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Healthy living is not a destination but a constant journey. We can't expect to make a few changes for a day or two and be set for life. I've started and stopped and started and restarted too many times to count. Sometimes I let things slack when life gets overwhelming and I need to let something drop.
But I'm learning that when I let the healthy choices go I end up feeling even worse than I was before.
There are a significant number of other commitments, choices, and tasks that I could let slide, but I frequently drop my workouts or grab unhealthy snacks when I could walk away from social media, take a break from social activities, or let the floor go unvacuumed for a few days instead.
I'm in no way a healthy living expert - far from it! But I've learned that these eight things are changes that are simple enough for anyone to make but also provide a huge impact in the way I feel on a day to day basis. When I'm following these eight things I feel better emotionally, physically, and psychologically. I don't think that's a coincidence!
I'd love to hear your thoughts on these eight simple changes and for you to share your favorite tips as well.
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8 Simple Changes to Start Living a Healthier Life
1. Drink more water
We've all heard about drinking 8 - 8oz glasses of water each day, but what if that's not enough? Just look at this quote from Mayo Clinic.
So how much fluid does the average, healthy adult living in a temperate climate need? The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is:
About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men
About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women
These recommendations cover fluids from water, other beverages and food. About 20 percent of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks.
15.5 cups for males and 11.5 cups for females, but about 20% comes from your food. Either way, it's still more than the 8 - 8oz cups that we all think about for daily water intake.
In addition to replenishing our bodies fluid since we are about 75-80% water, water is significantly healthier than lots of other beverages and it costs pennies. I find my energy is better and my overall stamina each day lasts longer when I'm drinking an adequate amount of water.
I aim for a gallon, which is 16 cups. Most days I make it, but some I fall short and that's okay! I keep a gallon jug filled and my goal is to finish it by bedtime. I also use a Contigo straw cup because I drink significantly faster with a straw. Plus - my hands can be messy from dishes or cooking and I can still manage to get a drink!
2. Get your legs moving
I never realized how little I actually moved during the day until I got a FitBit for Mother's Day two years ago. I thought because I was busy chasing five kids that I must be moving soooo much. Ha! I was barely hitting 7,000 steps initially - and that was on a good day! It was a definite wake up call.
For quite some time, experts have recommended getting at least 10,000 steps each day. It can lead to better cardiovascular health, weight loss, and other benefits. It definitely doesn't hurt to get more though! The key is to keep moving. Take quick 5-10 minute walks as often as possible if you are just starting. Push the kids up to the park in the stroller or walk them to school if you live close enough.
My trick to getting in steps? I walk in my living room at night while watching TV after the kids are in bed. I could plop my butt down on the couch and relax after a busy day but I'm determined to do better. Is it as good as getting out for a walk around the neighborhood? Maybe not, but it's certainly better than doing nothing.
3. Get your blood pumping
While movement is great we also need to get our heart rate up.
Being physically active is important to prevent heart disease and stroke, the nation’s number one killers. To improve overall cardiovascular health, we suggest at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity). Thirty minutes a day, five times a week is an easy goal to remember. You will also experience benefits even if you divide your time into two or three segments of 10 to 15 minutes per day.
Get the kids outside for a game of tag, go for a bike ride, or turn on some music in the house for a dance party. You can find Just Dance Kids videos on YouTube as well and my kids love following along.
Want to workout without the kids under feet? There is a pretty good selection of workout videos included on Prime Video if you are an Amazon Prime member. You can also find lots of workouts on YouTube. For the last few months I've been using an app called Workout Trainer. I like that I can create collections of workouts so I don't need to hunt down which I want to do each day. I organize them by the four days I workout and give myself an intense and a moderate option depending on how I'm feeling.
Like the quote from the AHA above, you can divide your heart pumping workouts into smaller segments if you can't fit in a full 30 minutes all at once each day. Can you spare 10 minutes three times each day to get your body moving?
4. Choose fresh foods
It's no surprise that this is included in a list about living healthy. Choosing items like carrot sticks over potato chips or strawberries over ice cream offer you significantly better vitamins and calories than the alternative. Instead of picking up a bucket of fried chicken on your way home get salad fixings. Snack on fresh fruit and veggies at night instead of chips and dip (I'm talking to myself here!).
When fresh isn't an option? Frozen fruits and veggies are often just as healthy, and sometimes even healthier, than their fresh counterparts. They are picked at the peak of freshness and flash frozen to preserve all the nutrients. And for off season produce this is a great swap! In our area when the growing season is limited we buy lots of frozen produce because it's also usually cheaper than fresh.
5. Swap pre-made for homemade
Sometimes we still want foods that aren't leafy and green, I get it! I want pizza and chicken fingers and cheesy soup - but instead of heading to the frozen section or the canned items I've taught myself how to cook from scratch. We make homemade pizza every Friday - the crust and sauce is homemade! I make condensed soups from scratch to replace the ingredients in recipes.
Some recipes are going to take time to learn, but there are very few items I won't make from scratch. The flavor and time for homemade is almost always worth it to me. Plus making things at home allows me to batch cook so I rarely run out of items!
6. Have a consistent bedtime
Ah sleep. It's often elusive for parents, especially those of very young kids. We have had a consistent bedtime routine for our kids since they were little (even if they didn't always stay asleep) but our own bedtime can vary depending on work schedules, activities, or just wanting to watch "one more show" in our latest Netflix binge.
We both have consistent wake up times but getting to bed at a regular time that allows for an adequate amount of sleep is so important. Benefits of sleep include healthier weights, more stamina in exercise, improved memory and more! I'm preaching to myself here when I say it's okay to turn off the computer, put down the phone, and turn out the lights!
7. Visit the doctor for routine check ups
It's easy to ignore the doctor when we feel good. Why bother paying a co-pay, taking time off work, or finding childcare for the kids if everything is going great?
Because often, the issue starts before the symptoms show.
Our pastor's wife was just diagnosed with breast cancer but because she went to the doctor and caught it extremely early, they were able to do surgery almost immediately and forgo any further treatments.
Not to mention, things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other issues that don't always have noticeable symptoms can be found out from a check up rather than waiting until a heart attack or other serious heath catastrophe happens.
8. Choose gratitude
We can make all the healthy choices we want but if we sour our minds with negativity then we are setting ourselves up for failure. Negativity can cloud our judgement and ability to see how the good choices are making a difference. It will take away the small victories or the ability to keep making good choices because after all, what's the point?
But choosing to see the good? Choosing gratitude? Those are things that can keep your mindset focused and help you keep going, even when the progress might not be exactly what you expected. Maybe the numbers on the scale aren't moving, but your max number of push ups have increased or your blood pressure is down. Maybe you can't afford a membership at the gym but you do have money in the budget for a decent pair of running shoes so you can hit the trails.
Keep a journal of the good in each day. I use a daily planner to write down the best moments of the day or little things I'm grateful for. If I'm having a rough day I can look back through pages and pages of gratitude and joyful moments to fix my perspective again.
Making small changes are significantly easier than overhauling your entire life. Choose one of these changes and start today. Go for a walk after dinner with the kids or call your clinic to schedule your next physical. Don't try to do all of these at once, but rather add a new one every few weeks after you've had a chance to get used to the difference.