Walking is a great form of exercise, especially if you are on the wrong side of 40 – well, I’m probably on the right side of 40. Being young can be tough! I changed my usual walk a few weeks back so I had to go up a steep hill. At first it was hard work, I could feel it in my leg muscles and when I reached the top I was breathless, but after five weeks of walking this way I can do the hill easily. I’m no longer breathless when I get to the peak and I effortlessly overtake the other walkers. I must be fitter! It’s funny, but in the past I’ve gone on intense campaigns to improve my fitness, for example I took up jogging. Jogging demands a great deal of effort and commitment, but this time I’ve gotten fitter by making a simple change. This has prompted me to look for other small changes I could make to improve my health.
Cut up Lots of Crunchy Vegies!
I now make a big bowl of salad on Sunday for weekday lunches. It takes me a good hour to prepare this fresh salad then I put it in an air-tight container and leave it in the fridge. If I’m going out for the day, I pack a small bowl and take it with me.
You know what has happened? This lunch is so good I look forward to it. Eating salad for lunch with a bit of fish is much nicer than a greasy hamburger or something dried-out from the bain-marie of a takeaway. Eating this lunch is not a chore, but a pleasure. Again, it’s been an effortless way to improve my well-being.
I have also been doing some online research and asking friends for tips on easy ways to get healthier. This is what I have found.
Give your Fridge a Makeover
Clean out your refrigerator from top to bottom and put all the fruit and veggies in clear plastic containers on the top shelves at the front, so it’s the first thing you see when you open the fridge door. Also put some low-fat yogurt on these shelves. I’ve heard about people who have lowered their blood pressure just by reorganizing their fridge. Try it!
Put a Bottle of Water on your Desk
This tip comes from a woman I know. She told me: “I used to have a coloured drink bottle on my desk, but I ignored it. Much more appealing is a clear bottle of water on my desk and next to it, I place a nice glass. Splurge and buy an antique whiskey glass, something pretty. That will get you drinking more water every day!”
Ladies, if that works for you, go for it. Us blokes would be just as happy to drink out of a vegemite glass.
Go to Bed Early
Establish a sleeping plan and stick to it. Getting enough sleep gives you plenty of energy, meaning you are more likely to stick to your other fitness goals. Ideally you need to go to bed and get up at the same time every day. To feel extra relaxed, sprinkle your bed with lavender. I’ve heard of people spraying that old perfume 4711 on their pillow for an extra peaceful night. Playing soothing music might also help you get to sleep. With a full night's rest, you will find you are less moody and intellectually sharper!
Wash your Hands Frequently
It’s been a shocking flu season in Australia and we know that most viruses are spread by touch. You will suffer from fewer colds and flus if you wash your hands frequently. I know of a family that have stayed illness free for a year after adopting a regime of frequent hand washing. This means no one is missing out on school or work.
The best-selling doctor and naturopath, Alan Christianson, says getting outside is great for our health. Dr Christianson specialises in thyroid and hormone health. He recommends spending between 20 to 30 minutes outside, shortly after waking up (ideally within the first hour). That means you just have to breakfast on the patio and deck. That’s hardly a major challenge! Dr Christianson says this helps set the body’s circadian rhythms and improves cortisol levels, so we are less likely to suffer depression or insomnia.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Stress is bad for our health and has even been linked to cancer. Make sure you take time out of your day and then do things you like! Go to the movies occasionally, take up meditation or yoga. Spending just a few minutes a day calming your mind will improve your health. It will boost your immune system, lower your stress levels, reduce any pain and high blood pressure and also improve heart function. Meditating does not have to be structured. You do not have to sit on the floor cross-legged chanting ‘Omm’ – instead you could just try some deep breathing exercises.
Buy a Colouring-in Book
Have you seen those adult colouring-in books in book shops? Coloring-in for adults has become popular because it reduces stress. Coloring calms the amygdala, the part of the brain related to fear and stress while stimulating the section of the brain responsible for creativity and logic. A 2005 study found people were less anxious after a short-time of coloring geometric patterns. Colouring therapy is being used for those with anxiety and stress disorders. Some people say they sleep better after colouring for just five minutes before bedtime. People with stressful jobs often colour in and some businesses even have a colouring table and allocate time for their employees to colour.
It’s not just what you eat, but when you eat it
We all know that a healthy diet includes lots of fruit and vegetables and a limited amount of fats and processed sugar, but we should also take note of when we eat what. Dr Alan Christianson has suggestions about when we should be eating proteins and carbs. He advises starting your day with 25-35 grams of protein and finishing it with 20-50 grams of high-quality carbs. Good carbs include sweet potatoes, turnips, squash and beets. Make a veggie mash for dinner. Having these vegetables last in the day helps the body produce cortisol. Cortisol is a natural steroid that stops us from getting low-blood sugar. If you are inclined to feeling faint, you should drink more water and try Dr Christianson’s suggestion. Start your days with egg and bacon and finish with a veggie mash. He claims this also helps the body produce more weight-regulating hormones like leptin, ghrelin and adiponectin.
Getting fit is not easy, but today I wanted to give you some tips that take minimum effort but deliver maximum results.