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The recent pandemic has brought health to the center of attention. But, health isn't just about the immune system and how well we fight off viral infections.
It's about every organ, joint, muscle, and even about our mental health.
Poor, unhealthy habits can wreak havoc on the body and impact your day-to-day activities.
Even something as common as stress can have a major impact on your body's ability to function.
The good news is taking care of your body is much easier than you'd think.
9 Ways to Improve Your Overall Health
Here are a few simple things you can do to improve your overall health.
1. Eat a healthy, balanced diet
It is no secret the first step to a healthy lifestyle is a healthy, balanced diet. And no, that doesn't mean giving up all your favorite foods.
Start by reducing processed foods and replace them with healthy alternatives. Don't just cut out entire group foods.
Instead, make smart swaps. Like french fries? Go for sweet potato fries instead. Do you have an insatiable sweet tooth?
Choose fruit, replace white sugar with low glycemic alternatives such as coconut sugar or stevia.
Make sure you eat carbs, protein, and healthy fats. But don't focus only on macronutrients. Check your micronutrients as well.
In other words, eat your vitamins! Micronutrients are essential for a healthy immune system.
2. Do easy, home workouts
No matter what you do, it is important to move your body. Maybe you can't go to the gym right now and feel like there's no way you could do proper workouts at home.
you don't have to exercise like a pro to improve your overall health. An easy home workout is all you need!
You can start by doing easy calisthenics exercises. Squats, push-ups, lunges, ab exercises are simple things you can do anywhere, anytime without any equipment.
If you want to take your home workout one step further, you can choose something like the BodyBoss Home Gym 2.0 which mimics a real gym, perfect for those who want to save space, money, but still have some great equipment in their home.
Dancing, pilates, or yoga are other great easy ways to stay active from the comfort of your living room.
In the end, don't get stuck on the type of exercise you do. Find something you enjoy, something you know you'll do daily.
Once that becomes a routine, you can start working towards another goal, such as building more muscle or gaining endurance.
3. Get enough sleep every night
Sleep is often overlooked when talking about health. And that couldn't be more wrong. Poor sleep or too little sleep can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety. (3)
Poor or insufficient sleep increases your appetite, which means you're more likely to snack mindlessly during the day.
And let's be honest: how many of us "snack mindlessly" on carrots and celery? Not many, I'm sure.
We usually go for the most sugary or salty snacks, topped with loads of caffeine to keep us going. From there, it all goes downhill.
The easiest way to prevent this is by sleeping enough.
We all have our circadian rhythm and, for optimal health, we should all sleep according to it. However, work schedules don't always allow this.
We can "reset" this and create a new circadian rhythm, but it is essential to go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time each day. Yes, even on the weekends!
And if falling asleep feels difficult, try staying away from computer and phone screens for at least an hour before bedtime.
Instead, read a book, take a relaxing bath or meditate. These will help your body relax and will tell your body and mind it's time to wind down.
But how do you know that you're getting enough sleep? An adult needs about 7-9 hours of sleep, with the average being 8 hours.
But it also depends a lot on person to person. The best thing you can do is ask yourself: "how many hours do I need to feel well-rested?"
And by well-rested, I mean waking up feeling energized and having enough energy throughout the day without relying on a lot of caffeine to keep you going.
4. Stretch your muscles
Cardio and strength training help you build strength and endurance. Stretching is essential for mobility. And mobility reduces your risk of injury, up to and including fractures.
You can add a stretching session at the beginning of a workout, together with your warm-up.
In this case, make sure you're doing some dynamic stretches and don't try to overstretch. Your muscles are cold and it's easy to injure yourself at this point.
At the end of the workout, you can focus more on deep stretches.
Your muscles are now warmed-up, so you can try and take each movement a little deeper, holding each stretch for at least 30-60 seconds.
This allows you to stretch not just the surface of the muscle, but also the deep connecting tissue.
Finally, another great way to stretch is through yoga or simple standalone stretching sessions.
If you're not following a structured class, make sure you apply the same principles as before.
Do some easy dynamic stretches to warm-up and only after that go deeper into the movement.
5. Visit your doctor regularly
Prevention is better than treating and detecting health issues in their early stages. And early detection of most diseases, including cancer, leads to better chances of survival.
This is why regular doctor check-ups are essential even when you feel in great physical condition.
So next time you feel like skipping your annual or trying a contest on how long you can go without visiting a doctor, think twice!
Visiting your doctor regularly isn't important only for staying ahead in the game. It's also about detecting some major diseases such as high blood pressure (HBP).
Did you know HBP is also called a "silent killer"? That's because it can often go undetected, without any major symptom for many years.
However, in those years it can impact major organs and lead to strokes, heart attacks, kidney disease, and more.
6. Reduce stress
Stress, both acute and chronic, can negatively impact your immune system. But it doesn't stop there. Prolonged stress can lead to heart disease and diabetes. (4)
While cutting out stressors isn't always easy, there are steps you can take to reduce the side effects stress has on your body.
Working out is a great way to get some of that stress out, especially if it involves anger and frustration.
By doing a strong workout, you're "punching" your stressors, metaphorically releasing that anger.
Mindfulness and meditation are also wonderful ways to reduce stress. They help you calm your body and your mind and improve your overall mental health.
These practices are especially helpful for those who experience depression, anxiety, and even panic attacks. (5)
7. Do something you are passionate about
When you think to improve your overall health, how often do you think you should put more emphasis on your hobbies? I'm sure it doesn't happen too often, does it?
We're used to seeing hobbies as something we do only on the weekends or vacation when there is absolutely nothing else to do. But did you know hobbies have actual health benefits?
Doing something you're passionate about is a great way to reduce stress. You focus on something you love and leave behind worries.
This is especially great for those with anxiety, those who feel they can't take their mind off of things that stress them.
Meditation helps, but what if your worries are so big you just can't sit quietly and focus on your breath or a mantra?
Hobbies can help with that. You're doing something else, something fun, so your focus is automatically elsewhere.
So what are some great hobbies to help improve your overall health and how do you include them in your busy days?
A first category is the things you can do anytime, anywhere. They include art projects, like drawing, painting, writing, but also reading.
Others include all forms of crafting - knitting, crochet, sewing, repurposing old furniture, building things.
Playing sports is a fantastic hobby that helps you accomplish two things at the same time - working out and doing something you love.
If you enjoy group sports, you'll also get the benefit of connecting with other people who share similar passions to yours.
And that is another great way to relieve stress and stay healthy.
8. Learn something new
A lot of us associate learning with school, studying, exams, and grades. And that doesn't sound like much fun, does it?
No wonder a lot of people get stuck in their routines, doing things a certain way, never trying to learn anything new.
But learning, especially the type you do for yourself and not because there's an exam coming, is a great way to improve your overall health.
Research shows cognitive activities can protect against certain types of dementia.
And there's more! Similar to doing something you're passionate about, learning a new skill can reduce stress levels.
Even if only for an hour or two a week, you focus on something else, something you're curious about.
Whether you're learning to knit, crochet, paint, or play sports, you're doing something engaging and fun.
But you don't have to learn something "active" to get all these benefits.
Learning a new language, or getting started on something like computer programming can be just as engaging, fun, and rewarding.
And if you spend most of your time alone, or with a restricted group of people, you can use this opportunity to socialize.
Yes, you can find a lot of online courses that can be taken at your own pace from the comfort of your couch.
But you can also choose a more interactive course, either online or offline. They give you the chance to connect with others who are learning the same skill.
You might even be able to use the opportunity to vent about what's been upsetting you and connect over shared experiences.
9. Moisturize your skin
We've talked about eating healthy, exercising, sleeping, and focusing on hobbies. And if you think about, those are the most discussed things when it comes to health.
Skincare is one final step you need to take if you truly want to improve your overall health. No, you don't need 15 fancy lotions. All you need is a good moisturizer.
Without moisturizing your skin, one of the first side effects you'll notice will be premature wrinkles.
Those wrinkles will also become deeper as time goes by, the type that is extremely visible no matter how much foundation you use.
Also, the wrinkles you already have will look worse without any moisturizer.
Another reason to moisturize your skin is to prevent acne. I know, you've been told that acne is a result of oily skin. And for most people it is.
But there's one thing that can make acne worse: dry skin. How's that possible?
Your skin reacts to the dryness, it tries to protect itself, so it creates more sebum. And that, in turn, causes more acne.
So make sure you find a moisturizer that is suitable for your skin type and start using it each day!
Taking care of your health doesn't have to be complicated. You don't need fancy diets and expensive products. Instead, focus on simple things.
Eat a balanced diet, move your body in a way that makes you feel good, and remember to stretch your muscles and joints.
Form and maintain a healthy sleeping schedule. Find the number of hours of sleep you need to feel great and stick to those hours.
No matter how healthy you feel, never skip on your annual check-ups. Reduce stress, meditate, focus on hobbies, or learn new skills.
Finally, don't overlook skincare and make sure you moisturize your skin every day.