Irwin Thompson/Staff photographer
Want to be healthier right now? Stand up, then read the other 9 tips
by Leslie Barker, Senior writer, health and fitness | September 17, 2018
We all know we shouldn’t smoke. That if we must have a carbonated drink, we should swap our sugared soda for the diet variety. That we should exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.
Good suggestions, all. But what if you don’t smoke? If you don’t even like carbonated drinks? If 30 minutes might as well be 300?
No need to fret or be discouraged. There are ways to be healthier right now. And sometimes just one jump-start is enough to propel you onward to become your healthiest, fittest self ever. Just take a deep breath, tie your shoes and go.
Are you eating as you’re reading this? We’ll wait if you want to answer.
“Put down your fork or spoon and just chew for what feels like the longest time,” says yoga instructor Veleisa Patton Burrell. By doing that, you’re not wolfing your food, which can lead to eating more than you need, she says. Added bonus: It helps you pay attention.
“Be mindful of the act of consuming food so you enjoy flavors, feel the process of digestion and get better about recognizing when you’re full, rather than being overfull and feeling bloated and gross,” she says.
Schedule an eye appointment
Even if you never squint or hold menus at arm’s length, you still need to see an ophthalmologist (physician specializing in the eyes) or optometrist (doctor of optometry).
“Most people don’t realize that signs of serious systemic conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and even cancer can be detected through eye exams,” says Dr. Robert Chu, an optometrist whose Eyeworks practice has offices in Fort Worth and Southlake. “Early detection and treatment lead to better outcomes.”
When eye professionals give an eye exam, they’re looking at blood vessels and nerves in the eye, which are connected to others throughout the body. That’s how they can detect those early signs, he says. “In fact, signs of diabetes can be detected through an eye exam up to seven years before someone would show symptoms of the disease and seek treatment.”
According to research by VSP Vision Care, 69 percent of Texans worry about contracting diabetes, but only 2 percent know that an eye exam can find the disease. In addition, only 57 percent of Texans have annual eye exams.
Stop what you’re doing
It’s now officially you-time. So right this very second, get up and walk around the block. Or read a chapter in that book you keep renewing from the library.
Schedule this time like you would anything else, says Jamile Ashmore, a board-certified health psychologist with Baylor Scott & White Medical Center Plano. “Give yourself a break,” he says. “Do whatever de-stresses you and gives your mind and body a break. It’s a stress buffer.” Chronic stress can pave the way to chronic diseases.
Pick up the phone
Use your phone to call someone whose company you cherish instead of checking email or watching a video.
Having healthy emotional connections with others is life-enhancing, says Ron Stein, a psychology instructor and practicing psychologist at Mountain View College. “It has been documented how human connections, where there is positive emotional support, can actually repair the ends of chromosomes (telomeres) that have been damaged through stressful lifestyles and events.”
If you don’t like what you’re eating, stop
Put down that kale salad right now if you don’t like kale salad. You don’t have to exchange it for a cheeseburger and onion rings, but maybe a chicken sandwich and some carrot sticks would do.
Be sure to eat enough, says Marla Carter, a manager at Crull Fitness in Richardson and a fitness competitor. Too few calories, as some diet plans recommend, “is basically starvation to your brain, your vital organs, and leads to muscle wasting and muscle loss.”
Go with what works for you, not your best friend who swears by the latest fad diet.
Tell yourself, “For five minutes, I will …”
Then do it, right this very second. Maybe run in place or do jumping jacks during commercials. Or do biceps curls using canned goods. Five minutes will likely lead to more, says Kellie Rodriguez, a registered nurse and director of the Global Diabetes Program at Parkland Health & Hospital System. The key for many of us is just getting started.
Or use those five minutes to find a YouTube video on chair exercises … then give it a try. “It’s amazing how challenging some of these can be in your own living room,” Rodriguez says.
Reboot your mind-set
Set yourself a goal, one that’s small and doable — not “run a marathon next month” or “lose 35 pounds by my high school reunion in December.” Doing so could be setting yourself up for failure, which is precisely what most of us do, says Malissa Melton-Otunba, a mental health counselor at Parkland Health & Hospital System.
Why? “Because we have believed that we either can’t achieve it because of some deficit, or do not believe we are worthy of achieving it — neither of which is true,” she says. Thus, skip the self-criticism and focus on self-support.
“Rebooting our mind-set to one that believes in the possibilities and the fact we can do great things and are worthy of the outcomes are keys to getting healthier now and staying healthier for a lifetime,” she says.
Do some quick math
Tempted by pie or a can of soda? Check the calorie count and then see how much exercise you’d have to do to burn it off.
That’s what Joe Long, general manager at SWEAT Dallas and BURN Dallas does early on when working with clients. He asks what foods especially tempt them. Together, they check the calorie counts. “Then I make them jump on a piece of cardio equipment or train them on weights to show them how much work they have to do” to burn it off.
For instance, say you really can stop at a half-cup of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream. That’s 260 calories — not outlandish, if you keep everything else in check that day. But to burn it off, if you weigh 125 pounds, you’d have to go bowling for three hours. If you weigh 155 pounds, 45 minutes or so of badminton could do the trick. If you weigh 185, you could blast away those calories with a half-hour on the stair-step machine.
Check myfooddiary.com for specific exercises to burn off specific foods. Pretty cool.
“Studies clearly show sitting associated with worse heart health regardless of how much exercise one does,” says Anand Rohatgi, a cardiologist at Parkland and associate professor of cardiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Aim for 15 minutes of standing every hour while you’re at work, he says.
If you’re standing now, sit down. Then stand up. Then sit down. It’s all about moving, says Dallas-area personal trainer Melissa Spoonts. “The more you can move, not only in your workouts but in everyday life, from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed, the faster you will reach your goals.”
Plus, moving helps you avoid aches and pains associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
“How you breathe is how you live,” says Jill Murawski, owner of Fit Yoga in Richardson. Most of us tend to take shallow breaths. But breathing deeply — what she calls “belly breathing” — has a host of health benefits.
“The body relaxes and the mind slows down, which means less stress,” she says. “It reduces anxiety and negative thoughts. It allows clarity and thinking, and decreases blood pressure and heart rate.”
Here’s how to do it: Sit or stand, placing your palms on your lower belly. Close your eyes or gaze down. Inhale slowly to the count of five, watching your stomach expand. Exhale to the count of five, watching it contract. Do three to 10 breaths and feel better immediately.
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