I think we all want to be physically healthy. No one would intentionally choose to be tired, sluggish, overweight, or sick all the time. I don’t know anyone who wants to visit their doctor more often in order to be prescribed more and more medicines for illnesses and diseases. But, statistics show that, in the main, we’re getting less and less healthy over time.
From repeated acute colds and minor illnesses to devastating diseases without a cure, physical health is something that many Americans struggle with in some form or another.
The truth is, it can be hard to keep up with all the changes in the recommendations that the government makes for our physical health. There always seems to be a new scientific study that contradicts the last one. And in our busy culture, who has the time to worry about their physical health anyways? It can often feel like a full-time job to make and eat the proper food (sourced in the proper way), get the recommended physical activity each day, and take the myriad of vitamins and supplements that are marketed to us.
The reality is that physical health doesn’t have to take all of your focus and time and living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean completely overhauling your entire life next Monday. Finding our way to being truly healthy physically isn’t an impossible feat, but it is a process. We must learn to be intentional about the choices we make regarding our food and activities and we must learn to take small, gradual baby steps to lead us in the direction of our goals.
Today, I want to share with you ten changes you can begin to make to move closer to being more physically healthy. Don’t try to implement all of these next Monday. Instead, try to pick the one that is the most challenging for you, or the one that you feel would make the biggest difference in your life right now. Then, slowly start to incorporate the change into your life. Choose to take a small step toward this new goal all throughout your day. Each small step will add up and over time, you will begin to see some big differences in how you feel. Once you’ve mastered one, go back and begin working on whichever other change will make the biggest difference for you.
And if you mess up and fall off the rail one day, just make the next right choice. You don’t have to wait until next Monday or even tomorrow to get back on track. Just make your next choice a better one.
1. Get Enough Sleep
The number one, most basic way to improve your physical health is to get enough sleep. Preferably, you should be getting an average at least 7-9 hours of sleep in each 24 hour period. I know, easier said than done, especially when you have young kids or your to-do list is long, but sleep should be one of your top priorities. It will make everything else easier.
If you are looking for a way to easily track your sleep each night, I would highly recommend getting a wearable fitness tracker that can detect your sleep patterns. I have a simple FitBit Flex and it is really convenient to be able to see not only how much sleep I’m getting, but also to be able to track how the quality of sleep I am getting each night.
2. Drink More Water
The general rule of thumb is to drink to thirst. Pay attention to your body and when you are thirsty, grab a drink. Your body is pretty amazing and knows how much you need to drink, you just have to learn to listen to it. If you don’t trust your thirst mechanism, another useful tip is to drink about a half ounce to an ounce of water for each pound of body weight. This means if you weigh 135 pounds, you should be drinking between 67-135 ounces of water each day. Use your thirst, your activity level, and the weather to tell you if you should be on the low end or the high end of that range.
One of the most important things to do to incorporate drinking more water in your day is to actually have a portable water cup that goes with you everywhere. So often we get caught up in the busyness of our day that we just don’t have time to run out and grab a bottle of water (not to mention how expensive it can be to constantly need to buy bottles of water each day). You will rarely see me out and about without my water cup nearby. I have gotten to the point where I can’t stand the feeling of being thirsty, so I always make sure I’m prepared.
For the longest time, I carried around these plastic insulated tumblers. They worked great and lasted for years. But I tend to be a bit clumsy and after dropping each of them several times they started developing cracks. Last week I upgraded to these stainless steel tumblers to give me a little more durability. Whatever you do, choose a tumbler/mug/cup/bottle that will work with your lifestyle. You might need something fully sealed that you can throw in your purse or maybe you prefer a glass option. Need help with pacing your water intake? Try a time-marked water bottle to keep you on track all day.
3. Eat More Whole, Unprocessed Foods
The closer your food is to the way God originally made it, the better. Start by eating fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. Fill up on the good stuff, so you don’t have room for the junk. You likely won’t completely avoid packaged and processed foods, but the goal is just to aim for the majority of your foods to be whole, real, and unprocessed.
Grabbing a piece of fruit for your afternoon snack is just as easy as opening a bag of chips. Eating a salad with your dinner only takes a couple minutes more than taking a second portion of the meal. Think about small ways you can include more real food throughout your day.
4. Cut back on Sugar
I didn’t say “never eat sugar again”, but if sugar is something you regularly consume, it’s time to start looking for alternatives. Stop buying candy and other sugary snacks and instead, choose to fill your desk and home with healthier snack alternatives. If you’re looking for something sweet try to choose something like fruit instead of a piece of candy If you feel the need to sweeten something, choose a natural sweetener such as honey or real maple syrup.
Be sure that you don’t just replace table sugar with fake sugar. “Fake sugars” or artificial sweeteners are worse for you than table sugar, so be sure to avoid things with artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, sorbitol, xylitol, aspartame, etc. (Hint: if it says “diet” on the label, steer clear.)
You want to choose naturally occurring sugars like those found in fruits, milk, honey, and real maple syrup. I buy honey in bulk and use it nearly everytime I might normally use sugar such as in baked goods or to sweeten tea, yogurt, oatmeal, and many other things. I have this huge bottle that I picked up from Costco so it lasts a while.
5. Be Physically Active Every Single Day
You don’t have to run a marathon every day, but you should move your body in some significant way on a daily basis. If you are like most people I know and your job involves sitting at a computer all day or some other mostly sedentary work, you need to make sure to add some physical activity to your schedule, preferably something that gets your heart rate up and causes you to break out into a sweat.
It takes me 5 minutes or less to break into a sweat on my daily runs, so this doesn’t have to be something that takes a significant amount of time. The key is consistency so it becomes a habit. Some ideas are a brisk walk on your break, taking the stairs to get to your office, doing a few exercises before jumping into the shower in the morning or just before bed.
6. Get Outside Each Day
Even if it’s rainy, even if it’s snowing, even if it’s cold, especially if the sun is shining, I firmly believe that everyone needs some fresh air each and every day. Take a break for just a few minutes at work and walk outside, take a few deep breathes, soak up some sunshine if it’s around, and take a moment to relax and notice your surroundings. Nature, even if it’s in the middle of a busy downtown atmosphere, does good things for your soul. Breath, notice, and enjoy.
7. Take Your Vitamins and Supplements
So your diet isn’t perfect. Even if it was, with the way our food is produced these days, it is likely that you still need some additional supplementation to fill in the holes and gaps in your diet. I do not believe you need to spend thousands of dollars on vitamins and supplements. You do not need to take a supplement for everything and you shouldn’t. Be careful what you choose and be sure that it truly is filling in the gaps in your diet.
Personally, I take a daily multivitamin, and an omega-3 supplement (because I hate fish, so I definitely don’t get enough in my diet). I also take a probiotic supplement on occasion and have been known to add in a magnesium supplement at times.
8. Get Regular Exams
No one wants to go to the doctor, but going to the doctor for preventative checkups can mean less sick visits down the road. Go to the doctor for your annual physical and woman check at least once a year. Go to your dentist twice a year. And get your eyes checked regularly. Most insurance plans cover these visits in full, so be sure to take advantage and have your overall health evaluated to make sure you are as healthy as you think you are.
9. Manage Your Stress
Your brain controls a lot. Your physical health can be very closely tied to your mental health. The more stressed, anxious, or fearful you are on a regular basis, the harder your body has to work to be healthy. All of the tips I’ve listed above can provide tremendous help in keeping you healthy but if you are chronically stressed and busy, your body will pay for it.
Always make time in your schedule for yourself. Be sure to pursue the passions and hobbies that interest you. Prioritize self-care, rest, and relaxation. Take time each day to just breathe and be. Learn how to manage stress and remove the circumstances in your life that cause you excess stress (or change the way you think about things that can’t be removed). Get professional help if you need a little assistance in overcoming your anxieties and stresses. Don’t live your life in a chronic state of stress, you were made for more than that.
10. Don’t be a victim.
So often I hear women use their circumstances as an excuse for poor health and this is garbage. There is always something you can do. Do not give up the power and control of your life to a diagnosis or genetics or any other reason you want to give. Just because you have a bad health diagnosis doesn’t mean you should just throw up your hands and give up. In fact, it is all the more reason for you to prioritize your physical health to counteract the illness or disease.
Alternatively, don’t use the excuse of genetics or family history to allow you to stay unfit, unhealthy, and overweight. There is always, always something you can do to make yourself healthier and overcome the limitations of your genes and family history. The same goes for difficult life circumstances. You may not have any power over your genetics or your history, but you get to decide what you do about it today. Don’t give your power away to excuses. If you want to be healthy make healthier choices, starting right now.
Today’s Action Step
Pick one of these 10 items to be your focus. All throughout your day for the next week think of this one thing and begin making decisions to be healthy. Take small steps to lead you to your goals. You can find better health, it starts with your next healthy decision. Share in the comments which area you will be focusing on first.
Be sure to download my free food and wellness tracker to log the changes you make and the results you see.
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I’m trying to share more overall healthy tips over on my running Instagram profile. Be sure to follow me there for more tips and inspiration.