When you get right down to it, health doesn’t have anything to do with looking like a supermodel; it’s really about having a body whose every system is in good working order. The great news is that you have more control over everything happening in your body — from your circulation to your breathing and stress levels — than you might have imagined. Check out these steps you can take every day toward building a stronger, healthier and more active you.
Your body wasn’t made to sit — it was made to move! Taking short breaks from your desk or computer every 30 minutes can do a lot to reduce back and shoulder pain. Walk around, do a few squats, drink some water, or do a few simple stretches. The periodic movement and shifts in position reduce pressure on your spine, increase the flow of blood and lymphatic fluid, and will leave you feeling more energized all day long.
A healthy exercise program doesn’t have to be fancy, expensive or intimidating. Many studies have demonstrated the benefits of simple, free workouts like walking. The mere act of moving your body every day greatly reduces the risk of chronic health problems like heart disease, stroke and diabetes, and the regular movement helps keep the rest of your body functioning in tip-top form.
Food is fuel for your body — so what you eat dictates your energy levels and sense of well-being for the day. Focusing on minimally processed food and lots of brightly colored fruits and vegetables is a sure way to put a little extra zip in your step. When you’re eating the right fuel, you’ll feel like you can do anything.
You wouldn’t run an engine without oil in it, would you? Water fills that function and many more in your body. It’s water that helps distribute nutrients, regulates body temperature, aids in digestion, stops hunger, and keeps your muscles and nerves operating in tip-top shape. Having trouble drinking enough? Put a sprig of mint or a twist of citrus — lemon, lime or orange — in your water bottle to make it more interesting.
Deep breathing oxygenates your blood, which can leave you feeling more energized. It also helps get your lymphatic system moving, and it busts stress in just a few seconds. Here’s a quick, easy way to gauge your breathing: Lie on your bed or the floor with one hand on your upper abdomen. Can you feel your abdomen gently rising as you inhale? If not, slow down and focus on your breath; it might help to imagine that you’re filling yourself with air all the way down to your toes.
Everybody’s a little different, but most of us need at least seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. It’s best to get into a routine so that your body can settle into a regular cycle of sleeping and waking. This helps regulate your endocrine system, which in turn controls the hormones that govern everything from hunger to weight loss.
Have you noticed aches and pains lingering in your body, despite your healthy routine? Your body might be telling you that it’s time to consult a professional. Don’t accept that those aches and pains are a natural fact of life: A good physical therapist can give you the tools to keep those minor problems from turning into something major, and maybe even stem the pain completely.