Can changing some of our ingrained behaviors really make a difference for our health?
The answer is a resounding yes, whether that means changing an active behavior, like smoking tobacco, or a passive behavior, such as remaining sedentary.
Among the benefits of certain behavior changes are preventing, treating and managing diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, among many others.
Making behavior changes is often easier said than done, and that doesn’t mean we are lazy.
Sometimes there are barriers in our way that are difficult to overcome. For instance, do you live in a neighborhood with sidewalks or a park where it’s convenient and safe to take a walk? Do you live with family members or friends who sabotage your efforts to eat healthy and eliminate junk food from the house? Is going outside for a cigarette break the primary means of socializing and connecting at your workplace?
Fitness doesn’t mean only how much muscle tone or cardio capacity you have. Fitness can define your general physical health, including maintaining a healthy weight or BMI (body mass index), as well as the state of your mental health.
And you don’t have to jump in with both feet—stick a toe in the waters and start taking steps toward starting or improving on your fitness routine! Here are suggestions to get you started.
How To Improve Your Fitness This Year
1. Get checked out.
First, make an appointment with your primary care provider (PCP), especially if it’s been more than a year since your last visit. Your PCP can assess your level of fitness by examining you physically and asking key questions about your physical and mental health.
He/she can then recommend ways to work on areas of fitness that can help improve your health.
2. Take baby steps.
It’s not necessary to sign up for a gym membership to take immediate steps toward achieving fitness. Get in the habit of moving your body more by slowly increasing physical activity in your daily life.
Try to take the stairs instead of an elevator at work, or head for the stairwell instead of the escalator at the shopping mall.
When you need a break from studying or working, get up and go for a quick walk around the block. This will get you moving and also distract you from the temptation of an unhealthy snack break!
3. Start counting calories.
Often we are simply unaware of how many calories we take in on a daily basis. What’s another handful of potato chips? One more light beer? But those little “add-ons” can pack on the pounds.
Many people find that tracking calorie intake helps them in their weight loss efforts. There are many free apps you can download on a computer or phone to make tracking easy and even fun!
4. Start lifting.
Lifting weights has many fitness benefits, including building arm muscles and helping to prevent osteoporosis, or bone loss. Even lifting very light weights (a couple of pounds) provides benefit if you do at least eight – 12 repetitions two or three days a week.
If you have back or other physical problems that can be worsened by certain activities such as lifting, check with your health provider or other expert before starting a weight training routine.
5. Remember: mental fitness matters.
Many of us go through mental or psychological issues in our lives; for some it’s a short-term disturbance, for others it’s a more chronic situation.
Regardless, seeking help can be a concern for some people due to the stigma that unfortunately still surrounds mental health. But sometimes seeking professional help or a support group is the most effective route toward feeling better, and who matters most? You do! So take steps toward mental as well as physical fitness.
6. Supplement fitness.
Researchers are studying the role of nicotinamide riboside, or NR, a naturally occurring vitamin metabolite found in milk that is available in supplement form, in athletic performance and weight management. NR has been shown to have significant impact on mitochondria, which is the energy center of your cells.
Studies to date suggest that NR can promote beneficial effects that may help in your overall fitness efforts, including weight management and sports nutrition.
Getting into shape is important – and it doesn’t have to be an unattainable goal. Use these tips to help kickstart your fitness routine and live a healthier lifestyle.
Frank L. Jaksch Jr. is a member of the American Chemical Society and the CEO of ChromaDex, a natural ingredients company.
Photo by davidzentz