Many of us would like to lose a few pounds, eat better and get more exercise, especially if it means looking and feeling better. But it doesn’t happen overnight - it takes patience and determination. Incremental change offers the best way to achieve results; it’s the surest way to incorporate head-to-toe health practices into your daily routine. You could pledge to go for a 5-mile run every day, but if you lead a busy life, that’s probably unlikely. Here are a few manageable strategies that can help make healthy lifestyle changes more manageable.
Monitor your health
Be diligent about medical and dental check-ups, particularly if you’re a senior. If you need treatment, take full advantage of your health insurance (if you’re a Medicare enrollee, your coverage could change next year, so use it while you can). Some Medicare Advantage plans offer dental and vision insurance (original Medicare does not) and provide access to exercise facilities nationwide. Whatever your age, it’s important to take full advantage of health and dental insurance.
It’s so easy to reach for potato chips or cookies when you’re hungry and just want a little something to snack on. But when junk food becomes a habit, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a healthy weight. Try snacking on carrots, apples or almonds instead of candy or salty treats. Take the same approach at the dinner table. Substitute brown rice and whole grain breads for white bread and pasta. Instead of eating chicken or turkey the usual way, serve it skinless, and emphasize lean cuts of pork and beef. Include plenty of green vegetables, like broccoli, cabbage, asparagus and Brussels sprouts, with each meal. If you drink more than one sugar-laden drink per day, try replacing one each day with a glass of water, and increase your water consumption incrementally.
There’s no doubt salt makes many foods taste better. The problem is that salt raises blood pressure and speeds up weight gain. Instead of automatically reaching for the salt shaker, taste your food first - it may not need seasoning. If it does, substitute healthier alternatives, like sodium-free seasoning, red pepper flakes, lemon or lime juice, natural herbs, or a salt-free substitute. And remove the salt shaker from the dinner table.
Hit the sack earlier
A full night’s sleep is as important to your health as diet and exercise. Your body needs at least 7 hours of sleep each night to restore itself, to bolster the immune system, and moderate your metabolism. Restful sleep is also important for cognitive functioning and your ability to think clearly at work. If sleep is a problem, try going to bed and getting up earlier. A regular, consistent sleep schedule makes it easier to lose weight and fight off illness.
You don’t need to block out time each day at the gym to get exercise. A brisk walk from the bus stop or subway to your office each day or a few laps around the block at lunch will give your heart a decent workout. Take the stairs instead of the elevator at work - it’s a good way to exercise the lower body, work the lungs and get your circulation pumping. Taking the stairs during the work day will leave you “feeling the burn” between meetings and provide exercise you otherwise don’t have time for. Another great way to get in exercise is riding a bike to work. If that sounds a little strenuous, an electric-assist bike could be just what you need. These bicycles provide an extra boost which will make climbing hills or bridges just a little easier.
Healthful strategies don’t have to be formal and awkward additions to an already busy routine. In fact, they’re easier to maintain when integrated into one’s lifestyle. You can exercise simply by walking the stairs at work. Reducing your salt and sugar intake and eating a balanced diet will facilitate weight loss. These are just a few of the manageable practices that can easily be worked into your everyday life.
Writer - Jennifer McGregor