Healthy Habits for 2018
A new year has started and it’s the right time to see if we can incorporate healthier habits into our lives. I am not going to call them New Year resolutions because “resolutions” at least for me tend to end with the month of January. I want these habits to have a longer life span (understand ETERNITY) so I’ll call them health goals or health targets–honestly anything to make them last.
There is a lot we can do to make sure we are treating our bodies well and by extension our health too. Let’s dive in and explore 3 habits we are going to make our best friends this year (and forever).
Honestly, I think you all knew this was coming. Physical activity is extremely critical for our well-being. In case you’re still doubting, below are some benefits of getting up and moving around regularly this year:
- Helps with weight control
- Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
- Reduces the risk for some cancers
- Strengthens bones and muscles
- Improves mental health
- Improves your ability to do daily activities and prevent falls when you’re older (Do you want to fall? No, neither do I.)
With so many health benefits, anyone can pick at least one or two reasons or more to start exercising. But how do we get started? My recommendation? Simply do you! The goal is to incorporate some form of exercise in your life that you can maintain. If you like to run, run! If you prefer to walk, walk. If you don’t want to/or cannot join a gym or if you don’t like to exercise in public use YouTube in the comfort of your home. YouTube is also good for fast exercises (I know because my excuse is often that I don’t have time or I am too hungry to sustain a 40-minutes work-out). At the very least–if you live in Kigali–take advantage of the car free day once a month and move around.
This is one of those secrets we all know but also like to secretly ignore. However, in the end, our body is what we eat and we know some foods are great while others should be consumed moderately so that our body has the right fuel.
- Vegetables and fruits are great! Whatever it takes believe this fiercely and eat more vegetables and fruits. Also, potatoes don’t count here (I see you trying to survive on fries in 2018).
- Eat more whole grains. This can be brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta, maize, and millet.
- Have some healthy proteins. This can be fish, chicken, beans, and nuts. Limit red meat.
- Drink water and avoid sugary drinks
- Limit the intake of saturated fats (e.g. found in fatty meats and butter). Instead, consume unsaturated fats (e.g. found in fish, avocado, nuts, and olive oil). Also, avoid industrial trans fats found in processed food, fast food, snack food, margarines and other spreads.
According to the World Health Organization, developing healthier eating habits protects against heart diseases, diabetes, stroke, and cancer as well as weight control. So here again, plenty of reasons to start having more veggies and fruits proudly.
I had to include one habit that is somehow easy to adopt at least for the majority. Personally, I am always in awe of people who hit the pillow and fall asleep right away while I am counting sheep, goats, and butterflies in order to fall asleep. Not having enough sleep can impact a person’s performance and mental well-being. Without enough sleep, a person can be less focused, have trouble with decision- making, and be in an irritable mood. In addition, there is evidence that poor sleep is associated with a higher risk of mortality and cardiovascular disease (help!).
Here are a few easy sleep hygiene practices to foster better sleep:
- If you like to nap during the day, limit your nap session to 30 minutes.
- Avoid stimulants like caffeine or nicotine close to bedtime. Also, drink alcohol moderately close to bedtime. Alcohol is well known to help people fall asleep faster, however, too much close to bedtime disrupts sleep during the second half of the night when your body is processing the booze.
- Make sure you spend a bit of time outside each day and expose yourself to sunlight. This helps regulate your body’s internal circadian clock. Basically, you sleep better when exposed to daylight during the day and less light at night (stay away from your phones or other technology devices before bed).
Overall, physical activity, better nutrition, and better sleep are three habits that are good to adopt. They are particularly important in the prevention of non-communicable diseases. Consequently, let’s plan to exercise, eat healthier, and sleep better in 2018. Let’s all have a goal in each of these 3 areas that can work with our own schedules and that makes sense budget wise. Maybe it’s an additional carrot a day, maybe it’s participating in the Kigali Peace Marathon, or not using technology an hour before bed. You alone know your goal, now go forth and conquer!