5 ways to stay healthy

These five health essentials are simple to apply and can really make a difference. Take them on as regular habits and you’ll look and feel great.

1. Get moving
We undoubtedly live in an age where we are sitting more than any other generation and we know it isn’t good for us. The simplest and most profound piece of health advice, therefore, is to be to simply get moving. All of us can find a way to incorporate at least 30 minutes per day of moderate exercise into our routine. And the good news is that you don’t need to become a gym junkie or a fitness fanatic – simply incorporate some physical activity that works with your normal day. You can walk the dog, commit to taking the stairs, push a lawn mower, walk to the local shops for some milk, play golf or get busy in the garden . . . it all counts and as long as you are increasing your heart rate, flexing your joints and putting some load on your muscles it will be doing you good.

2. Hit the hay
Another common sense health essential is a good night’s sleep. If you are waking up irritable, lacking motivation or feeling flat, chances are that you are not getting regular quality sleep. Sleep is critical to mental and physical health and aiming for 7 to 8 hours is a good rule of thumb. If your average drops below 5 or 6 hours then the negative effects can start to pile up. Sleep allows us to deal with stress more effectively, and to stimulate creativity and clarity of thought. Adequate sleep will improve memory, learning ability and problem solving skills. It is also important for allowing the body to recharge and repair its systems, such as our cardio-vascular system and insulin production. If you have trouble with sleep or want to improve sleep quality, try sticking to a regular bedtime, avoid strenuous exercise or excessive eating late at night and try to wind down and avoid bright lights (such as from the TV) for an hour or so before bedtime.

3. Drink up
In the good old days we used to take water for granted, but it now seems to have become a highly stylised consumer good. Regardless of whether you get it out of a tap or in a fancy bottle (from a mystical hidden spring), water is unquestionably a health essential. The experts recommend 8 glasses a day and even more in hot weather or after prolonged exercise. But why is this so important? Put simply, the 2.5 to 3 litres of water we lose per day through breathing, sweating and urination, needs to be replaced. Water helps keep the bloodstream flowing freely, helps rid our bodies of waste by-products, lubricates joints, aids digestion, carries nutrients and oxygen to cells and adds moisture to skin. There can be the tendency to replace water with more palatable sports drinks or fruit juices, but be wary of how much these can increase your sugar intake. Try cutting back on juice by going half/half with water and juice. Don’t love the taste of plain water? Try adding a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime, or making herbal tea and allowing it to cool. It all counts!

4. Savour the sunshine
The well-publicised dangers of sun exposure leading to skin cancer are certainly worth heeding, but this has tended to drown out the potential benefits of being exposed to natural sunlight. Of course always use sunscreen and other protective measures, but catching some rays has the healthful effect of promoting Vitamin D production, which aids calcium absorption for stronger bones. An estimated 30 percent of Australian’s are now Vitamin D deficient by the end of summer and this figure can rise to 40 per cent by the end of winter. Vitamin D is also said to be beneficial for cancer prevention, calcium absorption, as well as for helping to manage high blood pressure and depression, so be sensible with protection but try and get out into sunlight daily if you can. Sunlight needs to fall onto bare skin and the amount of time you’ll need to spend in the sun varies from a few minutes a day to a few hours a week, dependent on location and season. Although getting Vitamin D the natural way is cheaper, taking vitamin supplements (only if you are deficient) is worth considering if skin cancer is a concern.

* Always speak to your health professional before taking any new supplements to ensure they will not mix with current medication.

5. Eat well
Sometimes it seems that new wonder-diets are appearing every week, along with food evangelists who proclaim the silver bullet to good health is to focus on loading up on or avoiding a single type of food. Of course many of these ideas have merit, but if you don’t have the time or inclination to pursue the latest fads then the best idea is to stick to the proven dietary rules of ‘balance’ and ‘moderation’. This simply means eating from a wide variety of the five main food groups, keeping them in the recommended proportion and not over-eating. This includes trying to include a higher proportion of wholegrains, high fibre cereals and vegetables and balancing them with a moderate and regular intake of lean proteins, low fat dairy and fruit.

Simple rules such as minimising saturated fats, including fish meals every week (especially omega-3 rich fish), aiming for a ‘rainbow’ of vegetable colours and opting for fresh over processed foods are habits that we can all adopt without being obsessive. For a great overview of these dietary fundamentals, visit Eat for health

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