Year after year, Americans are boasting about their hardcore New Year’s resolution lists. Suddenly, it seems that everyone is going to create great wealth, clean their entire home, travel to exotic lands, develop their ideal fitness model body, and – of course – Become the epitome of health.
In a nation of highly advanced medicine, it might come as a surprise to some that Americans are generally far less healthy than individuals in other nations. This is oftentimes attributed to poor diets and sedentary lifestyles, but there are so many other factors that produce our overall state of health.
If you are looking to optimize your health in the up and coming year, look no further! The following tips will address not only diet and exercise, but also some other factors that will help you truly live your healthiest year yet:
Physical activity: Many people spend hours per day seated. Sitting for extended periods of time compromises the position of our spine, deteriorates our postures, creates muscle imbalances and slows down many physiological processes. The United States Health and Human Services Department developed a series of physical activity guidelines which help ensure optimal physical health. 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity have proven to lower one’s risk of premature death, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer. 300 minutes per week of moderate physical activity has additional health benefits and has been proven to assist in weight control. People were meant to move at moderate levels all throughout the day, so making an effort to be more active in our daily lives has incredible health benefits in itself.
Nutrition: Our new cells are created by the foods we consume, so quality foods equal quality cells. In other words, you literally “are what you eat.” You can optimize your nutritional intake by consuming nutrient dense foods (foods that are high in vitamins, minerals and essential macronutrients while being lower in calories) and being certain to consume adequate calories as they are necessary for physiological repair.
Sleep: The Sleep Foundation conducted a thorough two-year study and discovered that adults require 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night in order to function optimally. Inadequate sleep has been proven to share a strong correlation with memory impairment, a lack of alertness, weight gain/obesity, skin aging, depression and disease such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. If quality sleep is frequently lacking in your life, there are several simple steps you can take to improve this including: implementing physical activity throughout the day, avoiding heavy meals before bed, adhering to a sleep schedule, avoiding electronics and artificial lighting before bed, avoiding caffeine/alcohol and practicing relaxation prior to calling it a night.
Stress management: One frequently underlooked aspect of health is stress and developing stress management techniques. Many individual’s hectic daily schedules are not conducive to living a relaxed lifestyle, so a great deal of people experience a consistent, low grade stress. Cortisol (the fight or flight hormone) is released when our brains perceive a threat, and the release of cortisol is meant to temporarily heighten nervous system activation. Very serious health problems can occur when these hormones are released and our nervous system is constantly elevated including: weight gain, adrenal fatigue, headaches, heart disease, diabetes, thyroid malfunction and more. If you are seriously looking to optimize your health this year, it is worth making stress management a vital component of your wellness plan. More on developing stress coping techniques can be found here.
Connecting with others: People are social creatures who provide support and energy for one another. Make lighthearted socialization and priority and you will experience heightened emotional and physical health.