4 healthy habits that are easy to learn.

Many people think that it is difficult to lead a healthy lifestyle. But you can start with small steps – as simple as possible, but healthy habits that will improve your well-being. From The Year of Taking Care of Yourself, we selected four of these habits: what they are good for and how to make it easier to work on them.

“A Year of Self Care” was written by Jennifer Ashton, MD, chief medical correspondent for ABC News, and board-certified obstetrician, gynecologist, dietetics, and obesity.

1. Stretching

Stretching helps your muscles stay strong and healthy regardless of the intensity of your workout. Moreover, you may not train at all – the result will still be there. Just stretch regularly for a few minutes a day.

Why is it worth getting a habit?

Most people do not stretch, although many studies have shown its great benefits. Here are just three pros.

Strengthening Muscles and Preventing Injury… Sitting all day is terrible for the body – in large part because of the contracting and weakening muscles and the inability to stretch them. Running or working out at the gym doesn’t always solve the problem. But stretching invariably helps to keep the muscles long and strong, preventing the harmful effects of static posture.

Improving posture… Stretching strengthens the muscles that keep the spine in an optimal position. This is not the only reason to stand and sit upright; poor posture is one of the main causes of low back pain, and it can also interfere with digestion, cause nerve problems, affect breathing, and cause falls.

Disease protection… Perhaps one of the deepest overall health effects of stretching is its ability to make arteries more elastic, prevent vascular stiffness, improve circulation, and reduce the risk of heart disease.

How can I help myself?

Find exercises online… Look online for reputable sources such as the American Exercise Council, which offers videos on dynamic and static stretching.

Choose a time to practice… Stretching is easy, so it’s just as easy to put it off until the end of the day when it’s too late. Find a convenient time to study.

Breathe… When we feel uncomfortable, natural instinct makes us hold our breath. But this only adds to the anxiety. As you stretch, remember to exhale in this position – this will help you deal with any potential discomfort and stretch more.

2. More steps

Movement is the key to our health. But we spend more and more time sitting at the computer, in the car or on the couch. Just start walking more and improve everything in your body.

Why is it worth getting a habit?

Research in recent decades has proven that people do not walk much and that this affects collective health. A sedentary lifestyle contributes to weight gain and the development of many diseases – cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease. 

– Ability to lose weight. In 2002, the University of Miami conducted a three-month experiment. Participants consumed the same number of calories, but one group walked at a moderate pace for 3 hours a week (equivalent to about 18,000-27,000 steps per week or 2600-3900 steps per day), and the other moved less. As a result, representatives of the former lost significantly more weight. And their cholesterol and insulin levels were lower.

– Improved mood. The American Association for Anxiety and Depression (ADAA) found that walking for 10 minutes reduces depression, fatigue, and anger. It also reduces anxiety as well as a 45-minute workout. The effect does not disappear even when you return to your home or office. A good mood can last for several hours. 

– Walking will make you smarter. Walking improves cognitive performance, including through the flow of blood to the brain, delivering oxygen and nutrients. Regular walking promotes the formation of new neurons and connections between brain cells, increasing the size of the hippocampus (which controls memory) and preventing age-related tissue degradation.

How can I help myself?

Use a tracker and count steps or kilometers traveled… This can be a built-in pedometer in a smartphone, a free app, or a fitness bracelet. Set up a reminder to move. Track your progress.

Treat any task or phone call as an opportunity to walk… Adding steps to your daily chores and daily routine is the easiest way to walk more. Treat errands or homework as a fun opportunity to increase the numbers on your pedometer or bracelet. How many steps can you walk to the store or while cleaning the apartment?

Take time to walk… It takes only 20 minutes to walk 1.5 kilometers. And yet, when we are in a hurry, tired or lazy, we choose a bus or taxi, even for short distances. Unless you specifically set aside time for walking, you will not go anywhere on foot.

3. Less alcohol

Everyone has heard about the rate of drinking: no more than one drink per day for women and two for men. But here’s the catch: most people drink more than they think. A study published in the journal Addiction confirms that low-risk people tend to downplay alcohol consumption by 76%.

It’s not just that it’s not easy to be truly honest with yourself when it comes to drinking. We underestimate the real portions of food and drinks, and we also use large-volume dishes. 

Why is it worth getting a habit?

There are several good reasons. For the heart and blood vessels, alcohol is useful only in small quantities, and exceeding the recommended doses harms the body, including increasing the risk of cancer. But there are also less obvious consequences.

Alcohol impairs sleep… It seems to us that a glass of wine or a can of beer acts on us like a sleeping pill. In the first minutes it really works: alcohol increases the amount of adenosine, a substance that suppresses vigor and stimulates sleep. But when it ends, the circadian rhythms (internal clock) fail: you suddenly become more alert. In addition, alcohol blocks REM sleep, during which the body recovers. 

Alcohol affects weight… 150 ml of wine is about 120 calories. Chances are, you drink even more at one time. This means that in a week a daily glass of wine provides 850 additional calories and almost 3500 – a month. Drink more than one glass a day, or add sweet ingredients to your shake, and the calorie content will increase even more. Alcohol – not bread, pasta, or other carbohydrates – interferes with weight loss.

Alcohol affects skin condition… Alcohol dehydrates the body. It can lead to a systemic inflammatory response of the skin and blood vessels – which is why our face turns red when we drink. Drinking alcohol for a long time can damage the capillaries on the face – and the redness will become permanent. So-so perspective, right? And too much alcohol affects our ability to absorb vitamin A, which helps in the production of collagen, which keeps the skin firm and elastic.

How can I help myself?

Tell your acquaintances that you give up alcohol for a while.… If you said you didn’t drink, no one would offer a glass of champagne or cocktail. And there will be no pressure either: you are all right, you are not a prude and not a bore – you just do not drink this month. By telling everyone about the challenge, you take responsibility. It may be embarrassing for you to publicly announce your decision. But in vain: in the case of the author, 99% of people not only reacted positively, but also admired her determination and wanted to join.

Order a soft drink in a cocktail glass or wine glass… This will give you the feeling of a grown-up drink, but no alcohol. If you prefer cocktails, try lemon soda in a tall glass or even a martini glass. It will look like a cocktail and will cover you if you do not want to advertise a sober lifestyle.

Promise yourself a gift for the money saved… Whenever you feel like trading clean water for a glass of wine, remember how much money you won’t spend. If it helps, calculate how much you will save in a whole month. Promise to pamper yourself with something: maybe you’ve been dreaming about new headphones for a long time? Or is it time to buy comfortable sneakers? maybe enough money for a fitness center membership?

Why is it worth getting a habit?

Reducing the amount of added sugar in your food has many benefits. Here are just a few of them.

– You will get rid of addiction. Eating sweets stimulates the brain’s reward system. This releases dopamine, which gives a feeling of pleasure and happiness. Like drugs, sugar can overstimulate the reward system – and withdrawal and loss of self-control follow.

– The condition of the skin will improve. If we spend too much time in the sun, our skin can become discolored and wrinkled. But few people know that too much sugar has the same effect. This is because the sugar in the skin combines with collagen and other proteins, making the cells harder and less elastic.

– The risk of getting sick will decrease. Those who consume a lot of sugar with food or drinks are more likely to have heart attacks and heart disease than those who consume less sweets.

How can I help myself?

Get ready… The first month without sugar will be much more difficult for you if your kitchen does not transfer cookies, cakes, sweets, ice cream or any other desserts. Clear the house and repeat the same at the office.

Count the norm in any way possible… The WHO recommends that women consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day (men are more fortunate: up to 38 grams). Track this rate by any means. Try the Fooducate app, which has added sugar data for over 250,000 foods. Wholesome is fine too: it tracks your total sugar intake and alerts you when you over-consume.

Find an alternative to desserts… It’s hard to give up croissants or your favorite chocolates. But there are many delicious low-sugar desserts out there. Do yogurt with cocoa nibs (crunchy crumbs taste like chocolate but don’t have added sugar), frozen grapes or bananas, fruit salad, protein or food bars, baked apples, and so on.

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