With warmer climes around the corner, many of us are starting to think about getting in shape for summer and adopting a healthier lifestyle. If you’re keen to boost your health, it’s beneficial to focus on your mind and body. Here are some simple steps you can take to overhaul your health from top to toe.
Most of us tend to automatically think about our bodies when the word health is mentioned, but your mental wellbeing is equally important. Physical and mental health are connected, and often, making changes to improve physical health will also benefit your psychological wellbeing. You don’t have to experience depression or anxiety to take an interest in mental health. There are things you can do to shield, protect and nourish your mind, including exercise, meditation, taking time out, talking to others, socialising and spending time doing things you love, for example, playing sports, creative activities and hobbies. If you have experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression, or you find it difficult to cope with your emotions or to manage stress, it’s helpful to talk, either to a friend, partner or family member or to a therapist or a counsellor. See your doctor if you’re finding life difficult. Anxiety and sadness are normal human emotions, but you shouldn’t feel low for prolonged periods of time or feel on edge in scenarios where others feel calm, safe and secure. There’s no shame in asking for help or opening up.
You might know that brushing and flossing are important for keeping your smile in check, but are you aware that poor dental health can elevate the risk of heart disease, strokes and Alzheimer’s disease? To prevent tooth decay and gum disease, brush your teeth twice a day for at least 2 minutes each time, avoid snacking between meals and see your dentist every 6-12 months. It’s particularly crucial to arrange a dental appointment if you notice symptoms such as heightened sensitivity, bleeding when you brush or swollen, sore gums.
Joints and muscles
Moving your body is one of the best things you can do to improve both your physical and mental health. If you exercise frequently, this is brilliant for your joints and muscles, but it will also help to reduce stress, to improve sleep quality and to increase your confidence and self-esteem. Physical activity contributes to better endurance, strength and stamina, and it can also enhance mobility and flexibility. If you’re not active enough, and you don’t exercise for 150 minutes each week, try and make an effort to get your body moving. Go for walks and stretch your legs in your lunch break, swap the lift for the stairs and take a look at activities or classes you could try. The gym isn’t for everyone, but you don’t have to run on a treadmill for hours to get fit. You could try spinning, dancing, yoga, swimming, tennis, golf, trampolining, cycling, kayaking or join a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) class, a boot-camp or a running club. Start slowly and build your fitness gradually.
If you’re new to exercise, or it’s been a long time since you worked out, make sure you warm up properly and cool down after your session. It’s a good idea to go to a beginner’s class, to train with a friend who exercises frequently or to hire a personal trainer to make sure you learn the right techniques and you take on a programme that is suitable for your fitness level and your health status.
Many of us neglect our feet when it comes to taking preventative health measures. To keep your feet in good working order, it’s beneficial to wash them on a regular basis, to avoid socks and shoes made from synthetic materials, to make sure your shoes fit well and to keep your toenails short. The feet are vulnerable to cuts and grazes and blisters, so wear socks with new shoes, try and avoid going barefoot outside and invest in an effective blister treatment if you start to develop sores. Blisters are common when wearing new shoes and when taking part in activities, for example, jogging, hiking and running that involve covering long distances. Keep an eye on your feet, and if you notice any abnormal signs, for example, lumps and bumps, painful nails or swelling, don’t hesitate to see your doctor.
Eating well is a surefire way to supercharge your health. Your body relies on the foods you eat for fuel, but also for nutrients and essential vitamins and minerals. A healthy, balanced diet will benefit every part of the body. If you tend to eat on the go, you live on snacks, ready meals or fast food, or you never hit the magical 5-a-day target, making straightforward changes to your weekly menu will have an incredible impact. Make lunches the evening before if you’re busy at work or you’re going to be out and about. Pasta salads, salads, sandwiches, wraps and homemade soup are quick, easy and nutritious options. Carry a bottle of water with you, and choose foods that release energy slowly to prevent you from craving snacks like crisps, biscuits and chocolate bars between meals. Porridge, scrambled or poached eggs on wholemeal toast and whole grain cereals are great options for breakfast, for example.
Try and increase your intake of vegetables and fruit. Make sure you have a side of vegetables with main meals and add veg to soups, pasta sauces and stir-fry dishes. Have a piece of fruit with your breakfast and lunch or make your own smoothies by blending berries, bananas and tropical fruits with natural yoghurt. Shop-bought smoothies and juices tend to contain a lot of added sugar, so check labels before you buy. Keep an eye on your sugar and salt intake and try and cut down on processed foods.
It’s easy to assume that you need to make drastic changes to your lifestyle to see an improvement in your health. The truth is that simple steps can make all the difference.