Women's Health: Tips for Living a Happier, Healthier Life
We're all too familiar with the demands of daily life. Work, cooking, cleaning, playing taxi, caring for children and spouses–sometimes it's tough to keep up. With all that we do to meet our responsibilities and take care of those we love, we often neglect something very important: taking care of ourselves. Listen up, ladies–it's time to make some changes and make healthy living a habit. By adopting one or two new positive habits at a time, you'll reap benefits for mind, body and soul.
It can be tough to fit exercise into our routines, but the payoff is worth it. Besides helping us fit into those skinny jeans, exercise helps keep us physically and mentally healthy. There are several ways you can get some exercise daily (or at least most days):
Step to It
One of the best exercises is walking. It's good for both your heart and your mood. Wear a pedometer or monitoring device and aim for 10,000 steps a day. Sound daunting? Start taking stairs instead of elevators. Select parking spots farther away from store entrances. Go for a 30-minute walk or even three 10-minute walks. Hop on a treadmill or elliptical machine. If you don't reach 10,000 steps right away, don't beat yourself up. Instead, make it a short-term goal.
Strike a Pose
Yoga eases stress, lowers blood pressure, slows heart rate and increases flexibility. It also works muscles that aren't routinely engaged in daily life. Some of the poses may look intimidating, but just listen to your body and work at your own pace. You'll have the poses down in no time!
Need a Lift?
Who needs to lift weights? You do! Just 30 minutes twice a week can build muscle mass, which burns calories–lots and lots of calories. Don't have weights? Visit your gym or simply use your own body weight by doing pull-ups, push-ups, squats and lunges. If you want to do a cardio workout too, be sure to lift weights first, before you're too fatigued.
Break a Sweat
Sweating for just one hour a week helps reduce your risk of heart attack, can lower blood pressure and improve your mood. Go for a brisk walk with periods of faster walking or jogging, join a group fitness class or ride a bike.
Make Friends with Food
What's not to love about food? We celebrate with food, comfort ourselves with food and entertain with food. While it's great to indulge in a big piece of chocolate cake on occasion, your best bet is to eat a balanced diet and use food to help you live a healthy life.
Break your Fast
Even if you don't feel hungry in the morning, your body needs food. Eating early fires up your metabolism and keeps it more active throughout the day. And if you add fiber to your morning meal, you'll feel less hunger later in the afternoon.
Eat in Color
Foods that have bright, rich colors are packed with good-for-you flavonoids and carotenoids. These compounds bind the damaging free radicals in your body and reduce inflammation. Aim for nine servings of colorful fruits and vegetables a day. A few good (and delicious) options are blueberries, oranges, sweet potatoes, carrots, apricots and spinach.
Nuts are packed with healthy fats and protein. The omega-3 fatty acids in nuts can boost brain power and curb your appetite. Keep small portions of walnuts or almonds handy for a quick, easy and healthy snack.
Several studies have found that polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) may help protect against breast cancer. So where can you find these antioxidants? In both red wine and green tea. So have that glass of wine (in moderation) and go green with your tea.
Fill in the Gaps
Despite our best efforts, we may not always get the vitamins and minerals we need from our diets. To cover all your bases, take a quality multivitamin daily. And if you're over 30, add some extra calcium to help keep your bones strong. The recommended dose of calcium is 200 mg daily, which should be taken with magnesium to aid with absorption. If you're not a fish eater, consider taking an omega-3 supplement. Omega-3s help keep your good cholesterol AND bad cholesterol at appropriate levels. If you're not currently taking supplements, consult your doctor before adding them to your diet.
Find some "Me" Moments
We all have days where our minds are flooded with to-do lists. Those are the days it's especially important to find even just a few moments to take care of yourself, both mentally and physically.
Do a few simple stretches as soon as you get out of bed. It's a small thing that's good for your body as it helps circulation, eases an achy back and aids digestion. Morning stretches not only ease your body into the day, but your mind as well.
Sometimes you just need to laugh. Laughing reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and let's face it–it just feels good! Find some humor with friends, television, movies or books.
Feeling particularly stressed or flustered? Breathe in deeply through your nose until your lungs are full and then exhale through your mouth. Repeat this process several times. This simple breathing exercise can make you feel happier and calmer; and best of all, you can do it any time and any place.
Use the Buddy System
One of the big reasons women live longer than men is due to the support systems they form. Take a few minutes to talk to a close friend about what's stressing you out. Oftentimes, simply talking things through with a friend will have a calming effect.
Do a Good Deed
When things get overwhelming, do something for someone else. It doesn't have to be elaborate or time consuming, just a simple act of love, generosity or kindness. Brightening someone else's day has the surprise benefit of brightening your day too.
Sleep deprivation is not good for you mentally or physically. Regularly getting enough sleep lowers your stress, reduces cravings for unhealthy food and keeps your mind sharp. Sleep is also the time that our body heals itself, so never underestimate the power of a good nights sleep.
Healthy habits are vital to living a long, healthy life. By adopting some simple strategies and making them part of your daily life, you'll notice changes in your mental and physical health that will leave a positive impact for years to come.