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Spring is the perfect time to look at your daily health habits and identify areas for improvement. It’s also a great time to reenergize yourself and set new goals on your journey to good health. With the weather getting better each day, you’ll likely have more opportunities to get outside, take in some fresh air and increase your activity level.
The good news is that making even small changes in your daily health habits can help you start feeling better and more energized. Jennifer Sheldon, physician assistant with Atrium Health Primary Care Ballantyne Family Medicine, shares six important ways you can support your health every day. These involve exercise, water intake, sleep, diet, weight tracking and outdoor activities.
Keep Moving and Stretching
Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your mind and body. Exercise benefits the body by strengthening bones and muscles, reducing the risk of disease, improving brain function and helping with weight management. When it comes to mental health, exercise reduces feelings of depression and stress, improves self-esteem, enhances mood and promotes an overall sense of well-being.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults need at least of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. To meet this goal, you could exercise for 30 minutes five days a week, 22 minutes each day, or any other combination that works for you. The CDC also recommends two days of muscle-strengthening activities each week. Muscle-strengthening exercise all major muscle groups, including legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.
Low-impact exercise and stretching provide numerous health benefits. For example, tai chi, which incorporates gentle movements and meditation, has been proven to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life for patients with fibromyalgia. Routine stretching has been shown to improve function and reduce symptoms in patients with low back pain.
What about posture?
“Having good posture can prevent back pain, fatigue and muscle pain while reducing stress on your ligaments,” Sheldon says.
Drink More Water
Drinking enough water helps keep your body working the best it can. For example, water is needed to help your body get rid of waste, regulate your temperature and lubricate your joints.
How much should you drink?
“Make it a goal to drink 0.5 to of water for each pound you weigh,” Sheldon explains. “For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, try to drink 75 to of water each day to stay hydrated.”
If you don’t drink enough water, you could become dehydrated. Dehydration can make you feel sluggish, tired and lightheaded.
Get Enough Sleep
Just like food and water, sleep is a biological necessity for life and good health.
“Research shows that the hours we spend sleeping are incredibly important,” Sheldon says. “During sleep, your body is busy fighting off viruses and other pathogens, operating a waste removal system to clean the brain, repairing injured tissues and forming vital memories that are essential for learning.”
Getting enough sleep can improve your mental health, mood and ability to think and make good decisions. It’s also important for the functioning of the heart and other organs. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7 to 9 hours of quality (uninterrupted) sleep each day. For some, a minimum of 6 hours may be appropriate, while others may need more.
But what if you don’t get enough sleep? Poor sleep habits can negatively affect your mood, ability to think, attention span and job performance.
Ditch the Salt
Your body needs a small amount of sodium to function. However, 90% of Americans consume too much sodium.
“High sodium consumption can raise blood pressure, and high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke,” Sheldon says. “Most of the sodium people consume is in the form of salt.”
How can you reduce your salt intake? Check food labels to monitor their sodium content. The CDC recommends consuming less than of sodium per day.
It’s important to remember that the majority of salt intake (about 70%) is from processed foods and food served at restaurants. For example, a cheeseburger from a fast–food restaurant contains 710 to of sodium. So, if you want to reduce your salt intake, find a few new recipes to try at home instead of dining out.”
Get on the Scale
Weighing yourself regularly is a form of accountability that can help you stay on track on your health journey. “Goal setting is also important when it comes to monitoring your weight,” says Sheldon. “To keep your weight from creeping up on you, set a weekly maintenance or loss goal for yourself, write it down and check yourself against that goal.”
For each weigh-in, use the same scale at the same time of day. Remember, daily weight fluctuation is normal. In fact, your weight can fluctuate up to five pounds over the course of a day.
Going outside is one of the easiest ways to improve your physical and mental health. Increasing your intake of fresh air is known to:
Clean your lungs
Boost your immune system
Improve your heart rate and blood pressure
Help you relax, concentrate and collect your thoughts
Increase your vitamin D levels
Lessen anxiety and depression
Improve sleep quality and duration
Sheldon recommends spending at least 20 minutes outdoors each day.
Getting outside and being active encourages deeper breathing, which gets more oxygen into your blood and throughout your body. This improves the body’s overall function.
Looking for some new outdoor activities? Try hiking, planting a garden, exploring a park, playing a round of golf or going for a bike ride. You can even try working or eating your lunch outside in order to increase your outdoor time.
Your primary care doctor can make personalized recommendations for improving your health. Need a provider? Call us 24/7 at 1-844-235-6997 or make an appointment online.