how to improve your health

How to improve your health The three things that you can do to improve your health are sleep more, exercise more, and eat better. These three changes will not only help you feel better about yourself but also look better in the mirror. When you start to feel tired all of the time or when people stop telling you how great you look it is time for a change. Your body needs sleep to repair itself after each day and exercise helps with this process as well. Eating healthy food can be difficult at times but once you get into the habit of eating good foods every day it will become easier over time!

1. Eat slowly

Did you know that eating too quickly can cause weight gain?

According to research, faster eaters are more likely to be overweight, as compared to people who eat more slowly. In one study, it was also suggested that this is 115% more likely to happen in middle-aged women.

As you eat, your body releases ‘fullness hormones’ that tell your brain you’ve eaten and should stop. However, as this process takes about 20 minutes, speedy eaters may consume too much food and only receive this signal later – which explains the ‘post-buffet bloat’ you may feel after a satisfying meal.

The next time you’re having a meal, make a conscious effort to eat slower and observe the effect on your appetite.

2. Drink more water

You may have heard of the saying to “drink 8 glasses of water a day”, yet not many may actually follow this, often choosing to count their total liquid intake instead – which usually includes sodas, coffee, and other beverages.

Your body isn’t made up of soft drinks and beers, however. Depending on age, about 60% of the human body is made up of water. There are numerous benefits of drinking more water – it helps us to control our calorie intake, energizes our muscles, keeps our kidneys healthy, and hydrates the skin.

As you stay hydrated with water, you’ll also find yourself having fewer cravings for sugary or less healthy beverages.

3. Read nutrition labels

Read nutrition labels
If weight loss is one of your health goals, make it a habit to read the nutritional labels on your foods during your grocery shopping.

Look out for the total amount of calories a product contains, and not just for 1 serving (which is typically what’s stated on the label).

Reading nutrition labels will also help you to avoid only reading marketing labels like “high in fiber”, “low fat” or “zero sugar”, as these labels may be misleading. While a product is “high in calcium”, it could also be high in sugar – a detail you may have missed if you hadn’t read the nutrition label.

4. Eat more fruits and vegetables

Eat more fruits and vegetables
A health survey of more than 65,000 participants found that people who ate the most portions of fruits or vegetables (7 or more) each day had a 42% reduced risk of dying (from any cause), compared to individuals who ate less than one portion a day.

However, you may want to choose more fresh produce, as it was found that frozen and canned fruit can also increase the risk of dying by 17%.

Need a tip on how you can add more fruits and vegetables into your diet? Buy some cut fruit after lunch and bring it to your workplace. The next time you’re hungry, that fruit will be the closest and most convenient snack you’ll reach for.

5. Work out (at least) 3 times a week

According to Active Health (an initiative by the Singapore Sports Council), adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week. The reality though, is that only 26% of Singaporeans do so.

Hitting this goal doesn’t have to be difficult. You can try:

  • Do more of an activity you’re already doing
  • Picking an activity you think you’ll enjoy doing and start doing it

These can be small changes. For example, instead of walking with your dog, put on your running shoes and jog with your dog. And if you’re already running twice a week, add a third day to explore different routes at a relaxing, enjoyable pace.

6. Quit smoking

While legislation has placed disease-riddled images on cigarette boxes and eliminated tobacco advertising for decades, smoking is still a fairly common habit in Singapore. According to HealthHub, 6 Singaporeans die prematurely from smoking-related diseases every day.

Quitting smoking can be challenging, but also one of the most life-changing decisions you make. Some strategies to overcome the addiction include exercise, support groups, relaxation techniques like breathing, or even nicotine replacement therapy.

7. Get a fitness tracker (and use it)

These days, fitness trackers are changing the way people live and work out. These intelligent wrist-based devices can track your heart rate and the distance of your run, and count the number of calories you burn during workouts.

While the accuracy of fitness trackers (and smartwatches) may have been questionable a few years ago, the accuracy, reliability, and reputation of these devices have been said to have improved remarkably in recent years.

8. Sleep for 6 – 8 hours daily

Sleep for 6 - 8 hours daily
Did you know that 6 – 8 is the recommended number of hours of sleep adults should get every night for better health? According to a paper on sleep duration and mortality, researchers also found that people who get less than 7 hours of sleep a night are 12% more likely to die prematurely.

However, be careful to not oversleep, as it was also found that people who sleep more than 8 – 9 hours daily have a 30% added risk of dying prematurely.

The conclusion? Go to sleep at a time that allows you to have 6 – 8 hours of rest, then wake up when the alarm rings – and not after hitting the snooze button several times!

9. Smile and laugh more

This is one of the simplest, yet more powerful changes you can make to improve your mental health.

Why does this work? When we laugh, we breathe deeper and take in more air, which stimulates our heart, lungs, and muscles. It also increases endorphins released by our brains, which positively influence our physiology and mood – automatically placing us into a better, happier state.

So go ahead, smile often, and inject more laughter into your days. Sometimes, laughter really can be the best medicine.

10. Keep a journal of daily wins

Keep a journal
Referencing a Harvard Business School professor in her TEDx talk on achieving success through small wins, educator Mehrnaz Bassiri says that keeping a daily diary of progress helps us to reflect on our days and record all the small achievements that would otherwise go unnoticed.

This habit helps us to chronicle and celebrate our small wins, even on those frustrating days when we feel we haven’t accomplished much.

These “wins” can be anything from making a healthy eating choice during lunch, reacting positively to a negative situation at work, or simply doing something that made you happy or inspired, for the first time.

11. Enjoy de-stressing.

Experts recommend regular exercise, meditation, and breathing techniques to reduce stress. But even something as simple — and enjoyable — as listening to soothing music, reading a good book, soaking in a hot tub, or playing with your pet can help you relax.

That’s advice you should take to heart because prolonged stress can cause or exacerbate a number of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, depression, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, and obesity.

Don’t have a lot of time? Don’t let that stress you out. As with exercise, even brief periods of relaxation are beneficial.

Spending even 10 minutes at a time doing something you enjoy can go a long way toward beating the stressors of everyday life. Just reading one chapter or taking your dog for a few laps around the block will help you feel calmer, more refreshed, and more energized.

If you can’t take a full break from whatever you’re doing, try simply taking a few slow, deep breaths at that moment. When you slow down your breathing, it helps you relax. This relaxation response releases body chemicals that relieve stress and may improve immune function.

Deep breathing can also lower your resting heart rate. People with lower resting heart rates are typically in better physical condition than those with higher rates.

12. Put away the salt.

A saltshaker on the dining table makes it all too easy to consume excess salt, which can lead to high blood pressure. So put the shaker in a cabinet or pantry and bring it out only when you’re cooking.

It’s also a good idea to taste your food before you salt it. You may find it doesn’t need more.

You can also try spicing up your food with lemon or lime juice, garlic, red pepper flakes, herbs, or a salt-free seasoning blend. Stock your fridge and pantry with your favorite fresh and dried herbs so you’ll always have them on hand to flavor your foods.

13. Get to bed earlier.

Most of us don’t get the seven or more hours of sleep adults to need.

Over time, a shortage of shut-eye can raise your risk of a heart attack or stroke — regardless of your age, weight, or exercise habits.

If you’re consistently sleep-deprived, going to bed even 15 minutes earlier every night could help. Also, set a regular sleep and wake schedule, and stick to it — even on days off.

14. Have a glass of red wine.

Studies have shown that the powerful antioxidants found in red wine protect against heart disease, colon cancer, anxiety, and depression. So unless there is a medical reason why you shouldn’t imbibe, go ahead and enjoy that glass of merlot with your nightly meal — you can even toast to your good health.

But drink in moderation. Just as a small amount of red wine has health benefits, too much alcohol — even red wine — can cause a variety of health problems, including liver and kidney disease and cancer.

Women, in particular, need to be careful about alcohol consumption. They are at a higher overall risk of liver problems than men, so they are more likely to experience liver problems from smaller amounts of alcohol.

For a healthy man, two drinks a day is not likely to do harm; women, on the other hand, should limit themselves to one daily alcoholic beverage.

15. Check your posture and ergonomics.

Next time you’re at your desk or on the phone, take a moment to think about your posture. Then straighten up your back, tuck in your stomach and put your feet flat on the floor with your legs uncrossed. You’ll feel more relaxed right away.

The few seconds this takes can help you avoid back pain, one of the most common health problems in the United States and a leading cause of disability.

And if you work at a computer, look at the ergonomics of your workstation — how you fit and move in your environment — to help prevent back and neck strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, eye strain, and other occupational injuries.

A few simple adjustments, such as repositioning your computer monitor, switching to a chair that provides more low back support and taking regular breaks throughout the day to do stretching exercises, can go a long way toward creating a healthier and more comfortable workspace.

The next time you’re going to a higher floor, bypass the elevator and climb the stairs instead. You’ll get your blood pumping, exercise your lungs and work the muscles in your lower body.

16. Do a crossword puzzle.

Researchers at Rush have found that mentally challenging activities, such as reading, doing crossword puzzles or Sodoku and playing chess, may have a protective effect on your brain.

According to research studies, regularly engaging your mind may help lower your risk for the dementia associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Don’t enjoy puzzles or games? Don’t worry: There are other ways to maintain your brain health. Eat with your nondominant hand. Walk a new route home from work. And connect with others — staying socially engaged may also protect against dementia.

17. Weigh-in.

Maintaining a healthy weight can lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. But for women, there’s another reason to keep pounds from piling on: It will decrease the risk for future pelvic floor disorders.

Pelvic floor disorders are more common in women who have delivered babies vaginally. However, a recent study found that even women who have never had a vaginal birth are at increased risk for urinary stress incontinence if they’re overweight or obese.

18. Make a few dietary substitutions.

  • Swap white bread, rice, crackers, and pasta for healthier whole-grain versions.
  • Use skinless chicken and turkey in your recipes instead of skin-on, and leaner cuts of other meats such as beef or pork.
  • Replace one sugary drink (soda, juice, etc.) each day with a tall glass of water.
  • If you get hungry between meals, snack on a handful of almonds or cashews, a piece of whole fruit, or carrot sticks dipped in hummus rather than reaching for candy bars or potato chips.

In addition, try incorporating an extra serving of nonstarchy vegetables into your daily diet.

Want a snack? Munch on a carrot instead of a cookie. Making dinner for your family? Serve broccoli or spinach as a side dish instead of mashed potatoes. Add green peas to your brown rice, or slices of red or yellow pepper to your sandwich.

It’s no secret that vegetables — especially dark, leafy greens — are good for you. But there’s another benefit to packing more veggies into your daily diet: They’re rich in fiber and contain lots of water, so they’ll leave you full and satisfied without a lot of calories and fat.

There are plenty of great recipes in cookbooks and online — including on Rush’s content hub — for tasty yet healthful veggie dishes.

19. Take the stairs.

The next time you’re going to a higher floor, bypass the elevator and climb the stairs instead. You’ll get your blood pumping, exercise your lungs and work the muscles in your lower body.

It’s a great way to add physical activity to your day without having to block out time to exercise. If you are aiming for the recommended 10,000 steps each day, taking the stairs counts toward that total.

All of these small steps can add up to a healthier you.

20. Stretch it out.

Regularly stretching your muscles helps you avoid injuries, stay limber, and move freely as you age.

Take a few minutes to stretch out before and after your exercise. If you aren’t working out that day, take a few stretch breaks. Find a quiet space in the office where you won’t be disturbed. On the go? Look for natural opportunities in your daily routine to stretch, such as getting out of your car or reaching for items on a high shelf at the store.

Stretching right before bed can also help you relieve tension and help you get to sleep.

And balance exercises — like Tai Chi — can help dramatically reduce your risk of dangerous falls.

Looking ahead

The good news is that it’s never too early — or too late — to adopt healthy habits.

When you’re young, you can build the foundation for a lifetime of good health. When you’re older, healthy habits can help you control any diseases you have and lower your risk of getting others in the future.

Remember, you can lead a healthier life by simply making small changes, one at a time. Start by picking a few of your favorite tips mentioned in this article and incorporating them into your daily routine!

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