The CDC reports that nearly 1 million Americans die prematurely every year from conditions related to heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and unintentional injuries. While genetics may play a role in longevity, research continues to show how lifestyle factors dramatically influence our overall well-being.
There are many reasons to improve your physical health. You may live longer, prevent debilitating illnesses, and your quality of life and mental health can also flourish. Let’s get into some easy steps anyone can take.
Dial In Your Nutrition
We’re all guilty of it. Choosing convenience over health. And from time to time, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with ordering those french fries or ice cream sundae. However, when you’re routinely turning to sugary and fatty foods to tide you over, you’re increasing the likelihood of many concerning symptoms including:
Obesity due to excess calories
High blood pressure
Sluggishness and fatigue
Mood swings (i.e., sugar crash)
Memory and cognitive problems
There’s a strong relationship between what you eat and how you feel. Rounded, nutritious diets keep you satiated, and they keep you energized. You are also likely to sleep better, focus better, and exercise more!
It’s a cyclical relationship: the more you aim to fuel your body with healthy foods, the more efficiently your body works. And the more you feel like your body is working with you, the more likely you are to want to take care of it!
If nutrition feels overwhelming to you, focus on taking small, manageable steps. You don’t need to overhaul your entire diet overnight. Instead, consider how you can add more healthy ingredients to your daily routine. Can you swap out a sandwich for a salad? Drink water instead of that second glass of soda? Munch on fruit or nuts instead of reaching for that candy bar?
Find Movement That You Love
We all know the benefits associated with regular exercise, and the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. Many experts now say, sitting is the new smoking. It's time to get moving!
While some people love getting in a good sweat, you may not fall into that population. If you find it difficult to commit to exercise, it just means that you need to take the time to discover the movement that’s right for your body (hint: it may not be in a sterile gym).
Take the time to experiment with different kinds of workouts and exercises. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try rock climbing or surfing. Perhaps, you took a Pilates class ten years ago, and you’ve wanted to try it again.
Remember that there isn’t an “optimal” kind of exercise. The best movement strategy is the one that you consistently do.
Prioritize Your Sleep
Have you ever boasted about how little sleep you received the night before? If so, your shut-eye deprivation isn’t doing your body any favors. In fact, even just a short period of sleep problems can lead to serious brain fog, which can heighten your risk for accidents and injuries.
Unfortunately, many people stay up too late (often trying to finish that never-ending to-do list), and then rely on copious amounts of caffeine to slug through the day. As a result, their bodies don’t receive adequate rest. While sleep may seem like a luxury, it’s essential for your body to function at its maximum performance. You’re actually cheating yourself by trying to cut corners.
To maximize your sleep hygiene, consider implementing the following strategies:
Maintain a regular sleeping schedule
Follow a winding-down routine
Maintain a bedroom that promotes sleep (dark, quiet, and free from distractions)
Avoid caffeine and very rich foods in the evening
Put away electronics at least one hour before bedtime
Practice Stress Reduction Techniques
Let’s face it. We’re all stressed, and we’re stressed pretty much all the time. Unfortunately, this stress can wreak havoc on our physical health. While you may not be able to control your external circumstances, you can learn to control your reactions.
Stress reduction is an essential part of self-care. By implementing routine relaxation, you decrease the power that stress has over your life.
There are many effective stress reduction techniques, and it may entail some trial-and-error to find the best strategies that work for you. Some helpful relievers include:
Listening to music
Hugging or cuddling with a loved one
Engaging in creative expression
Focusing on gratitude
Reaching out to friends or family
It is helpful to have a variety of different techniques on hand. Different circumstances may call for different types of coping strategies. You want to be prepared to manage your stress- no matter the condition or situation.
How Therapy Can Help You Improve Your Physical Health
You might assume that therapy only focuses on improving your mental well-being. However, the mind and body are interconnected. Therapy can help you explore the roadblocks and difficulties associated with your physical well-being. It can also help provide you with support and encouragement on your journey to improve your physical health.