Make small changes for big rewards in better health
At United Way of Williamson County, we work to ensure each person in our community has the resources they need to lead healthy lives – whether that’s by helping provide access to medical, dental, or mental health care; by helping families care for loved ones; or by simply promoting ways to lead healthier lives.
Our health is the foundation for building better lives for ourselves and our families. It affects everything from how long we live to how productive we are at work to how much we interact with family and friends. And while some aspects of our health are outside our control because of things like genetics and environmental factors, some things are within our control.
But we don’t have to completely overhaul our lives to reap the rewards of better health. In fact, several studies suggest that small, incremental changes can have big effects.
To help you get started, here are some small changes you can make to start creating better health—and a better life—in the new year:
- Keep a water bottle handy
We know we need to drink more water—it boosts our energy, helps us lose weight, helps us think more clearly, and so much more—but many of us continue to fall short of getting enough. Try keeping a water bottle with you all day and refilling as needed. It will serve as a visual reminder, while also providing a ready alternative to less healthy options such as soda.
- Add 1 serving of vegetables to your day
The science is in—plant-heavy diets do wonders for your overall health and longevity. You don’t have to become a vegan tomorrow, though. If you’re not already getting a lot of vegetables, aim to add 1 serving of vegetables each day for an extra boost of fiber and nutrients.
- Stand up more frequently
Recent studies have shown that even if you get the recommended 30 minutes of activity per day, that activity doesn’t completely counteract the negative effects of sitting for long periods of time. If you spend most of your day sitting at a desk, try to remember to stand up for 5 minutes at least once per hour. If you tend to get engrossed in what you’re doing and need a reminder, some smartwatches can allow you to set silent alarms at specific intervals or you could even set a timer on your computer.
- Substitute whole grains for “white”
All grains are not created equal. “White” products, such as white bread, white rice, and pasta, have been stripped of most of their fiber and nutrients, so they offer little nutritional value. Beyond that, though, research has shown that, these products negatively affect blood glucose levels, which can set the stage for Type-2 diabetes and weight problems. You don’t have to give up your carbs, though. Look for whole-grain versions of breads and pastas and switch to brown rice from white rice. Just make sure to check the ingredients and look for the word, “whole.”
- Take a “breather”
Meditation has been shown to offer a broad range of benefits, including reducing stress, boosting your immune system, helping with weight loss, improving mental focus and emotional well-being, and lowering blood pressure and heart rate. And you don’t have to find a guru to get started. You can get many of the benefits just by pausing periodically to take slow, deep breaths. To do this, breathe deeply from your belly, focusing on slowing each inhale and exhale. Repeat 3 or 4 times, and you should feel noticeably more relaxed.
- Schedule a checkup
Many chronic and/or life-threatening health conditions can be treated or reversed if they’re detected early, but often symptoms don’t appear until the conditions are in their later stages. When you make it a habit to see your doctor for an annual physical, you’re more likely to find out about any conditions as they arise and you can get started quickly on an appropriate treatment plan.
For more tips and tools to create lasting, healthy habits, visit healthiertn.com.