Thanks to the 20th century, we have a lot of work to do when it comes to developing healthier lifestyle habits. The last hundred years brought us television, the king-sized soda and a host of office jobs that we drive to. These factors have led to an increase in sedentary lifestyles and an increase in weight across the board.
They’re also the major culprits behind the incredible numbers of prescription drug users, as in the US, 8 out of 10 prescriptions are for conditions tied to poor weight management. And while such numbers vary by country, one thing is certain: we’ve got some work to do (or undo).
Whether you’re a student, a professional, or somewhere in between, we’ve got some simple habits you can incorporate into your routine to live a healthier life.
1. Go For a Morning Walk
There’s no great mystery about the connection between getting moving and staying healthy—no one on the planet doubts it. That said, it can be truly difficult to work exercise into your life if you’re constantly busy with classes or work. Children also add plenty to the mix.
That’s why one of the best ways to really get yourself going is to go for a walk every morning. We’re not suggesting a jog or a run either; both are good for you, but unless you’re already very healthy, you’ll only be burning through short-term energy storage
Marathon runners are keenly aware of this phenomenon, which is why they don’t sprint until the very end (you get tired quickly because you’re no longer using oxygen). It’s also worth noting that instead of burning fat, your body resorts to eating your muscles if you try to push too hard!
Going for a walk is the better choice because it causes your body to burn long-term storage (fat). It also gets your metabolism moving before you start the rest of your day and it can help sharpen your mind. Exercise improves focus, so when better to do it than before you really need to hone in? Incidentally, be sure to walk at least 30 minutes if you have the time.
Just avoid going for long walks too late in the day. Exercise can make it more difficult to sleep. If you must walk at night, be sure it’s at least two hours before you go to bed to allow time for your body to cool down.
2. Prepare Your Own Food
While at first cooking for yourself all the time can be the most tedious, time-consuming activity of your life, it quickly becomes a joy and a pleasure. Preparing your own food is an art form of its own because you get to experiment with different flavors and tastes to create dishes that suit your personal likings.
It’s also considerably healthier than eating prepared foods because you aren’t at the mercy of whatever is cheapest to the supplier. Your freshly made foods don’t require preservatives, excess salt, or excess sugar to keep months of shelf life. All of that junk that goes into keeping food pretty at the grocery store is something you want to avoid.
This is also a great opportunity to save money. Visiting your local farm or farmer’s market will give you access to seasonal goods at a considerable discount relative to the grocery store. You can also become familiar with the supplies of your food to learn how it’s grown and what (if any) pesticides or fertilizers are used in the process.
If you aren’t sure where to find the farm, get one of the many apps that list them all across the country. Locavore and FarmStand are both great for this purpose. If you’re planning to travel, you can even utilize a VPN to change your IP address so you can see local results in different areas.
3. Visit a Chiropractor
Despite spending the better part of the early 20th century being demonized by the medical industry, Chiropractic has truly come into its own over the past few decades. It might seem odd to think of visiting the doctor as a good habit. But you’d be surprised by just how helpful it can be.
A little-known fact is that chiropractors are trained as primary care “portal of entry” providers. They are taught to identify all the same pathologies as allopathic doctors, plus a series of dysfunctions that can occur at the spinal level that produces neurological conditions (muscle weakness, poor coordination, unexplained pain, etc.) that are usually fixed with what they call an “adjustment.”
They make for good wellness practitioners because they can advise you on healthier diet choices, good exercise programs, and ways to improve your posture to prevent degenerative diseases (ever heard of text neck?) Their low insurance premiums also make care considerably less costly.
More importantly, they can’t prescribe medication. While some illnesses do require a prescription to handle, most health problems resolve on their own or with changes to behavior. And for everything else, you can always get a referral to a specialist — pretty much what your primary care doctor would do anyway.
4. Create a Sleep Sanctuary
The start of a healthy day is only after a good night’s sleep. That’s something that has become increasingly difficult for some of us as the weight of our daily responsibilities makes getting to bed on time a major task.
Ideally, you should aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night; any deviation and the quality of your sleep drastically decreases. It’s also important to go to bed around the same time each night, as your body tends to prefer a very specific rhythm.
Where you sleep is just as important and you shouldn’t take that lightly. If you sleep in your bed, do only that. Your bed should not be a place to watch TV, eat or play games from. When your body associates your bed exclusively with rest, it will naturally want to fall asleep when you lie down.
Blue light — produced by just about all electronics — is one of the worst things to have present in your sleep area. If possible, make sure there aren’t any lights glaring or flashing in your bedroom. That includes cable boxes, digital clocks, cell phones, tablets, etc. Leave those for waking hours and settle for a dark room.
Consider using a standing fan for white noise if there are other sounds at night. If there’s no way to get it totally dark in your room, you may benefit from using a sleep mask.
5. Limit Your Tech Time
Few welcome our final tip, but it has to be done. We all love technology; it’s what makes summer tolerable and winter less deadly. Yet there’s definitely such a thing as too much. Knowing when to put it down for a while is crucial for your health.
We’re not suggesting you just shut everything down either. If you use apps such as RescueTime, you can monitor how much time you spend doing activities on your device and set alarms to let you know when enough is enough. This can also be used to keep you focused if you find yourself getting distracted with social media when you really need to focus on other things.
Set times in your day when you’ll focus only on the outside world. During your morning walks, consider making some of them quiet time without music, texts, or phone calls. Have a “shut-off” time for tech before bed; and don’t pick any devices up until the morning.
Try to avoid using technology while you eat. As counterintuitive as it feels today, using tech while you eat can actually contribute to the inability to feel full. Your brain actually needs a certain amount of time spent chewing and enjoying the food you eat to send the “enough is enough” hormone to your digestive system. And eating while distracted tends to encourage us to just shovel food down without really appreciating it (and as a result, this leads to overeating).
For a Healthy Tomorrow
Getting healthy takes dedication. It’s an everyday struggle in the modern world and there’s really no shortcut. But, by creating healthy habits and sticking to them on a regular basis, you can live a longer, higher quality life.
How will you make it happen? Tell us your plan in the comments.