Dr. Kim Foster: Wicked Health


10 Quick and Easy Ways to Get Healthy

No Time? No Problem

I get it. You’d love to be healthier...but who has the time? Well, here's some good news: you don't need a ton of time to make positive changes in your lifestyle.

Below are ten quick and easy ways to take your health to the next level.

1. Wear a pedometer

Studies have shown that the simple act of clipping on a pedometer can boost your weekly walking amounts, by almost double—without you even being aware of changing your behaviour. Aiming for 10,000 steps per day seems to be the magic number. Less than 5,000 steps per day is a marker for a “sedentary” lifestyle, and people who are averaging 10,000 steps a day are maintaining an “active lifestyle,” and are healthier and less obese.

2. Add fish to your diet

We're not talking a total dietary makeover here, just switching a couple of your less-than-healthy weeknight staples for a simple fish meal. Cold water fatty fish has been repeatedly shown to be extremely healthy, primarily because of the omega-3 fatty acids it contains. The American Heart Association recommends fish twice a week—an eminently achievable goal. Not sure how to cook fish? Here: the easiest salmon recipe ever.

3. Keep a food diary

Keeping a food diary is one of the best ways to avoid mindless munching and to keep track of your eating habits. Truth is, most of us really have no idea how much we're eating. Multiple studies have shown the extreme inaccuracy of relying on our own recall for this. Also, when people keep a food diary—even if they're not trying to make any other changes—they automatically start adjusting their diets in a healthier direction. If a food diary seems like a hassle to you...guess what? There’s an app for that. My Fitness Pal is one of the best, but there are others.

4. Turn off the TV

Not only does this one not take any extra time, it will actually save you time. A study published a couple of years ago showed that once you're over the age of 25, every hour of TV you watch reduces your life expectancy by 22 minutes. Ouch. But it makes sense, right? Time spent watching TV is time not being active, but probably is time spent munching your way through a bag of Cheetos. I know TV is the way many of us relax at the end of the day—and I'm not saying you have to hide the remote permanently—but maybe you could cut back a little and do other things for stress relief?

5. Pick up the phone and book an appointment with your doctor

Let's face it, moms—we're good at keeping up to date with our kids' checkups, but not so good about making our own health a priority. There’s a good chance you’re overdue for your own checkup. So don't think about this one too much, just do it right now. Even if you're not due for your checkup, if you’re reading this article, you’re probably feeling something, you wish you had more energy, you wish you were sleeping better, you’d love to lose a few pounds, these are ALL things you could talk to your doctor about.

6. Go outside

Your mom knew the wisdom of this one, and so did your grandmother. Fresh air is good for the body and the soul—it's a great de-stresser, and the air itself is full of negative ions that work to boost mood, energy levels, and oxygen flow to the brain. Plus, if you combine that outside time with a little exercise, you're winning on multiple levels.

7. Do breathing exercises

Breathing is one of the best, quickest, and easiest de-stressers out there. But it's exactly because of these features that many people dismiss the power of this practice. Proper abdominal breathing, using your diaphragm, has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve headaches, combat fatigue, lessen anxiety and battle depression. Sound good? Here's a primer on breathing exercises.

8. Practice portion control

This one really doesn’t take any additional time at all—it’s more about willpower. Which, admittedly, doesn’t particularly align with the “easy” theme of these tips, but...lucky for you, I happen to have compiled a list of no-brainer ways you can trick yourself into becoming a portion control pro.

9. Meditate

Research is piling up to demonstrate the health benefits of meditation. And, even better, you don't have to dedicate a Dalai-Lama-esque two hours a day to benefit. A mere ten minutes of meditation has been shown to help, and the benefits of regular meditation are many: lower blood pressure, less pain, better sleep, lower stress, improved immunity. It really is something you can squeeze into those small wedges of time in your day (carpool pickup, perhaps? naptime? just before bed?).

10. Keep a gratitude journal

This, intuitively, may not seem like it has much to do with health. But I happen to be a big believer in the connection between happiness and health, and focusing on gratitude has been shown, through much research, to be a significant happiness booster. Here are some easy ways, including keeping a journal, to incorporate gratitude into your daily life.

For more quick health tips, go here to read about 4 Easy Ways To Live Longer. And here, find out about one simple thing you can do to cut your cancer risk.

Photo from Flickr CC: Kat (modified with text)