Six Steps to a Healthier You

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Any time of year is a good time to start taking steps to be healthier.  It doesn’t matter if it’s long past the new year – the important thing is to get serious and get started!

So here are six tips on easy ways to be healthier in 2010 and beyond.

Make Time for Exercise in Your Daily Routine

Adding 30 minutes of daily physical activity should be one of the most important resolutions for people serious about improving their health.

“People don’t realize you can get tremendous benefit from regular physical activity even if you never lose a pound,” says Dr Peter Brubaker, professor of health and exercise science at Wake Forest University in   Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

“The benefits include a reduced risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, bone and joint conditions, and sleep apnea.”

Exercise should alternate between aerobic, load-bearing exercise such as jogging, running, brisk walking, or a sport like tennis, squash or martial arts, and resistance training – doing weights, according to Australian exercise expert, Dr Tim Henwood.

“Everybody, no matter what their age, should be trying to get a well rounded activity program,” he says. “Ideally, they should do something that raises their heart rate three days per week punctuated with a minimum of two days per week challenging their muscles.”

Eat a Rainbow Every Day

Colourful produce – fruits and vegetables – means it’s full of vitamins, minerals , antioxidants and other essential micronutrients to boost your body’s immunity and help fight disease. The best way to get five serves of vegetables and two or three of fruit is to  try to eat a rainbow every day.

While it’s good to eat fresh fruit and salads as much as possible, many vegetables are more easily digested if cooked correctly. There are lots of tasty recipes online for including more produce in your meals – check out Recipes Just For You and Fruits and Veggies More Matters

Leave Some Room on Your Plate

It’s good to eat lots of vegetables at every meal, because the fibre in them will fill you up, without adding fat, and l leave you feeling satisfied. It’s not so good to eat a whole large plateful of food.  Try a smaller portion, and finish the meal with some fresh, canned or stewed fruit.

Nutritionist Dr Lynn Janas from the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in Chicago says a healthy plateful should be one-half vegetables, one-quarter protein, either lean meat, fish, eggs or beans and one quarter should include whole grains like bread, pasta and rice.

And contrary to what your mother always told you, you don’t need to finish everything on your plate.  Stop when you’re full, or even before you feel full. A smaller portion, whether eating out or at home,  or ordering a smaller serve from a fast food outlet, cuts down on calories and health damaging weight gain, while still letting you enjoy your favourite foods.

Make Friends with Soap and Water

With H1N1 influenza, common colds, viruses and childhood infections like measles and chickenpox lurking everywhere, it’s time to get back to basics with good old-fashioned soap and water

According to the Mayo Clinic, lathering up and washing your hands with ordinary soap for a count of 20 is the most effective way to avoid infections like H1N1flu, colds and viruses.  Don’t use antibacterial or antimicrobial soaps and washes, as these could lead to bacteria developing resistance to these products, resulting in ‘superbugs’ that are almost impossible to kill.

When to wash your hands: after going to the toilet,  travelling on public transport, if you’ve been to a shopping mall or eaten in a café or fast food restaurant, before preparing food, and before eating.

Take Time Off to Relax

Make time to take time off at weekends, or rostered days off, as well as annual breaks, to spend relaxing with family and friends, and to get away from the desk and computer. You’ll come back refreshed and energised, and be more productive.

Try to have some time in a natural setting such as a national park, the beach, by a lake, in the mountains, or even just a picnic in your local park.  Spending time with nature is restorative to the spirit as well as the body.

During the work day, take time out for a walk around the block, or a run up and down the stairs, or maybe to have a coffee with a colleague. These mini-breaks will rest your brain and eyes and refresh you.

Take Responsibility for Your Health

No matter how good your healthcare cover, your doctor or your local hospital, ultimately you are the person responsible for your own health.  So take time to learn about the health problems or prospects for your age group, gender and lifestyle, and understand how to deal with them. There is a wealth of information available online and in the media, and many health conditions such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes can be avoided  or at least lessened by a healthy lifestyle.

You might also be interested in reading Boost Your Health with Fruit & Veg, 30 Minutes to Better Health in 2010 and Lifestyle Not Genes to Blame for Ill-health

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