By JiJi Russell
Sports & Fitness Network Contributor
With all the “dont’s” out there related to health, nutrition, and overall wellness, I advocate an occasional practice of positive psychology, or less formally, keeping “on the sunny side of life” as a means to motivate myself and others toward greater health. To achieve that goal, I present you with five things you CAN do to improve or preserve your health today. Each of the five fit two criteria: They cost nothing but time and attention; they are low-tech and non-invasive.
1) Drink Water
Up to 60% of the adult human body is water, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Some organs, such as the brain and heart, are composed of an even higher percentage. To name a few of water’s important vital functions: cell development; regulation of body temperature; metabolism; waste elimination; shock absorption for the brain and spinal cord; lubrication of the joints.
How much water should you drink? It depends on your activity level, climate, and other factors, but a generally-accepted starting point is to take your weight and divide it in half (eg., 150 pounds / 2). Your answer will give you the number of ounces for daily consumption. In the case of my example, a 150-pound person would drink approximately 75 ounces per day, or about nine 8-oz. cups of water a day.
2) Walk Daily
Put simply, walking offers some of the greatest health benefits of any other physical activity available to human beings. Tops among them: cardiovascular health; cholesterol regulation; bone health; and mental clarity. Even five or 10 minutes of walking a day can produce benefits.
If you already walk regularly, consider stepping it up by following the practice du jour of interval walking, which has been shown to increase the positive cardiovascular effects while also more efficiently burning fat, all within a shorter time frame.
3) Breathe Deeply
Ok, people: If the first two practices had you formulating excuses or nodding off, listen up. Deep breathing is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself for your entire lifetime. Period. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a yoga instructor. Ok, well, maybe that has a little to do with it, but the deep breathing practice and benefits are what lured me into yoga in the first place. Below are several of the known benefits of deep breathing, along with a little detail on how the benefits come about:
- Relief from chronic pain – due to the release of endorphins relative to deep breathing
- Increased energy level – because of an increase of oxygen delivered to the brain cells
- Reduction in blood pressure – deep breathing takes some of the burden off the heart to deliver oxygen to the body, as the lungs “pull their weight.” This shift can help lower blood pressure.
- Better circulation in your vital organs – due to the physical movement of proper diaphragmatic breathing
- Decreased anxiety – due to many of the above boons of deep breathing, somehow things seem easier when processed with a deep breath.
For easy-to-follow instructions on deep-breathing technique, check out the two links below under “Resources,” then “Deep Breathing”.
4) Sleep Well
The number of adults in the U.S. who suffer from chronic sleep disorders has reached 50 – 70 million, according to data from the Center for Disease Control. Numerous studies cite a good night’s sleep as a necessary nightly event for memory, emotional health, nervous system and immune system health, and more.
The CDC labels the promotion of good sleep habits and regular sleep as sleep hygiene, and lists the following sleep hygiene tips for improving sleep:
- Go to bed at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning.
- Avoid large meals before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime.
- Avoid nicotine.
5) Use Dental Floss and Mouthwash
Now that you’ve reached a certain age and stage in life (You probably would not have read this far down if you were under 25; just a hunch), you may feel compelled to begin or re-start flossing your teeth after you brush them every day…or every other day at least. Some studies have linked gum disease, which is caused by oral bacteria, to heart inflammation, or even heart disease, as the same bacteria found in the mouth have also been found in the heart. Proper dental technique is paramount. See resources below for some suggested videos to guide you as you brush and then wield that waxy little string each day.
As I’ve heard said in meditation circles, these healthy practices are “simple but not easy.” My best advice is to start small, perhaps by focusing on one of the five best practices at a time for a few days. Bring yourself present as you take your time (and make the time) to walk, take a sip of water, or get yourself ready for bed. Notice how you feel in these moments, and what affects you might detect after committing to something as simple as taking a deep breath.
It will cost you nothing but time and attention. Can you spare a little of each for your own best health?
Using Dental Floss and Mouthwash:
Proper brushing and flossing techniques: http://www.ada.org/2624.aspx