New Year, New You, right? In theory, yes. But sometimes our goals don’t always translate into action. Because February is a heart healthy month, it’s time to treat your body better. Check out our list of 10 simple ways to show yourself some love.
Join a gym
You’ve heard it and possibly tried it before. You sign up for a gym, buy some new workout clothes, get the iPod playlist ready … and for the first week you’re so good! You hit the Stairmaster almost everyday. But as the weeks go by, the snooze button gets more popular, and the only thing you’re mastering is the couch.
My history with the gym is kind of like my history with men — there have been a few really good relationships, in which I was committed and feeling really healthy, and there were some that were clearly a mistake from the get-go. I felt distant — I had no idea what my purpose really was. I couldn’t wait to get out.
My current relationship with the gym seems to be going well. And I think it’s because when I entered into it I had a specific goal: to feel better. Forget losing weight, forget a perkier butt, forget looking better for someone else. Bottom line (no pun intended): By using the gym as a tool to make yourself feel healthier, it’s no longer a dreaded chore or a wasteful expense on the credit card, but rather an outlet for stress and a source of relief. Plus, the gym is great for meeting people, learning more about healthy living and staying motivated by the people around you.
Spend some time outside
For many, the outdoors is a huge part of life. For me, my urban existence limits my ability to spread out and smell the flowers. However, I try to spend as much time outside as possible. Whether it’s my walk from the subway to the office, or a jog after work, I try to appreciate the scenery. Letting the sun in, or the breeze hit my face helps me to decompress after a stressful day at work.
Get more sleep!
Adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. You’re thinking: yeah right. But building sleep into your schedule is important! With enough zzz's clocked in, you’re likely to be more alert and productive throughout your day. A lack of sleep may have physical implications as well: a study published in the December 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests adults who sleep fewer than five hours a night are more likely to develop calcium deposits in their arteries, which could possibly increase the chances of heart disease. So have a heart: be good to your body and your mind, and go to bed!
It’s important to maintain a well-balanced diet, and one way to ensure you’re getting all the necessary nutrients is to give your plate some color. “Eating a variety of foods in an array of vibrant colors helps ensure that you’re zoning in on fruits and vegetables — stocking up on antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber,” says Marissa Lippert, a registered dietician at Nourish, Nutrition Counseling and Communications. “A colorful plate means major health benefits as fruits and vegetables help protect against heart disease, cancer, stroke, high blood pressure and signs of aging, among others.” Lippert advises eating two to three servings of fruit and four to five servings of vegetables a day.
Don’t discount your teeth! (You’ll want teeth to count thirty years from now!) While brushing twice a day kills a good amount of the bacteria in plaque, it doesn’t do the job entirely. Flossing catches the particularly resourceful bacteria that hide in the tiny spaces between your teeth and against your gums. Without flossing, these little buggers will stay there and grow families — a flourishing bacterial private community, complete with playgrounds and backyard barbeques. Give this community enough time to grow, and you’ve got yourself a future case of gingivitis, and even worse — periodontal disease. Yikes! So help your toothbrush out and get flossing!
With all the stress that winds us up so tight, it’s important to let our bodies loosen up. Stretching improves circulation, increases flexibility, helps to prevent injury and relaxes the muscles -– all in all relieving stress. And you can stretch anywhere — at home, at the gym, in the office or on a business trip. Try to stretch daily and hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds to achieve the best results.
Chew, chew, chew!
We Americans pride ourselves on efficiency. We’re always on-the-go. We drop off, pick up, conference call, ride elevators, catch trains, miss trains -– all the time wishing we could do things just a few minutes faster. Often, eating is no exception. However, we shouldn’t rush through meals for a multitude of reasons. Food exists (so we can exist, yes), but for our enjoyment, people! Whatever happened to sitting down and appreciating our meal, relishing in the flavor? When we’re shoveling food down like we’re in a hot dog-eating contest, we completely skip the whole tasting process. Bummer. But more important are the health implications. Sufficiently chewing food activates the digestive process, helping our bodies to obtain the proper nutrients, and flush out the bad stuff. Furthermore, when we spend more time chewing food, we get fuller, faster –- ultimately consuming less.
Make sure you’re putting body lotion on everyday. When your skin is healthy and hydrated, it not only heals quicker, but it slows down the aging process (wrinkles, age spots, fine lines etc.). But with so many options out there, it’s hard to know which moisturizers work best. One tip: when choosing a lotion, make sure it does not contain mineral oil, as it tends to clog pores and absorb essential vitamins your body wants to keep.
Drink more water
According to the “Dietary Reference Intakes” from the Institute of Medicine , females 19 and older should consume 91 ounces (roughly 11 cups) of water a day. While it may seem like another item on the to-do list, fueling up on water has many benefits. First, without enough water, dehydration occurs, which “can increase fatigue levels and food consumption, cause constipation, lead to decreased athletic performance and a slightly slower metabolism,” says registered dietician Danielle Schupp. Furthermore, consuming enough water may in fact curb your appetite. Water, like any other matter, will fill your stomach. Schupp advises having a glass of water before a meal to take the edge off hunger. “Your brain can cross signals between thirst and hunger so you may gravitate toward food when you really need a drink. So it is especially important to drink your water when trying to watch your calorie intake,” Schupp says.
For more nutrition tips from Danielle, click here.
Do something mindless
After a long day of being productive, give yourself some time to be a blob! Whether you’re catching up on the latest Real Housewives of Orange County, flipping through a magazine or playing your fourth game of “Tetris,” let your mind have a break, too. Sometimes there’s nothing better than zoning out for a while, letting the rest of the world do the work!
For more tips on how you can treat your body better, check out iMag’s Health Section