Starting to live a healthier lifestyle can be difficult and daunting – especially when we live life in the fast lane. I have been the picture of bad health; eating junk, binge drinking, partying too much and generally making questionable lifestyle choices. These things not only took their toll on my body, but also my mental health. I have learnt the hard way that in order to live a healthier and happier life it is crucial to form some good habits and positive approaches to diet, exercise and well-being. It all takes time and does not happen overnight. And although fitness and health is completely subjective, depending on the person, here are a few of my personal suggestions to get pointed in the right direction:
Everyone knows that exercise is good for health, but a general misconception is that it is necessary to work fast, hard and dramatically to make a difference- and this is not the case. Regular, light exercise can be beneficial too. Rather than throwing yourself into unmanageable and intense routines or plans, start slowly. For good health, 20 minutes of moderate exercise is recommended each day – but this is not always achievable. I started very slowly by doing 5 – 10 minutes of exercise just 2 or 3 times per week and then gradually increasing from there; for example 10 -15 minutes of exercise 3 or 4 times the next week, 20 minutes each time the following week and so on. Personally I believe that anything is better than nothing! It has taken me years to find exercises that I enjoy and am comfortable with, and it was down to trial and error. Small steps can get you started; taking the stairs instead of the escalator, cycling to work or walking to the shops. Trying different fitness classes, or things like dance or zumba are all good – with added social benefits. The key to building a regular exercise routine is to find things that you enjoy and then slowly increase the amount of physical activity in your life from there. Exercise can be fun, fulfilling and great for mental health.
For me this has been an important thing to learn. When our bodies are not used to physical activity they can be damaged or strained by sudden bouts of exercise. Diving into intense routines can often cause more damage than good, so it’s important to learn to loosen and warm your body and muscles. Likewise, not exercising and sedentary living can also lead to physical problems. Learning simple stretches helps to loosen tight muscles, repair the body, and ease physical and mental strains. Stretching is a great way to get in the zone prior to exercising and can help to relax the mind after a busy day.
Yoga can tone the body and help it adjust to a more physical and balanced way of life. Beginners routines are often simple and although the impact can feel minimal, subtle strengthening of muscles starts straight away. Finding some moves online or joining a yoga class can help you identify the stretches that you are comfortable with and that make you feel good. Yoga and stretching is a great way to reduce aches and pains in areas such as the neck, shoulders and back. Yoga and stretching is also know to relieve stress and help with sleep.
Eat more fruit and vegetables
The UK Government recommends consuming 5 different types of fruit and vegetables each day. They contain vitamins and minerals that the body needs and help with healthy digestion. Different fruits and vegetables have their own unique properties; some can boost our mood, some our metabolism and some maintain youthful bones, skin, hair and teeth. A good tip to get started is to try and incorporate fresh food into your regular dishes; for example make a vegetable side dish to have with your usual dinners, add fruit to your morning cereal or salad to sandwiches at lunch. It’s great to experiment and find foods that you can really enjoy, so try different things and research what you are eating and the benefits.
Eat less processed foods
It is known that over consumption of processed foods can lead to serious health problems and diseases. Processed foods are cheap and convenient but should be kept to a minimum. Cooking fresh, home-made and healthier meals can seem time consuming but there are many suggestions, recipes and ideas online that once adopted can make a big difference to our physical and mental health. I try to batch cook, meal prep and freeze to save time and energy. Again I have found it is about making small adjustments gradually, and I believe we should all indulge in our favourite foods from time to time, but try to avoid excess.
Drink more water
We should be consuming around 2 litres of water each day. Water helps to cleanse the skin, rid the body of toxins and maintain healthy liver and kidney function. I started by sacrificing a hot drink or two per day and swapping to a glass of water. I also invested in a reusable bottle that I can carry around with me. I often crave sugary drinks but find carbonated water, mixed with fresh fruit juice, can satisfy these cravings and help keep me hydrated. Buying a water filter can help to clean impurities and improve taste, and keeping a bottle refrigerated is a great way to help monitor how much water you are drinking.
Try antioxidant drinks
My favourite antioxidant drink is Green Tea. It contains high levels of antioxidants which help to cleanse the body of impurities and free radicals. Green Tea is known to help speed up metabolism and burn calories. The benefits of antioxidant drinks can be visible too; Green Tea can cleanse the skin and rid the body of toxins, which can slow the signs of ageing and help maintain a healthy glow. There are many flavours of Green Tea available, making it easy to find a cup to enjoy. Other notable antioxidant drinks include: cranberry juice, matcha powder tea, coconut water and pomegranate juice.
Take your time
Rome was not built in a day, and to make real and long-lasting, positive changes to our lifestyle takes time and dedication. Making subtle, small changes over time is manageable and helps our bodies and minds adjust to new ways of living. If you feel that you have ‘fallen off the wagon’, over indulged or taken a prolonged break, then do not be too hard on yourself. Start again, and again if you must, try not to get disheartened and don’t punish yourself if you slip into old habits. Perseverance, and keeping the bigger picture in mind, will help to keep you on track.
It can be a challenge to stay motivated, especially if you are not seeing or feeling the results you would like. We all experience set-backs and all have our own weaknesses and vices. I like to motivate myself by reminding myself why I want to maintain a healthier lifestyle. The benefits of healthier living have dramatically helped ease periods of stress, anxiety and depression in my life – so this is something I like to keep in mind. I also know that I feel and look better when I am keeping my health on track. There are many tools available online to help keep yourself motivated; fitness and healthy living apps, media influencers, bloggers, YouTube videos, books and DVD’s – these have all helped me learn new, useful information and help keep me going. It’s also good to adopt some mantras or motivational phrases; pin them to the fridge, or keep screenshots on your phone for when you need a motivational boost.
“I firmly believe in enjoying everything in moderation”
These were my top tips for getting started with healthier living, and really I could write more on most of the points. But I hope that the key takeaway’s from this post are that anyone can change their lifestyle at any time, and all it takes is small steps, patience and perseverance.
Life is for living and we should all enjoy the things we love, I firmly believe in enjoying everything in moderation. I’m no health guru and will probably never have my dream body, but adopting these habits and ways of thinking has at best helped me feel better, stronger, healthier and more confident and at the least helped minimise the damage caused by my fast-living. What are your favourite healthy lifestyle tips and tricks? Leave a comment below and help to spread the message.