Healthy habits aren't just for January

Posted on November 3, 2014

Family walking through woodsKey findings in a recent government report showed that 24% of men and 25% of women are obese1. This is down to a number of dietary and lifestyle choices. So what can we do to counteract weight gain and bad health when we're all so busy? While some diets are effective in helping us improve our health, others have received bad press for doing the opposite. The truth is, getting healthy can be a daunting subject. This is especially true when unrealistic goals lead to a sense of failure. The key is to strive for long-term, achievable change. By making small adjustments to your daily routine, getting healthy will become natural instead of a chore.

As the leading provider of health cash plans, we believe in doing things properly. That means making healthy habits part of a lifestyle change so that the benefits are felt in the long term. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Walk when you can

Never underestimate the benefits of walking. Not only does it help prevent several chronic diseases such as asthma, stroke and type two diabetes, it burns calories too2. Walk to work instead of driving. If you get the bus, jump off a few stops earlier. You could even ditch the online shopping and do it for real instead. Walking around the high street will get your heart rate up and metabolism going.

Plan healthy meals in advance

Planning healthy meals in advance will reduce the likelihood of 'convenience eating'. When you're tired after work it can seem too much effort to plan and shop for a nutritious meal. Instead, we opt for a takeaway, microwave meal or frozen dinner. Avoid the situation entirely by stocking your kitchen with fresh ingredients for pre-planned healthy meals.

Be office active

Working in an office can lead to a number of health problems, including:

  • Back ache
  • Eye strain
  • Stiff joints
  • Repetitive Strain Injury

To counteract these common problems you should make an effort to keep moving. Take regular breaks to walk around the office. Stretching at your desk can also be beneficial. The 20-20-20 eye rule can be practiced to avoid dry and strained eyes - every twenty minutes, look away from your screen for twenty seconds at something twenty feet away3. It's also a good idea to get some fresh air at lunch. Spending time away from your desk is not only physically beneficial but provides a mental break too.

Cut down on processed foods

Refined, processed foods carry a number of bad health connotations. Things such as microwave meals and packaged foods often contain high levels of salt, sugar and preservatives. This leads to spikes in blood sugar and usually only fills us up temporarily. So instead of consuming calories from food with very little nutritional value, eat natural food instead. Buy meat that hasn't been reconstituted (e.g. sausages) and stick to fresh fruit and vegetables. They'll keep you fuller for longer and give you the vitamins you need.

Take the stairs

Climbing the stairs instead of using a lift is a great way to incorporate aerobic exercise into your day to day life. The benefits are bountiful, with stair climbing burning around eight to eleven calories per minute4. This is one of the best examples of how we can make small lifestyle changes to reap big health rewards. So next time you head for to the elevator, think twice and use the stairs.

Being healthy should be a way of life, not a New Year's resolution. Incorporating just a few simple changes can lead to higher energy levels and all round better health. So don't wait for January to kick-start your new outlook; get going immediately. Anybody fancy a walk?

Sources

1. http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB13648/Obes-phys-acti-diet-eng-2014-rep.pdf 
2. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/24/really-the-claim-taking-a-walk-after-a-meal-aids-digestion/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0
3. http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/exercises-to-combat-computer-eyestrain.html 
4. http://www.hr.duke.edu/benefits/wellness/exercise/takethestairs/benefits.php

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