Keys to a Healthy Lifestyle


NUTRITION: Understanding and implementing sound nutritional principles is essential to living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight, but eating in an optimal way can be complicated. Keep in mind that it’s impossible to reach your fitness goals without proper nutrition, no matter how hard you exercise. Over–exercising to compensate for poor dietary habits is also a problem because it can lead to injuries and poor recovery. Fad dieting or starvation is not the answer. While many diets achieve dramatic, short–term results, most are not sustainable long–term. In fact, most diets result in added weight gain once the dieting stops. What should you do? It’s key to understand the difference between good food and bad food; how your body’s insulin response to sugary foods can cause weight gain; your recommended caloric intake based on your body size, age, and lifestyle; and why combining a healthy diet with an active lifestyle is optimal. Talk to your physical therapist or motion specialist. They can help.

EXERSISE: What’s best: aerobic, high–intensity interval training, strength training, or functional exercise programs? How should you exercise for your age, body type, and lifestyle? Where do you begin? It’s confusing. A good place to start is with understanding the benefits of exercise and thinking of movement as a lifestyle rather than just something you do at the gym. You can make a bigger impact by using 15 to 20 minutes here and there for activity than you can by visiting the gym and sitting the rest of the day. The best fitness programs are based on three types of exercise: cardio, strength training, and high–intensity interval training. What should you do and how often? Why should your fitness program include your office habits, home life, and recreational choices? The answers rest in making movement a lifestyle. We are here to help. Ask your physical therapist or motion specialist how to get started, or schedule an EW Consult.

SLEEP: Is sleep really that important? How much sleep do you need? Are there any good sleep strategies? Does drinking alcohol affect your sleep? We spend about a third of our lives asleep. Unfortunately, millions of us do not get the quality of sleep healthy lifestyle requires because we do not understand our sleep cycles. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Teenagers need eight to ten hours, school–aged children need nine to eleven, preschoolers need ten to thirteen, and toddlers need eleven to fourteen hours. When you sleep less than the recommended amount, your risk of developing dementia, depression, memory loss, confusion, and anxiety increases. Conversely, too much sleep (greater than nine hours) on a regular basis increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and stroke. Strategies to improve sleep include avoiding or limiting caffeine and alcohol; maintaining a regular schedule for sleep, daily work, exercise, and meals; removing stimulants such as televisions, computers, or other electronics from your bedroom; avoiding the use of your phone or computer beginning two hours before bedtime; keeping your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet; and getting treatment for any underlying medical conditions. Additionally, be careful with naps, as they can interrupt your sleep cycle. Readily available, easy–to–use technology that helps you understand your sleep cycle can be tremendously valuable. Your physical therapist or motion specialist can help you develop improved strategies.

SITTING: Yes, it’s true: Sitting is often referred to as the new smoking. Current research demonstrates the destructiveness of prolonged sitting–i.e., more than eight hours a day. Most of us are aware that sitting can result in shortened muscles and poor postural patterns that cause neck and back pain. But sitting also increases your risk of developing conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, high cholesterol, cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and deep vein thrombosis. Some studies have indicated that even a regular exercise regimen does not negate the effects of too much sitting. What should you do? Move more! Make movement a lifestyle. Develop strategies at work such as getting out of your chair every thirty minutes, using a stand–up or treadmill desk, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Take a walk, exercise regularly, and most importantly, make movement a lifestyle. Your physical therapist or motion specialist can help you develop strategies to decrease sitting.

STRESS AND ANXIETY: Stress can be good or bad. The physical stress of exercise is an example of good stress that can help our bodies improve their performance. But as we all know, stress can also be bad for us. Time constraints, financial pressures, work deadlines, and other stressors can increase levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in our blood. Temporary cortisol elevations normal, but prolonged periods of elevated cortisol can cause problems such as weight gain (because of increased cravings for carbohydrate–rich foods), high blood pressure, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, and mood swings. We all need a daily routine to deal with the ill effects of negative stimuli. While good nutrition, sufficient sleep, and exercise may not be a complete solution, current studies have shown that they can reduce symptoms. Dietary improvement and resistance training are linked to decreased symptoms of depression and improved mood. Other forms of exercise like walking, yoga, Pilates, and cardio can also help. Moving more, eating a healthy diet, practicing daily meditation or mindfulness, and getting enough sleep all help to reduce stress and anxiety and their damaging effects. Staying socially connected, finding ways to laugh more, and listening to music also are powerful tools that can decrease stress hormone levels. Ask your physical therapist or motion specialist about how to get started with a daily routine that will help you cope with the effects of bad stress.

The keys to a healthy lifestyle rest in our ability to integrate each of these components with purpose, routine, and the understanding that living healthy is a process. Commit to make one change and stick with it. Set goals and you will be rewarded!

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