Time and energy are not the only things needed to make a healthy change in your life. You need to make a commitment to change one behavior at a time. Let’s take a look at low cost, small changes you can make to turn 2015 into your healthiest year ever. It has been said that it can take as many as 21 days to change a daily routine into a habit. Can you commit to 21 days? I am challenging you to add one healthy habit this month to your daily routine.
Remember before starting any diet or exercise program to talk with your health care provider as they can give you the best advice on how to be successful if you have a health condition without putting your health at risk. This year I am committed to walking and consuming fewer calories.
Commit to Exercise
Do you get outside each day for exercise and fresh air? If you don’t, this is a behavior you can change. Start by taking a walk during your lunch hour, or choose a morning walk to gain focus and energy for the day. Use an MP3 player or phone to listen to a book or music. Ask friends to walk with you.
- Wear shoes with solid support.
- Walk on a soft surface to prevent aching joints. The pads on your feet can get sore especially if you are pounding hard pavement all week long.
- If you start to have pain or swelling in your ankles or feet, contact your doctor.
Lifting weights several times a week provides benefits for both your physical as well as emotional health. Women who suffer from health conditions such as arthritis, obesity, heart disease and depression can receive benefits from lifting. Lifting can improve your flexibility and balance. Tufts University used a 16 week strength-training program with older men and women who had various levels of pain from knee osteoarthritis. “The study revealed strength training decreased pain by 43%, increased muscle strength and general physical performance.” ( http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/growingstronger/why/index.html)
A different study conducted at Tufts University and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that “strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk for fractures among women aged 50-70. Adult women who participate in strength training programs have increased levels of self-confidence and self-esteem.”
Strength Training Tips
- Don’t lift too much too soon!
- Warm up before you begin your routine.
- Wait 48 hours between each session to give your muscles a rest.
- Strength training doesn’t mean you need to bench press 50 pounds! You can use small hand weights that are 1 or 3 pounds to start strengthening your arm muscles.
Commit to Healthy Eating
Start your commitment challenge by adjusting one eating habit. Fresh fruits, fiber and lean meats can help you stay heart healthy. Don’t eat foods that are full of empty calories such as candy, chips, cookies and sodas. By choosing to commit to small changes in your daily diet, you can reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
- Leave skins on fruit and choose whole fruits to add more fiber.
- Eat whole grains.
- Eat around 3 ounces of protein at your meals. This is around the size of a deck of cards.
- Add foods in a variety of colors. Think green, red, purple and orange to obtain antioxidants to fight against cancers, build immunity and stay heart healthy.
- Drink water, milk and juices throughout the day.
Commit to Solid Hours of Sleep
To feel vibrant and not sluggish during the day, you can commit to changing your sleep patterns. Restorative sleep is required for your immune system to strengthen. During this time, your muscles, bones and tissues are all repaired. Your brain has time to compartmentalize information you have learned throughout the day.
- Develop a routine and keep it every night.
- Turn off TVs and phones.
- Limit your caffeine 4-6 hours before your bedtime.
- Cut back on any alcohol consumption 4-6 hours before bedtime
- Contact your health care provider if restless nights continue.
Commit to Socialization
This year take the time to connect with old friends and cultivate new friendships. Research has shown that adults having regular social ties are less likely to exhibit cognitive decline when compared to those who are isolated. A University of Michigan benefits of social interaction study (3,610 adults with ages between ages 24 and 96) found even 10 minutes of social interaction improved cognitive performance.
- Volunteer at local food pantries, hospitals, schools and literacy networks and talk with the other volunteers.
- Dip your toes into a new hobby like writing, singing, dancing, photography, gardening, painting, hiking, or pottery.
- Invite neighbors over for a healthy brunch.
- Grab some co-workers and make a team for a local run/walk that benefits a cause you support.
- Call some friends and take a day trip to a nearby museum or art gallery.
- Don’t forget to check out your church or local library to attend events they sponsor.
Making a healthy change allows you the opportunity to increase your lifespan, decrease health conditions and improve your self-esteem. Find the time, the energy and make that commitment.
Because it all begins with a healthy woman…
Sue Ann Thompson is founder and president of the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation (WWHF), a statewide non-profit organization whose mission is to help Wisconsin women and their families reach their healthiest potential. WWHF provides programs and conducts forums that focus on education, prevention, and early detection; connects individuals to health resources; produces and distributes the most up-to-date health education and resource materials; and, awards grants and scholarships to women health researchers and related community non-profits. To learn more, visit wwhf.org or call 1-800-448-5148.