Friday, August 1, 2014

Friday Five: Five Keys to Health

A few months ago, my BodyPump instructor shared something with us during a stretch break that made me think.  She listed five things that are equally important in creating a healthy lifestyle.  I wanted to share those things with you today, including some research I did regarding these five keys to health (and some of my own opinions, too!).
I think we all know that exercise is a big key to overall health!  The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week AND muscle-strengthening workouts that hit all major muscle groups 2 or more days each week.  I'm sure that seems very overwhelming for someone who doesn't exercise regularly, but the Harvard School for Public Health has some great tips for incorporating exercise easily into your daily life (the CDC article I linked has some great tips, too!).  Some things I like to keep in mind when incorporating exercise:
  • Make it fit for your schedule.  If that means breaking your aerobic exercise up in to 10-minute chunks, then do it!
  • Do something YOU love for exercise.  I like to run, but that's not for everyone.  Some people like spin class, but I don't really like it that much.  If you don't enjoy what you do to exercise, then you won't do it!  Find what you enjoy and do that instead of trying to do what everyone else is doing.
  • PLAN to exercise.  When I have a workout written down in my planner, I am so much more likely to do it.  Also, I often have a gym bag in the car with gym clothes even on days I don't plan on heading straight to the gym.  That helps if I have some extra time between appointments and can get in a quick workout.
  • Ask for help if you don't know how to do something, particularly for strength training!  Correct form is so, so important for your muscle growth and, more importantly, for your safety!  I started strength training with a personal trainer and BodyPump classes, and then when I felt comfortable, I started doing it on my own.

Obviously, a healthy diet is certainly a key to health!  If you're exercising but not eating right, then you aren't going to see the benefits.  There are so many different things you can read about what foods to eat, but here are some simple things about healthy foods:

  • The fresher, the better.  If you buy fresh foods and meats, you know exactly where the food came from and what's in it.  Processed/packaged foods can have so many ingredients that you can't even pronounce, and therefore who knows what they do to you!
  • Cut down on the red meat.  You often hear that red meat isn't very good for you.  Red meats are higher in fat.  Instead, try to incorporate more fish as protein.  Also, ground turkey is a great substitute for ground beef (and doesn't have too different of a taste, either!)
  • Watch the portions.  Portion control really is a problem in America, especially serving sizes of different parts of your meal.  This is the Healthy Eating Plate created by Harvard Health:
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     We should be eating a lot more vegetables and fruit and a lot fewer grains and protein than we currently do at each meal.
  • Calories come from liquids, too.  There are so many calories in the beverages we drink, so be aware of that when reaching for something other than water.  
UC-Berkeley released this article with 14 Keys to Healthy Eating.  They share some great tips for improving the health factor of our diets.
I feel like sleep is the first thing to go when trying to fit a bunch of stuff into a busy day.  But, sleep is so, so important to your overall health!  The National Sleep Foundation says there's no magic number for sleep, but adults should get in the range of 7-9 hours each night.  Other factors can affect that number, including the quality of the previous night's sleep and previous sleep deprivation.  Here are some tips for making sure you get enough sleep each night from the National Sleep Foundation:
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I find that I also have to turn off the electronics about 30 minutes before I plan to go to sleep.  Otherwise, social media is all I can think about, and I can't fall asleep right away!  Annette talked about that on her blog recently, and I have to agree that all this technology keeps us from resting when we need it.  If you're having trouble falling asleep right away, trying turning off the technology about 30 minutes before bed time and see if that helps!  It definitely helps me.
Of these five keys to health, I am the WORST at stretching.  It is so, so important for your body, though, and if you regularly stretch after exercising, you will notice a difference.  Some of the benefits of stretching include improved athletic performance, decreased risk of injury, increased flexibility and range-of-motion, and increased blood flow to the muscles (Source).
Image Source--and a great whole-body stretching routine!
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you stretch all major muscles groups 2-3 times a week.  It's also important to note that stretching before a workout can actually decrease athletic performance (particularly sprinting) since your muscles aren't warmed up yet.  If you're going to stretch before a workout, walk or lightly jog for 5-10 minutes to warm up, then stretch.  After a workout, though, seems to be the best time to stretch for maximum benefits.

If stretching bores you, try going to a yoga class once a week.  Also, if you got to a group exercise class, make sure to stick around for the cool-down/stretching at the end.  Both of these are great ways to ensure you are getting your stretching in for the week!
Now, THIS key to health is one that I'm good at--drinking water!  I think all of us have heard that we need to have 8 8-ounce glasses of water a day to total 64 ounces.  Well, more current research says from the Institute of Medicine says that women should have 91 ounces of fluid a day and men should have 125 ounces a day.  This includes water in our foods (about 25% of our daily water intake is from food) and beverages other than water.  I've also heard from other sources (like Advocare) that your daily water intake should be equal to half of your body weight (in ounces).  For example, a 150-pound person should drink 75 ounces of water a day.
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Of course, other things affect how much water you should be drinking each day.  Exercise, the climate, health conditions/medications, and pregnancy do require an increase in needed water intake each day (source).  It is possible to drink too much water, but the Mayo Clinic says that it is rare.  The best way to make sure you are getting enough water is to check your urine.  It should be a light yellow color, or almost clear.

How do I make sure to get in all my water each day?  I leave a water bottle on my desk at work and fill it up at least twice (minimum) during the day.  I also keep a cup for water near me.  I enjoy drinking water, but if you don't, here are some things that you can do to get yourself to drink more water:

  • Add a calorie-free flavor liquid.
  • Before bed, put fruit in a pitcher of water to infuse it with the flavor for the next day.
  • Drink a glass of water with each meal.
All five of these keys are vital in living a healthy life.  I know it's hard, but strive to make some healthy changes in your life to improve upon one of the keys you are lacking on.  I, personally, am doing well with drinking the recommended amount of water but need to work on sleeping and stretching more.

Question for you: Which of these keys are you great at already?  Which of these keys do you need to improve upon?

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