There is so much more to being healthy than a lack of physical illness or a flat stomach. Illness is an inevitability, but if your health is well-rounded, you can keep going even when you are ill.
What comprises well-rounded health? Physical health is definitely a key component, but it’s important not to lose sight of mental and spiritual health as well. A positive outlook and a happy heart contributes to your physical health as well as making life worth living.
With that in mind, here are some essentials for a truly healthy life:
Move more, rest well
Lives spent sitting hunched in front of a computer or standing still behind a counter are slowly killing us. Studies have found that 80% of UK adults do not get enough exercise and that sitting for long periods can be just as bad for your health as being obese. Even more worryingly, 91% of children in the UK also don’t get enough exercise, setting them up for unhealthy habits and health issues later in life.
The NHS recommends that adults get around two-and-a-half hours of moderate physical exercise each week as well as some strength training. That doesn’t mean going for long runs every day, but simply a brisk walk for 30 minutes fives times a week. Young people (aged 5-18) need roughly twice that amount.
And it is just as important to get a good rest. Too much screen time tricks our brains into staying awake longer, while long commutes and stressful jobs have us working longer hours. Without the proper amount of time to rest and sleep, our bodies cannot fully repair, making us tired and worn out the next day. This in turn leads to less exercise, creating a downward spiral that can be hard to break.
Eat plants, drink water
A plant-based diet provides huge benefits to your health. Fruit and vegetables contain large amounts of nutrients essential for physical health, including vitamins, minerals, protein and fibre. They also tend to be naturally low in calories yet can be quite filling, which is perfect if you’re trying to lose weight.
Today’s high-carb/high-sugar diets lead to all kinds of health problems, from diabetes to IBS. Animal-based protein has also been linked to heart disease and cancer.
For more on the impact of meat on your health, check out Skinny Bitch.
Drinking plenty of water can also help your body flush out toxins while hydrating your skin, muscles, and organs. The body can often mistake thirst for hunger, so drinking plenty of water can also keep hunger at bay between meals.
Nurture your support network
Connecting with others is essential for our mental health. Studies show that loneliness has the same risk factors for our physical health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and is worse than obesity or physical inactivity. As more people live alone, it is important to nurture your social circle and share time with friends and family.
As well as combatting the negative effects of social isolation, having a good support network can be lifesaver in a time of need. Whether it’s a sofa to stay on or someone to talk to, friends and family can get you through tough times.
If you are having a tough time at the moment and don’t have anyone to talk to, give the Samaritans a call for free on 116 123 or talk to your GP about local counselling services.
Some meditate to reduce stress and anxiety, others to feel re-energised and reinvigorated. Whatever your reason, studies have shown that regular meditation is great for both mental and physical health.
For instance, meditation has been shown to reduce inflammation, increase anti-oxidant production, and counteract age-related cognitive decline. Decreasing stress can also have great health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, reducing headaches, improving skin disorders and IBS, and lowering the risk of depression.
Mindfulness meditation is popular and there are lots of meditation apps and guided meditations on YouTube. They can fit to any length of time you have available and can be done anywhere – so why not transform your morning commute or lunch break into a healthy habit?
Do something different
Yes, there’s comfort in routine, but doing the same thing day-in, day-out can suck all the fun out of life. The body is great at adapting to new environments, developing and growing to meet new challenges. Doing the same thing over and over leads to a type of atrophy: your workout routine loses its impact, your memory declines and you cease to grow as a person.
Trying something new provides an exciting challenge that can shake us out of our mundane routine, grow our confidence, and keeps things fresh and interesting, slowing down our perception of time. It doesn’t have to be something expensive or time-consuming, simply reading a book can improve memory, concentration, and emotional intelligence. Or why not go for a walk somewhere new?
Spend time in nature
Spending some time outside in a natural environment (rather than just an urban environment) can do wonders for your health, in some rather unexpected ways. For instance, did you know that spending time in nature has been linked to better eyesight? Or that your creative problem-solving ability improves by up to 50% after immersing yourself in nature? Spending time in a forest has even been shown to increase the production of anti-cancer proteins!
On top of all of these astounding effects, spending time in nature also reduces stress and inflammation, providing similar benefits to meditation.
It’s important to remember that being truly healthy is continuous journey, not a final destination. Focusing on how you feel in the present and forming healthy habits for the future is the best strategy for a healthy body, mind and spirit.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kim Barnouin is the author of the New York Times bestselling book ‘Skinny Bitch’ and founder of the Skinny Bitch approach to weight loss which is based around 3 key pillars: nutrition, exercise, and effective supplementation. Skinny Bitch offers a range of weight loss programmes, recipes and food products to help you lose weight naturally and healthily.