7 Less-Known (But Powerful) Ways to Improve Your Health
Health is wealth – you’ve probably heard that before… and it’s absolutely true. It doesn’t matter how much money you make. If you’re not healthy, you’re not going to enjoy it. But here’s the thing – living healthy isn’t as difficult as most people think. In fact, with a little nudge in the right direction, healthy living may be one of the easiest things to achieve. So, in this article, I’ll take you through simple, not so popular, but proven ways of kicking your health up a notch. Let’s get into it.
1. Adopt a Pet
Alright, pets can be scratchy, chewy and downright messy at times, but that’s not all about them. Pets can also save your life… at least so says the experts. “Pets lessen our stress levels, resulting in decreased cortisol production, reduced blood pressure lower risk of heart attack,” says Megan Tieber, DVM and leading pet expert at Tuft+Paw. But that’s not all – there are so many other science-backed reasons why you should consider owning a pet… especially if healthy living is your goal.
- Pets can help you stay active. If you lack motivation for exercise, a pet may be all you need. In a particular study, the researchers found that almost half of dog-owners effectively exercised for half an hour each day for at least five days a week. ((NCBI: The impact of dog walking on leisure-time physical activity: results from a population-based survey of Michigan adults.)) That’s 150 hours of exercise per week… exactly what the CDC recommends!((CDC: Physical Activity Basics))
- Pets can help to fight depression. Depression isn’t a good thing and no one should have to go through it! The good news is that pets can help. According to a study conducted on college students going through depression, there was a 60% reduction in depression symptoms after the participants spent a few hours with a therapy dog. In an Australian study, cat owners reported better psychological health than non-pet folks. ((TendfOnline: Psychological Health in a Population of Australian Cat Owners)) What’s more — studies have also shown that cats can help to improve the physical and mental health of kids.((Research Repository St Andrew: Quality of Life and adolescents’ communication with their significant others (mother, father and best friend) in adolescents: The mediating effect of attachment to pets.))
- Pets can keep you away from the doctor’s office. Believe it or not… it’s true. According to an Australian study conducted on dog owners, it was observed that dog owners had 15 % fewer visits to the doctor that folks who owned no pets.((Informit: Pet Ownership is Good for Your Health and Saves Public Expenditure Too: Australian and German Longitudinal Evidence)) Make of that what you will.
2. Start a Garden
You probably didn’t think you could improve your health by getting your hands into the mud… but as far as scientific evidence goes, gardening can actually benefit your health on so many levels.((The Daily Gardener: Gardening Benefits: What You Should Know?)) Here’s how.
- It exposes you to vitamin D. Remember vitamin D… you know, the sunshine vitamin? Well, as it turns out, gardening (outdoors, that is) can help you get an ample amount of this important vitamin. Among other things, vitamin D helps to strengthen the bones and immune system.
- It’s a great form of exercise. If you want to work out without even being conscious of it, then all you need is gardening. Gardening is a nice form of aerobic exercise that gets you breaking a sweat without even paying attention. The various moves involved, such as bending, twisting, squatting all work various muscle groups and help to improve stamina and flexibility.
- It can help to fight loneliness. Gardening can have a huge impact on mental health. In many occasions, people who keep a garden have reported improved mood. Furthermore, community gardens can offer a unique opportunity for socialization, especially in seniors.
- It lowers the risk of dementia. According to a 16-year long study published in the Medical Journal of Australia, physical activity, particularly gardening can help to reduce the risk of dementia. ((NCBI: Lifestyle factors and risk of dementia: Dubbo Study of the elderly))
3. Break up with Belly Fat
Sorry to burst your bubble buddy… but if you want to live a long, healthy life, you absolutely need to get rid of excess body fat… especially belly fat. But why is belly fat such a big deal? Well, let’s just say it does way more harm than puncturing your swagger and social acceptability. Among other things, belly fat accumulates around your internal organs and this has been linked to various metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes.((NCBI: Ratio of visceral‐to‐subcutaneous fat area predicts cardiovascular events in patients with type 2 diabetes)) And that is really not good. The easiest way to know you have excess belly fat is by monitoring your waistline. Usually, a waistline that exceeds 40 inches (102 cm) in men and 35 inches (88 cm) in women is considered abdominal obesity. And this is a better indicator than weighing scales. Okay, enough of talk! How can you get rid of belly fat? Let’s take a look:
- Juice up with detox teas. I know this sounds nonsensical but hear me out. Weight loss teas – or detox teas as they’re sometimes referred to – benefit the body in so many ways… including weight loss. For instance, studies have shown that green tea can help you to lose a significant amount of weight within a short period of time.((NCBI: Effectiveness of green tea on weight reduction in obese Thais: A randomized, controlled trial.)) However, if you’re shopping for weight-loss teas, make sure you do your research and read other people’s reviews before spending a dime… trust me, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of headaches down the line.
- Get rid of sugar. Okay, listen up – if you don’t let go of excess sugar (and sugary stuff), all your weight loss efforts will be in vain! Sugary drinks are particularly easy to abuse. Studies have shown that sugar-sweetened beverages increase the risk of obesity in children by 60 percent.((Science Direct: Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational analysis))
- Eat more proteins. Did you know that proteins can help you lose weight? Well, it can! In fact, it is one of the most important macronutrients that can help you in this regard. So if you want to lose weight and keep the weight off, then stuff your plate with proteins and cut out the carbs. ((NCBI: The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance.))
- Exercise more. Okay, if you’re really serious about losing abdominal fat, then you need to exercise… no matter how little. Now, I’m not talking about abdominal exercises – those simply don’t work! To lose abdominal fat, focus more on cardio exercises like walking, running and swimming… these are way more effective.
4. Sleep Sleep Sleep!
So, you’ve probably heard how sleep is so important for brain health and productivity, right? Well, it’s true! There is no substitute for quality sleep when it comes to maintaining good health. Apart from messing up your brain chemistry, sleep deprivation can distort your appetite, increase stress, induce insulin resistance and increase the risk of weight gain and obesity.((NCBI: Meta-Analysis of Short Sleep Duration and Obesity in Children and Adults)) And that’s really nasty. So, whatever you do, no matter how busy you are, don’t substitute anything for a good night’s sleep. Experts recommend 6-8 hours of sleep every night. Have trouble sleeping? No worries… I’ve got you covered. Here are a few things to try for a better night’s sleep
- Stay away from electronic gadgets close to 1-2 hours before bedtime. The blue light emitted by smartphones, computers, and TV has been shown to affect sleep quality.
- Maintain a regular bedtime. It allows your internal clock to function properly and release the sleep hormone (melatonin) when you need it.
- Take a warm bath before going to bed. It helps to relieve stress and improve sleep quality.
- Take a melatonin supplement.((Nootropics Resources: Melatonin: Everything You Need To Know About the Natural Sleeping Pill)) It is a natural sleeping aid that works effectively with your body to improve sleep quality.
5. Ditch the Diet… Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle Instead
Diets. Don’t. Work. It’s that simple. Sure, any form of dietary restriction that results in taking significantly fewer calories will help you lose some weight in the short term. But in the long term, most diets just fall like a pack of cards! In fact, dieting can even predispose you to future weight gain. So, what should you do? Well, instead of focusing all your attention on this diet or that diet, why not just make positive lifestyle changes. Take a daily walk to the park, slot in a tape and dance around the house when cleaning or cooking, ditch the cheap McDonalds doughnuts and eat fresh fruits and veggies instead. These seemingly simple lifestyle changes are way more effective and easier to maintain in the long-term than a restrictive diet. However, what you eat really matters too. If you really want to be healthy, you need to ditch refined junk foods and switch to clean, whole foods instead. Nuts are particularly helpful. So, if you need a healthy snack to keep your mouth busy, without endangering your waistline, roasted almonds may be all you need.
6. Eat More Eggs
Okay, so you’ve probably heard how eggs ad saturated fat are bad for health. Well, that is just nonsense. Eggs are so nutritious that they are sometimes even referred to as “nature’s multivitamin.” Eggs are usually discriminated against because of their high cholesterol content. But guess what – studies have shown that this has no effect on blood cholesterol in most people.((NCBI: Dietary cholesterol provided by eggs and plasma lipoproteins in healthy populations.)) What’s more? In another study involving over 260k participants, it was observed that egg intake had absolutely no association with the risk of heart disease. ((BMJ: Egg consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke: dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies)) What more do you need, right?
7. Take Care of Your Gut
Okay, listen up – the pillars of your health are founded in your gut! Almost every imaginable health condition originates from a problem in the gut. But how’s that even possible? Well, as it so happens, the gut is home to millions of bacteria… referred to as the microbiome. And these bacteria hold the key to your ability to adequately digest and utilize food, immune response and a host of other important stuff. Interestingly bad lifestyle choices like eating junk foods, stressing yourself excessively and sleep deprivation and excessive antibiotic use can all have a negative impact on your microbiome. So, what happens when you piss off the bacteria in your gut? Well in most cases, your metabolism gets affected and you gain weight. But in darker cases, the immune system gets compromised and that opens the door to various diseases. Okay, enough with the doomsday talk. How can you take care of your gut to avoid all these nasty stuff? Here’s a low down:
- Eat plenty of fiber. Fiber serves as food to the bacteria and it can also help to mediate the proper passage of food along the gut. High fiber foods include popcorn, oats, almonds, carrots and chia seeds.
- Eat slowly. It will aid proper digestion and absorption of nutrients, which promotes gut health.
- Take a probiotic supplement. Probiotics are supplements containing good bacteria that can help to promote the balance of the microbiome. Just be careful and ensure you get the right one.
- Drink more water. The good bacteria love it. It also helps to keep the lining of the intestines nice and healthy.
The Bottom Line
Living healthy isn’t as hard as most people would have you believe. Sometimes, it comes down to the simple, overlooked things. However, your health goals will remain an ever-disappearing mirage if no action is taken. So, get off your butt and get to work. Go on… plant a garden, adopt a pet, eat some eggs, hit the mattress, walk around, drink some weight-loss tea, make some changes in your pantry… just do something. And it doesn’t need to be a big step… start at your own pace. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day. One thing is certain though – you can achieve your health goals… with a little work, of course. You’ve got this!