I heard something yesterday that I wanted to share with all of you. Someone on the radio was explaining why it’s important to stay fit and healthy; their reasoning was simply, “We only get one body.” That really made me stop and think. It’s such a simple statement, but those are words to live by if I’ve ever heard them! It made me realize that our futures are being determined by the way we’re treating our bodies right now, and I’m not just talking about what we eat. Not making time to exercise, combined with a lack of water and poor sleeping habits, doesn’t just result in obesity, grogginess and stress headaches. It can lead to serious health issues such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even cancer. We might say we’re too young or too busy to worry about these things, but think about it – when you retire, do you want to relax on a beach somewhere, healthy as a horse, or be confined to your house all day, unable to enjoy your golden years because of your many health problems?
It’s often our priority to do well academically and financially, and as a result our physical and mental health suffers. Because of the fast-paced lives most of us lead, we feel there’s no possible way to make healthier choices without sacrificing time or money. Fortunately, that’s not quite true. Here are three simple tips we should all follow in order to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle:
1. Exercise more. You’ve heard this before, I know, but it’s more important than you realize. Did you know that just 2.5 hours of exercise per week can reduce your risk of an early death by 15%?! That’s no joke! And the great news is that getting the required amount of exercise isn’t as hard as you think it is. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking a few minutes away from your school or office and taking a stroll around your neighbourhood are simple ways to get the half hour of exercise that’s recommended per day. Cardio and weight training are the simplest ways to slim down and tone up, and they don’t even require you to join a gym – you just need a street to walk on and some 10- or 20-pound dumbbells to have at home. Resistance bands are also a great way to tone arms and shoulders. Over the last two weeks, I’ve found that incorporating a thrice-weekly circuit of 30 minutes of yoga, 10 minutes of using a resistance band and 30 minutes on the treadmill have improved my overall mood as well as my fitness. My goal is to add some squats and planks into the routine to target my glutes and core. Additionally, if you have the time and money for a personal trainer, it’s worth the investment. After all, aren’t motivational speakers always saying we should invest in ourselves?
2. Get more sleep! Waking up feeling well-rested is definitely underrated. When we lack sleep, we tend to crave sugary foods and drinks (for example, Coca-Cola) to give us bursts of energy. It works sometimes, but it’s always followed by a sugar crash which leaves us even more exhausted than we were before. Add in the fact that the high amounts of sugar, sodium and empty calories we’ve just ingested work to contradict the effects of any exercise or healthy eating we do, and we’ve got ourselves a pretty sour situation. Getting 7-8 hours of shut-eye each night promotes better brain function, which can lead to increased energy and better moods, which can lead to stronger motivation to work out. Bingo! That sounds like a win-win situation to me. And if that didn’t convince you to sleep earlier tonight, maybe this will: each hour of sleep that we lose can cause reaction responses worthy of someone highly intoxicated, making you a danger to yourself and others if you’re driving while tired. It also causes an influx of stress hormones which signals your body to absorb fat. Talk about adding salt to the wound…
3. Eat right (you knew that was coming). It’s tempting to order a cheesy pizza or pop a frozen dinner into the microwave when we’re too tired to cook, but these things do more damage to our bodies than we realize. Constantly eating processed foods, though easy and cheap, can lead to additional fat being stored around the body, most notably in the belly. I’m not sure about you, but I’d rather lose belly fat than gain it! Many people stay away from buying organic foods because they think it’s more expensive, but there are so many ways to eat better without breaking the bank. For example, invest in a small blender (about $15 at your local grocery store) and whip up daily breakfast smoothies. Not only are they easy and tasty, they also provide you with important nutrients that you probably wouldn’t get otherwise. I love blending strawberries, blueberries and bananas with low-fat Greek yogurt – the fibre keeps me full and the fruit is just enough to satisfy my sweet tooth. Green smoothies can also be an excellent source of fibre, vitamin c, vitamin a, iron and potassium. When it comes to meals, fish, soups, stir-fried vegetables and lean meats are tasty alternatives to pasta, rice and other carb-filled dinners. If you want to keep some carbs in your diet, go with whole wheat pasta and bread and brown rice instead of white. I suggest limiting your dessert options to fresh fruit with a scoop of ice cream or gelato, though with Valentine’s Day coming up, it’ll be almost impossible to resist indulging in chocolates and cookies. That’s okay, as long as it’s in moderation. One cookie and one piece of chocolate per day won’t kill you – in fact, the powerful antioxidants in (dark) chocolate are actually good for you. So have at it! 🙂
Bonus tip: stay positive. Don’t let pictures of fit celebrities and swimwear models get you down. If you want to reach a certain goal, you will. Just follow the above steps and don’t forget to have fun with it! This saying might be a little cliché, but it really is about the journey as opposed to the destination. If the above info prompts you to make some changes in your life, leave a comment and tell me about it! I’m right here with you on your journey to become a healthier, better you.
Til next time!