By Dr. Mache Seibel for Care2.com
Ask a person if they want to stay well and in less than a nanosecond you will get a universal, resounding “Yes!”
Then ask if they eat healthy, exercise regularly, incorporate relaxation into their daily routine and get enough sleep. The response is much slower and the percentage saying, “Yes” is a lot lower.
Sure, people want to make changes to improve their health, but changing old habits for newer, healthier ones is hard work. For many, it seems almost impossible. Why else would the average person make the same New Year’s resolution 10 different years without success, or only one in seven people who have had a heart attack make long lasting changes to improve their diet or exercise habits? Don’t you think it is time to take responsibility for your own health?
The trick is to start simple. Small changes can make a big difference. Here are five simple steps you can start doing today to improve your health.
1. Drink one less soda or sweetened drink per day.
The average American drinks nearly 60 gallons of soda yearly. Every 12 ounce can contains 12 teaspoons of sugar. Drink just one less soda or sweetened drink each day for a year and you will lose 10 pounds. It is that simple. Even the diet sodas are not ideal. The artificial sugar in those drinks fools your body into secreting more insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas that transfers sugar from the bloodstream into your cells. Without the sugar to transfer, the extra insulin causes an increase in the amount of fat that is stored in your abdomen and the acidity of diet sodas can rob your teeth of calcium.
2. Add one fruit or vegetable per day to your diet.
Both the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association recommend eating a total of at least five fruits or vegetables daily. Fruits and vegetables help lower the risk of both cancer and heart disease. I know that not everyone loves the taste of fruits and vegetables, but here is a trick: Try tasting the new one at least 12 different times. Even if you only eat one bite, repeating the tasting allows almost everyone to learn to like a new taste. Try it. You may be surprised that you have found a new great dish that you really enjoy and is great for your health.
3. Move more.
You don’t have to run a marathon to benefit from exercise, but getting started can be a challenge, so here are some tips to jump-start your new exercise habit. Just park a little further in the parking lot from the entrance. Or walk up one flight of stairs instead of taking an elevator. Try walking up the escalator. When you are on the phone, don’t sit down. Stand and keep moving. At work, make your meetings walking meetings. Ask the other person to go for a walk and you will be amazed how pleasant the meeting will seem. Just move. It all adds up. Eventually, you can work your way up to 10,000 steps each day. To see how many steps you already are taking, buy a pedometer.
4. Find quiet time in your day.
Let’s face it. We all live hectic lives that never seem to slow down. Once or twice a day, find a quiet spot in a pleasant location. Take a slow deep breath through your nose, hold it for five seconds, and let it out slowly through your mouth. Doing that for even one minute will begin to relax you. Work your way up to five or 10 minutes once or twice daily. You will be amazed at how relaxed you feel. If you are a smoker, try inhaling only air and leave out the cigarette. Make this smoke-free quiet time.
5. Improve your sleep.
Getting enough sleep plays a major role in your health, mood and productivity. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most people need between seven and eight hours of sleep a night but most Americans get just over six hours per night. Here are some simple tips that will help you sleep better.
Starting at least 30 minutes before your bedtime, turn off all electronics. Find a quiet spot and either read a book, listen to relaxing music, or talk with friends or family. It is a great way to settle down and get ready for bed and it will likely help you drift off to sleep. Sleep not only keeps you rested and more alert and productive, it also helps control your weight. While we are sleeping, hormones are produced that curb our appetites and keep us from feeling hungry. Ever think sleep was an important part of your weight control? It is.
These five tips are something everyone can do. They are simple and they will make a great difference in getting your health jump started toward improvement.
Machelle (Mache) Seibel, MD is the founder of www.DoctorSeibel.com and www.HealthRock.com; author of Eat to Defeat Menopause: the essential nutrition guide for a healthy midlife; and a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.