6 Things You Should Be Doing to Help Your Body
We don’t always have our body’s best interest in mind when going about our lives. But we should take care of our body the way it takes care of us. We sometimes consume foods that aren’t the best for us, enjoy lounging around instead of moving around, and generally deprive our body of things it needs. Here are 6 things you can start doing today to get your body on a healthier track.
- EXERCISE. Let’s start with the most obvious. Exercise is probably the single most beneficial lifestyle change you can make. Of course, it can at times be difficult to start exercising when your body isn’t used to it, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. You can begin to take small steps, such as taking the stairs instead of the escalator (or if you must take the escalator, walk while you move). Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore, either. If the weather is beautiful, take a walk outside while listening to a new album you haven’t gotten a chance to listen to yet, or maybe even a podcast or an audiobook that sparked your interest, in order to keep your mind occupied. Once starting a regular exercise routine, it won’t be long before you start to notice changes in your body and overall health. Cardio is an excellent way to slim down or tone your body by way of burning calories, but there are also many legitimate health benefits you gain by getting that blood pumping, such as reducing the risk of Cardiovascular Disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and Metabolic Syndrome.
Besides the physical element of controlling your weight, exercise is very beneficial for your mental health. Exercising releases endorphins—hormones in the brain associated with positive feelings. Meaning, exercising can also be a natural way to combat depression, which is associated with a low level of endorphins. Ever hear of a “runner’s high?” That’s due to increased endorphin release, in addition to the boost of serotonin—a neurotransmitter in the brain that plays a role in keeping your mood calm. Exercising regularly is also believed to provide you with more energy throughout the day and make you feel more alert and awake.
If you are second-guessing adding exercise to your life, just think of this. Have you ever heard someone say, “I wish I never started exercising, it hasn’t helped me at all”?
- CHOOSE WATER. This one seems like common sense, but you would be surprised to know that most people do not get the daily recommended amount of water. The actual answer varies depending on your gender, age, etc. but the most commonly agreed upon rule is called the 8x8 rule, which states you should drink 8 cups filled with 8oz of water throughout the day, coming to about 2 liters (or half a gallon). This can be made simpler by doing things like carrying a water bottle around with you all day, making it easily accessible whenever your body calls out for refreshment. You can also start substituting any coffee (which is a huge dehydrator) or soft drinks you pair with your meals when out to eat, with a lemon water. This will shed those unnecessary calories from your diet, rehydrate you, and the lemon aids in digestion and detoxification. And, water is free!
Water is necessary to carry out daily bodily functions, remove waste, and carry nutrients and oxygen through our body. Because we lose so much water through functions like urine, bowel movements, perspiration and breathing, it is crucial that we replace what we lose, and then some.
- PICK BRIGHTLY COLORED FOODS. Those eye-catching fruits and vegetables can actually be some of the best for you, with many superfoods being of the bright variety. Aside from looking visually tasty, it is worth noting that brightly colored foods are usually rich in antioxidants, meaning they remove free radicals in your body that are damaging to your cells. Let’s go through the color wheel for some suggestions for your next trip to the grocery store.
Red: These foods are usually high in Lycopene, Ellagic Acid, Quercetin, and Hesperidin. In simpler terms, these are all nutrients that lower the risk of prostate cancer, lower your blood pressure, reduce tumor growth, and can support joint tissue for those with arthritis, among other things.
Just a few of the red foods that will nourish your body include: Beets, Cherries, Cranberries, Papaya, Red Apples, Red Grapes, Red Onions, Rhubarb, Tomatoes.
Orange/Yellow: Foods of a yellow or orange shade are usually high in Beta-Carotene, Zeaxanthin, Flavonoids, Lycopene, Potassium, and Vitamin C, which are nutrients that aid in preventing age-related macula degeneration (loss of vision) and prostate cancer. These nutrients also work together to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, aid in building healthy bones and joints, and promote collagen growth, which are all visible changes you will notice in your body.
Just a few of the orange foods that will get you on the fast-track to a healthy lifestyle are: Apricots, Butternut Squash, Cantaloupe, Carrots, Grapefruit, Peaches, Pumpkin, Sweet Potatoes, Yellow Figs, and Yellow Peppers.
Green: Nutrients frequently found in food of a bright green appearance include Chlorophyll, fiber, lutein, zeaxanthin, calcium, folate, vitamin C, calcium, and Beta-carotene. This group of nutrients is known for various health benefits like reducing the risk of a variety of cancers, lowering blood pressure, improving retinal health, and normalizing digestion, among others.
Types of foods that fall under the green spectrum include: Artichokes, Arugula, Asparagus, Avocado, Green Apples, Green Beans, Pears, Grapes, Honeydew, Kiwi, Leafy Greens, Spinach, and Peas.
Blue/Purple: Lastly we have the final group of colors, which are notably high in Lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, fiber, flavonoids, ellagic acid, and quercetin. These nutrients are essential for retinal health, aid in lowering cholesterol and boosting your immune system, and also fight inflammation and help with digestion. They also limit the activity of cancer cells within your body.
Types of blue and purple foods that will set you on the path to a nutrient-full lifestyle include: Blackberries, Blueberries, Eggplant, Grapes, Plums, Pomegranates, Prunes, Purple Potatoes, and Purple Cabbage.
- CUT DOWN ON PROCESSED FOODS. Processed foods are a convenience to us when we are looking for a quick meal or we are on the move. Although they may be helpful when we are looking to grab-and-go, the long term effects may be doing your body harm. So what exactly defines a processed food? Lauren Minchen, a registered Dietician and Nutritionist from New York City defines a processed food as “anything edible that no longer looks how it once did in nature, or something that never existed in nature”, adding that these foods are typically riddled with chemicals to preserve them in their packaging; usually jars, boxes, and bags. Most nutritional value is also lost. So, those microwavable meals are probably not the best choice if you are looking to improve your health.
It can be difficult because processed foods are so prominent in our everyday lives; they are essentially everywhere you look: restaurants, grocery stores, snack machines. But if you open your eyes and take some time to seek them out, it can be easy to find “whole food” alternatives. If this seems too intimidating for you, you do not need to completely cut processed foods out of your diet. Going all-natural, all-organic, or vegan can be very challenging to keep up with in our fast-paced lives, so we suggest cutting out one to two processed meals a week and replacing them with something a little better. Then, if you feel like that was too easy, take it a step farther and go from there.
- POSTURE. You might not think this is important to your health, but think again. Posture determines the way we carry ourselves, and many health concerns can appear from incorrectly carrying your weight, from shoulder and back pain, to breathing issues, to even Scoliosis.
Think about this next time you walk. Are your shoulders back or hunched forward, are you standing upright or slouched, is your head held high? You may think these traits are just outwardly physical and they may not matter in the grand scheme of things, but your posture is actually very important in fulfilling some bodily functions.
Good posture actually facilitates better breathing. By standing tall and open, your lungs are actually able to expand and contract much easier, allowing you to take deeper breaths and get an optimum amount of oxygen. Try inhaling while slouched and then do the same while sitting straight. Notice the difference?
The breathing element actually lends itself to concentration and thinking ability. When you breathe properly, you can increase your thinking ability, and sharpen your mind. Because the brain requires 20% of oxygen to function properly, the more oxygen you inhale the more your brain is able to work. Now sit up straight while we give you the last tip of this article!
- JOIN CLASSES. Helping your body doesn’t always have to be physical. Joining a class is something that you can do for yourself that can sometimes tie your physical and mental health together and benefit them both. Joining a class is also a great way to easier implement an idea that we mentioned above into your life! These days, there are classes for everything, and at all levels, which is good, because you’ve got to start somewhere when learning something new!
For exercise purposes, there are an abundance of different classes you can start with. Aerobics classes, Zumba classes, and Spin classes are all hugely popular at most gyms. This is also a great way to meet people that match the skill level of your own, giving you something new to bond over! Outside of the gym, you can try dance classes, like ballet or ballroom, that will slim down your body but also teach you a new skill.Besides using a class as an exercise method, you can also use classes as a way to improve your mind and happiness, improving your mental health. Some suggested classes to try are art classes or cooking classes to get your creative juices flowing and stimulate your senses. With a cooking class, you can even learn ways to implement more nutritious foods into your diet. Aside from learning a new skill, this is a great way to create a sense of community between you and your peers while exercising your mind, leading to you living a more fulfilled life!
- Austin Peterson