8 Small Ways To Make Big Differences To Your Health

6/23/14 11:57AM EST

8 Small Ways To Make Big Differences To Your Health 8 Small Ways To Make Big Differences To Your Health

Columbia Pictures/ Rocky Balboa

Not all of us are built—or evenly halfway motivated—to train for something like a marathon or triathlon, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be healthy. Good health doesn’t require extensive personal training or CrossFit sessions, either. Just making a few small changes in your lifestyle, some that might even surprise you, can make big differences in your health.

1. Decrease Your Stress Levels

It seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at the kinds of things that can stress you out: commuting to work, lack of exposure to the outdoors, toxic relationships (friends AND family), a stagnant job and so much more. Try to find ways to eliminate the negative. But if you can’t do that, some simple changes can impact your mood and, in turn, your health. Change your commute to add a little walk to the trip. Ditch the energy suckers from your life or just don’t spend as much time with them. If you can’t change your job right now, see what you can do to mix things up at work. Even making changes to your desk or work environment can have a huge impact.

2. Ditch Your “Social” Smoking Habit

According to the American Cancer Society, smoking between one to four cigarettes a day can increase the risk of dying from heart disease and other causes, like cancer. For women, the news is even worse: Women’s risk of lung cancer from light smoking is greater than men’s when compared to never-smokers of both genders. There’s absolutely nothing—I mean nothing—healthy about lighting up a cigarette. But you already know that. You may think you’re not addicted and can quit at any time, but the ACS says only four to five cigarettes a day can lead to withdrawal symptoms after 24 hours of abstinence. That sounds like an addiction to me.

3. Drink responsibly

Headed out for happy hour again this week? Consider limiting your alcohol consumption by several cocktails to make some major impacts on your health. Also, consider what you’re drinking. Not all drinks are created equally, and the added sugar and calories you’re consuming in your mixed drinks may be doing more damage than you think. Consider a stiffer drink taken on the rocks or neat. You’re bound to drink (at least a little) less because the taste will be so much stronger to you. Also consider having red wine instead. The proclaimed antioxidants and other health “benefits” in red wine sound like reason enough to have a glass or two.

4. Walk A Little More

Pick up a FitBit or Nike Fuel band and monitor how much you move during the day. You’ll probably surprise yourself at how little it really is. If you add more steps to your day, you’ll likely end up needing less hours at the gym.

5. Ease Off The “Low-Fat” And “Diet” Foods

More and more studies are showing that low-fat diets can actually be detrimental to your health. Low-fat foods are full of chemicals, fillers and ingredients you can’t name to substitute the full-fat flavors you’re missing. Low-fat diets also tend to be higher in carbohydrates and devoid of manynutrients your body needs to maintain optimal health. So keep your portions in check, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and go ahead and enjoy that filet.

6. Shop Locally

Where do you buy your groceries? Cheaper is not always better, and the savings in your wallet can often be at the expense of your health. Consider stepping it up, at minimum, to organic produce to avoid the pesticides that can otherwise leach into your food. As the weather warms, shop farmers markets where the produce is likely local and minimally processed. You can get to know these farmers and vendors as you start to educate yourself about where your food is coming from and, more importantly, how it’s being grown or raised.

7. Eat A Few Eggs

Eggs—particularly the yolks—have gotten a bad rap in years past for increasing cholesterol, but as it turns out they may in fact be the perfect source of protein and nutrients to kick start your day. Just one egg contains only 78 calories and 6 grams of protein! Don’t be afraid of the 5 grams of fat; that along with the protein will help keep you full through to lunch.

8. Go To Bed A Little Earlier

Getting more sleep is good for your health from head to toe. Increased sleep improves your blood circulation, which in turn promotes the body’s creation of human growth hormone. That hormone creates collagen (think better skin and hair), among other important things to keep you feeling and looking youthful. You’ll also sharpen your memory and attention span, maintain a healthier weight and reduce stress levels, all which majorly impact your health.

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