Late January to mid-February is prime time for seeing New Year’s Resolutions start to slip. But your health is too important to let that happen. If you want your health-related resolutions to be more of a revolution, maybe you should give yourself a break and find simple, sneaky ways to be healthier – ways that don’t feel like a monumental effort. Here are a few ideas to help you work healthier and keep on the path to better health:
1. Stand More
The last 15 years have seen a lot of research come out that says leading a sedentary lifestyle – like where you spend a lot of time sitting – can increase the risk of any number of health problems. One study published in Diabetologia culled data from 18 different studies and found some alarming results. The largest amount of sedentary time corresponded to a 112 percent increase in diabetes, a 147 percent increase in cardiovascular events, a 90 percent increase in cardiovascular mortality and a 49 percent increase in the chance of death from any cause.
Not to be a chicken little or anything, but that really does sound kind of like the sky is falling! Since Americans spend more time sitting now than ever before – whether it’s driving, watching TV, being on a computer, or a host of other activities, it seems like spending all day sitting at work is not the best thing for us.
2. Get an Adjustable Height Desk – to help you stand more
When I started working for Twin Star Home, I had to write about our adjustable height desks. As I read the research about leading a sedentary life (like the kind you have if you sit at work for 8 hours a day), I came to one conclusion: I WAS GOING TO DIE.
I mean, “Sitting is the new smoking.” People say that now. And smoking kills people. So, the only logical conclusion is that all this sitting is going to kill me, right? While it’s possible that I was getting a little too wrapped up in my research, I was legitimately concerned about my health.
Happily, a few months ago, we all got adjustable height desks here at work and it’s been a big improvement. I am happy to have a standing desk because I don’t want to suffer the ill effects of sitting all day and it is nice to be able to stand when I feel like it. Sitting still is hard – even for “grown-ups” sometimes. Maybe especially for this “grown-up.”
And a standing desk feels a little like cheating – a way to be healthier that really isn’t that hard.
3. Drink more water
We all know we should drink enough water and that many of us don’t. The abundance of reusable water bottles on the market and the rising price of those bottles is all the evidence we need that drinking more water is a goal of increasing importance for us. Experts say people should be drinking anywhere between 8 and 16 eight-ounce glasses of water each day depending on variables including gender, size, and activity level. There are even smart water bottles now that track how much you drink.
Interestingly, I stumbled across a story by an associate producer at NBC news about an experiment she and two coworkers did to drink more water. They each used different methods to make sure they drank more water and then paid attention to see if they felt any different. The most interesting part was that at the end, Emily, the writer, tried to go beyond her goal of two liters per day, instead aiming for four liters a day. While she didn’t really notice a difference at the two liter per day goal, she noticed significant differences when she upped the goal – her afternoon slumps complete with headaches became a thing of the past.
4. Walk more
Walking more is another thing we’re told we should do more of, and, as new habits go, it might not be such a tough one to adopt. Although running and other activities may be a more intense cardio workout, for some reason walking seems to have several sneaky health benefits. Walking briskly an hour a day can cut in half the effects of weight-promoting genes, according to a study by Harvard researchers. Other studies found it can also help tame a sweet tooth, reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, ease joint pain, and boost immune function.
5. Manage stress better
Modern life is full of stress and we’ve been told for a long time that stress is bad for our health. But a study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests that the worry we feel about the impact stress has on our health could be the most deadly part of stress. Their study found that not only experiencing a lot of stress, but also believing it was damaging your health increased the risk of premature death by 43 percent.
Alternatively, Harvard researchers found that simply encouraging study subjects to shift their thinking about stress had a noticeable impact on the ability to deal with and excel in a stressful situation. A group of the subjects were informed about and then considered how the physical responses of the body – including faster heartbeat, faster breathing, and rising blood pressure – are all the body’s way to distribute more oxygen and fuel and therefore increase our ability to respond and win in any given situation. The study showed that group then performed significantly better in a public speaking/test exercise in front of a hostile audience.
The takeaway – in a tough situation, stress makes you stronger – use it and stop worrying about it. And find ways to train for and handle stress better, including having new and challenging experiences like running a marathon or playing in a Scrabble competition. You can also educate yourself about stressful situations like divorce or chemo by talking to others who went through it, so you know what to expect. Most of all – believe in yourself and quit worrying about stress because it may not be the big bad wolf it’s been made out to be.
By Laurie Taddonio