars and salt that could threaten your health.
Include fruits and vegetables in every meal, don’t live on desserts (or white bread, rice, and pasta that turn straight into sugar once you eat them), and take it easy on alcohol and portion size–there you go!
Don’t worry about low-fat and sugar-free versions of your favorites. Cook the real deal for yourself and eat it in moderation. It will satisfy your body better than the fake stuff. Make water a habit like exercise: start with a big mugful in the morning and repeat before every meal, before and after exercise and whenever you get up for a break. If you want to take it to the next level, switch to whole grain bread and pasta, and eat less red meat in favor of more fish, beans, and tofu.
Get enough sleep and manage your stress. Research shows that stress and sleep deprivation are major risk factors for all kinds of chronic illness, not to mention how miserable they can make us.
Healthy adults should strive for 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Make that an achievable goal by staying away from caffeine after noon, exercising in the morning or noon hour instead of after dinner, keeping the TV and computer screens turned off while you sleep, and creating soothing rituals to help you relax at the end of the day. Try a hot bath, a cup of warm milk with cinnamon, a few minutes with a book or gentle music to unwind your mind. Still having trouble sleeping? Try some guided meditation or yoga to help your body and brain relax.
Healthy living takes practice, and changes as our needs change. With so much conflicting information out there, the hardest part is getting started.
If you use these guidelines, you’ll be on your way to wellness. Need more information? Contact us for suggestions to help you get healthy and stay healthy.