When we look to improve our health and fitness a lot of the time we get caught up in our longer-term goals such as losing a stone or training for a 10k run. While it’s great to have goals to work towards, keeping us on track and acting as motivation, sometimes these very same goals can at times feel unattainable leaving us disheartened.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the road to better health doesn’t always have to mean making huge leaps or drastic lifestyle changes. There are a lot of smaller steps that can be made today that will improve your overall health and quality of life – and better still they can easily be incorporated into your daily routine. All ears? Well here’s how….
1. Cut down on processed foods
Food is what fuels our body so it’s worth giving some careful thought as to what we’re eating, as too much of the wrong foods can have a negative impact on our health. It’s easy to make simple switches to more nutritious, whole foods – for example swapping your usual, processed breakfast cereal for a bowl of satisfying porridge in the morning is a great way to get your day off to the best start. Other simple changes could include cutting out sugary fizzy drinks, swapping your white bread sandwich for a wholemeal pitta and loading your evening meal up with nutrient rich veg.
2. Get to bed early
Did you know that we can actually go longer without food than they can without sleep, so don’t forget to prioritise a good night’s kip. Research shows a clear link between inadequate sleep and poor health, including an increased risk of high blood pressure, obesity, depression, diabetes and heart disease
Ideally you should be aiming for 7 or 8 hours of quality sleep each night. Getting in to a good bedtime routine can help achieve this – for example, take a bath, read a book before bed rather than watching television, don’t eat too close to bedtime and ban mobiles from the bedroom.
3. Get moving
Exercise is key to optimising your health but it can be a challenge to find a routine that works for you. Quite often it’s all too easy to find excuses not to go to the gym but some simple changes can fit exercise into your daily routine. A simple first step is just to make the decision to move more. Get up often, walk more, take the stairs instead of the lift, park away from where you need to go and get off the bus one stop further away – it all adds up and anything that makes you use your body is a bonus. There are so many ways to get your body up and active – from golf, swimming, walking, gardening – even the dreaded housework. Aim to do some form of physical activity for 30 minutes each day.
4. Challenge yourself
Every brain changes with age and mental function can change along the way too. It’s not just your body that benefits from regular exercise, your brain needs a good work out too. Mentally stimulating activity not only improves your mental health, which is interlinked to your physical health – it can also help to improve your brain function too. Pick up a book on your commute or try a crossword at lunchtime. Try out a new hobby such as drawing, painting or other crafts, these require dexterity as well as mental effort as well as being relaxing.
5. Nurture relationships
Our mental health commonly falls by the wayside but our emotional health is every bit as important as keeping physically healthy – one can’t exist without the other. Busy lifestyles are often to blame for having a negative effect on our emotional wellbeing, leaving us feeling disconnected. A simple step to rectify this can be to make a conscious effort to spend more time with those you love. Making this a priority can be a real boost to your mental health, even if it’s catching up with friends at a weekly gym class or arranging some quality time with family - it’s a simple step that could make a big difference.