What is the first thing that crosses your mind when you think about a healthy body? Does it appear muscular or not at all? Usually, we picture a firmer body. We also imagine that the path to a healthier body must include spending several hours in the gym every day, complementing this with a diet so low on calories that it wouldn’t probably be suitable for an adult.
The way to be and stay healthy is not as linear as the one described above. That’s lesson number one, and that’s also the number one reason why so many people give up on becoming healthier before they even start. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. There are ways to make this road less bumpy — ways that may seem very obvious to some of us, plans that are also easily overlooked. We will cover 5 of those.
Stay healthy: 5 things you should do every day.
1 – Get enough sleep
To stay healthy and get fitter faster, getting enough sleep is one of the best things you can do for your body. When you are overly tired, both your brain and body cannot function as well as they should. This can result in mistakes at work or injuries while working out. Your body also needs sleep to recover from all of the strain you put on it throughout the day.
The amount of sleep required is different for each person, although it is typically in the range of seven to nine hours for adults. If you have to get up super early in the morning, the best way to create the habit of a restful night is to start to go to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual. Plus, no electronic devices. A book is an excellent solution to keep you entertained when you’re not ready to fall asleep because it will still keep you engaged, but it will not suppress melatonin or delay REM sleep.
2 – Stay hydrated
The human body is about 60% of water — give it or take. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that staying hydrated is an essential part of health and performance. Even a small amount of dehydration can significantly impair mood, well-being and ability to function.
What’s important to understand is that optimal hydration is closely linked not only with fluid intake but also with salt intake.
Adequate salt intake ensures that our cells retain fluid and remain hydrated. And in fact, if we drink too much water (as many do) we can end up driving salt out of our cells, and getting rid of it (and the water) through urine. This may contribute to a constant cycle of dehydration.
The best advice is to maintain adequate salt intake and listen to your body — drinking water only when thirsty, hot or during/after intense exercise. And don’t forget, many foods also have a high water content, which contributes to your overall fluid intake.
3 – Have regular movement snacks
If you sit at a desk all day for work, it can harm your body. In fact, Modern-day lifestyles have an enormous impact on our health.
Not only are you reducing overall physical activity, but prolonged sitting can also lead to poor posture, movement impairment and pain.
Therefore as a minimum measure, aim to stand up once an hour. When you have created this simple habit, add to it a short walk around your office, or do some light stretching. As you get used to these ‘movement snacks’, look for other options to move throughout your day. This may include taking the stairs, parking your car further away and walking to work, or even having a walking meeting with colleagues.
The goal is to loosen up your muscles and get the blood flowing. You’ll find that your body feels much better throughout the day and that you are better able to focus on your work.
4 – Breathe deeply
We take breathing for granted, and only take notice of it at times of exertion or stress. With each breath, we take in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide.
This process must remain in a perfect balance — after all, that’s a fundamental aspect of our survival. What’s important to understand is that it’s not how much oxygen we take in that influences our health – it’s the level of carbon dioxide in our body that drives oxygen usage by our cells. Therefore it’s essential to maintain healthy levels of carbon dioxide. We can do this by practising deeper breathing throughout the day.
The focus should not only be on breathing in deeply but also breathing out slowly.
When we are under stress, breathing becomes quick and shallow, and this causes us to release carbon dioxide quickly. If this becomes prolonged, it can lead to high levels of anxiety. Deeper breaths, with a focus on slower out-breath, will maintain adequate levels of carbon dioxide in the body and can reduce not only stress, but also aid recovery, reduce inflammation and protect cells.
5 – Eat whole foods
A balanced diet is crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Try to eat whole foods as much as possible. By whole food, we mean foods that are not processed and packaged. Fill up on lean proteins and get plenty of fruits and vegetables – the more colours, the better.
Your body draws most of its nutrients from the foods that you eat, so it is essential to eat a wide variety of foods to get the most significant nutritional benefits. If you can’t prepare meals for yourself, try to choose restaurants that offer healthy fare.