Need to get healthy? Maybe your doctor has told you to improve your physical fitness in order to prevent or even delay heart disease, diabetes, or certain cancers. Maybe you want to lose weight or have more energy. No matter what your reason or even your age, getting started may be easier than you think.
First, talk to your doctor to make sure that you are healthy enough to change your diet and begin an exercise program. Once you have the green light from your doctor, make a commitment to yourself to achieve better health, then start with simple and small changes to your life that will help you reach your goals.
Keep It Simple
The key here is to keep it simple. The basics to better health are diet and exercise. Stay away from the fad diets, pills, and other fitness schemes out there, and stick to the basics instead. Changing your habits isn't easy. Start slowly and work your way up to bigger changes. Try setting three small goals you would like to achieve this month, then when you reach them, set more goals and keep going!
Don't get frustrated. As a nurse, I’ve seen many people turn their poor health around, so I know you can do it, too. Let's cover some of the steps you might take.
Exercise Your Way to Better Health
The most popular form of exercise is cardio, short for cardiovascular, exercise. Cardio is a great form of exercise that increases your heart rate and gets your blood moving. It also gets your heart pumping, which helps reduce stress. It lowers blood pressure and reduces your cholesterol, which helps you feel better. Cardio also increases your metabolism, which helps you lose weight. And cardio releases hormones that fight stress, fatigue and depression.
If you have a niece’s wedding you will be attending and your goal is to have enough energy to dance all night, you might want to start working toward that goal by walking. The first day you could walk for ten minutes, then gradually increase the length of time you walk each day. If you don’t want to walk alone, you can walk with a friend or neighbor, or check out the walking programs available at your nearest community center or local shopping mall. Keep in mind, walking is not the only form of cardio exercise you can do. Many people like swimming, riding their bicycle, or taking a variety of aerobic classes. Soon, you will be able to go to that wedding and boogie with the best of them.
No matter what exercise you choose, know when to say when. Something we all are guilty of is dismissing the signs that our body is telling us to slow down. Pay attention to your body; it will tell you everything you need to know. Rest if you feel you might be doing too much, then when you feel better, start again. If you feel guilty that you have missed a day of exercise, you can always balance it out with going the extra mile to eat right that day.
Make Better Food Choices
Perhaps your goal is to have more energy. If so, you may want to look at what you are putting into your body. By choosing foods that are good for you and passing on the empty calories, you will fuel your body with the energy it needs for physical activity.
One way to make better food choices is to get a true picture of what you are currently eating. Individuals who make changes toward better health commonly keep a food journal. For recording the foods you eat, you can use a physical notebook or an app on your phone to help you journal. Once you start logging your food and see how many calories are in your favorite donuts, you will likely want to make a better choice for breakfast the next day to move closer to your health goals.
Another thing people notice when they record their diet are their personal patterns. Do you eat late night snacks on Wednesdays after you get home late from a regular activity with friends? Do you eat when you are bored? Before bed? Start to notice where and when you eat when you write it down.
Maybe you eat while watching TV. I like to call this eating on autopilot because your body may be signaling to you that it is full, but you are too into your favorite show to even notice! Looking at your food on paper or in an app may give you the opportunity to better balance your protein, fiber and carbohydrate intake.
Each day you can note how you feel, then adjust your diet as needed. When considering choices for a meal, keep in mind that a healthy choice will fuel your body toward better health, while an unhealthy choice will keep you from reaching your health goals. The best thing about keeping a journal is that you can also share it with your doctor. If you have questions about or need more help with your diet, make it a point to talk to your doctor, nurse, or dietitian.
The Rewards Are Worth It
Seem like a big mountain to climb? Remember, every journey starts with the first step. Believe in yourself and make your health a top priority. By going back to basics and keeping diet and exercise simple, you should start to notice some great changes within your first week. Maybe it's better energy, or maybe it’s the absence of a pound or two. Keep it up and after a few weeks of dedication, your health will be even better.
Studies show that when you keep healthy habits for 12 weeks, you have officially made a healthy lifestyle change that you're likely to stick with for a long time. At this point most people see some major health benefits like lower blood pressure, significant stress relief, reduced bad cholesterol, less allergies, and even some major weight loss.
It all starts with that first step, so don't wait. Today is a great day to set some new health goals!
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