Small steps add up to wellness
Check out these easy ways to develop healthful habits.
Sometimes life gets overwhelming. You want to make more healthful choices that lead to wellness, but maybe you don’t know where to start. Or you feel inundated with commercials or news articles about the latest fad that claims to be the miracle cure for all that ails you.
Let me present a few simple evidence-based options that can help you get started. Pick one for now so you don’t feel overwhelmed!
Want to start getting more physical exercise? Evidence-based recommendations call for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Some of us are so busy that even 30 minutes can seem daunting. Instead, try three 10-minute sessions of cardiovascular exercise (walking, bicycling, etc.). Physical activity is cumulative, so those shorter stints add up!
Try parking farther from your destination so you get in more steps. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Hold a walking meeting instead of sitting around a conference table.
You may want to try a wearable fitness tracker. These are great motivators if you want to challenge yourself or even take part in a friendly competition to see who can get the most daily or weekly steps. You can even set reminders to get up and move!
Even if you have been hitting the gym faithfully, consider getting outside for activity. Some studies show that exposure to nature lowers stress levels. Stress is so harmful to our bodies and can even cause cardiovascular disease. Getting out and enjoying a spring day is a small way to combat stress overload. Just don’t forget the sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher).
Healthful eating is important year-round, of course. But spring and summer are great times to change up your menus and try new things. Make sure you are getting your five daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Warmer weather also means garden season is approaching! Some gardeners find tending their sprouts also is a good stress reliever. But if you lack time and/or a green thumb, farmers markets also are a great choice.
Grilling season is a great time to experiment. Try grilling fruit for an even sweeter taste sensation. Watermelon and peaches are good starting options. And, of course, fish or poultry are healthful and tasty grilling choices.
Evidence shows that eating light and eating often is the healthful choice, so try not to go more than two to three hours between meals or snacks. If you are trying to lose weight, set reasonable, short-term goals and avoid fad diets.
Find a wellness program and explore online programs, in-person classes and friendly competitions. Many employers offer wellness programs now, such as Buckeye Wellness and Your Plan for Health at The Ohio State University. These can be a great resource for information and motivation.
Take the pledge to be heart-healthy. Ohio State is a partner in the Million Hearts initiative, a national effort of the Department of Health and Human Services to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. Heart disease and stroke are two leading causes of death in the United States. Here’s how you can commit to the Million Hearts pledge:
- Understand the risks for cardiovascular disease
- Be physically active
- Know your ABCS (appropriate aspirin therapy, blood pressure control, cholesterol management, smoking cessation and stress management)
- Eat a heart-healthy diet
- Follow your doctor’s or nurse practitioner’s instructions for prevention and treatment
And please remember, you don’t need to start all of these ideas at once! Pick one for now and incorporate it into your life. Once you are comfortable with this change, try another. Life is a journey, not a sprint.