Now that summer is fast approaching there is a lot of emphasis placed on getting your body ‘beach ready,’ however, a more positive and long-term goal is to help both your body and mind to get fit and stay healthy. Rather than focusing simply on the aesthetics of a bikini body, look instead at what you put into your body and the effects it can have on your physicality, moods, and energy levels. Changing your diet, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep are all essential when it comes to improving your health. It is also worth going beyond that and addressing any issues or anxieties you may have and finding ways that work for you to de-stress and relax which you can practice on a regular basis, such as Mindfulness. Combined with a balanced diet and lifestyle, this will not only boost your overall health, but it will also improve the quality of your life. Below are some top tips to get fit and stay healthy for your body and mind.
Eat a broad and balanced diet
Eating a balanced diet is vital when it comes to maintaining optimum health, and yours should include a good mix of fruit, vegetables, protein, whole grains and legumes so that you consume an appropriate range of vitamins and minerals. Ensure that you get at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day. These can include canned or frozen goods, and it is best to try and eat a broad variety of fruit and vegetables and a rainbow of different colors as each natural color contains a different mix of antioxidants and vitamins. For example, red fruits such as watermelon or tomatoes contain lycopene that may help protect against certain cancers including breast cancer and prostate cancer, and deep colored blue fruits such as blueberries are full of antioxidants that help the brain to function. Try mixing up a bright, colorful fruit salad or making a smoothie to start your day in the best way. Add flax seeds and chia seeds for extra nutritional benefits. Protein is essential for energy and also maintaining healthy muscles, bones, skin, nails, and hair. Proteins include lean meats, beans, nuts, tofu, eggs, and fish, and you should be aiming to get approximately 25% of your daily calories from protein. Calcium is important for bone health and to ward off osteoporosis, so try to get at least two servings of dairy per day. If you are lactose intolerant or follow a dairy-free diet, then ensure that your milk-substitute, such as oat or almond milk, is enriched with calcium and vitamin D, which is also found in dairy. Fats are often thought of as bad for your body, but some fats are essential for health so don’t cut out fats altogether, but as with sugar, make sure you use them in moderation. Too much sugar has been linked to various serious health conditions including obesity and diabetes, so cut down on your sugar intake and use unrefined or low GI sugars where needed, such as agave syrup or maple syrup.
Take regular exercise
Exercising for at least 30 minutes per day in a way that raises your heart rate will do wonders when it comes to promoting your overall health. Not only does exercise help to keep your muscles working and your body in shape, but it also improves your mood as exercise triggers endorphins, the feel-good hormone, releasing them into your body. Why not sign up to a gym where you can try out different classes from spin to body pump, circuit training to dance classes and see what appeals. Or if the thought of going to a gym is putting you off from starting exercising, then try joining a local jogging group, or putting your favorite music on your phone, grabbing your headphones and going running solo. For a more calming approach to exercise try a yoga class. Yoga is an ancient Indian practice that has been helping people for over 5000 years and consists of a series of physical postures in conjunction with breathing techniques, and it promotes a mind, body and spirit connection. Even a brisk walk will raise your heart rate and help you maintain your health. Taking a walk in a local park, a nearby beach or a national park has the added benefit of surrounding you with fresh air and stunning natural sights. Research has proven that spending time in nature can improve your mental health and help you to retain focus, so try to spend time outside as often as you can. If you work in an office job, then be sure to take your full lunch break each day and go for a walk, even if it is just around the block. The change of scenery can clear your mind and allow you to be more productive when you return than if you had continued to work through your lunch, struggling to maintain your focus.
Get enough sleep
Sleep is a wonderful way to let your body and mind naturally heal and re-energize, but few people get the hours they need. The structure of modern society and the ongoing advancement of handheld technology means that there is an endless supply of distractions waiting for you with one click of a button, 24 hours a day. Accessing the internet or using screens late at night and the last thing before bed can actually disrupt your sleep patterns, as the blue light emitted from the screen wakes up your brain and inhibits the release of melatonin, the body’s natural sleep hormone. Try to maintain a screen-free zone around your bed to ensure that all mental associations with that space involve rest and sleep. For an adult, the average amount of sleep you should be getting each night is 8 hours. This may vary a little person to person but what is important is that you have a quality sleep with a good period of REM sleep (rapid eye movement), which is the sleep stage in which dreams occur, and it is during this period that new learning and memories are embedded. Sleep is vital to allow your brain to release certain hormones that boost your immune system and retain memory and focus. A good night’s sleep will also help you to manage your appetite, so that’s one more reason why getting 8 hours per night will lead to a healthier you.
Address any underlying issues
To maintain your health, it is essential to deal with any underlying issues that may be holding you back. If, for example, you suffer from anxiety, depression or any number of mental health disorders then addressing your mental health, knowing you are not alone and seeking help is vital to lead a happier and healthier life. There is no shame in mental illness, and any stigma around it that still remains needs to be challenged by more people being open about their troubles. One in four Americans will suffer from poor mental health at some point in their lives so remember that you are not alone even when you feel low and that you will get through it. Confide in a family member or good friend, or you could try counseling or therapy to help. There are various different types of therapy options, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (often called CBT), which is a psychotherapy treatment that takes a practical approach to changing negative thinking patterns. If you find yourself in a rut with negative thoughts and self-doubt, then consider Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), psychotherapy based upon making communication more effective and breaking negative behavior or thought patterns.
If you are suffering from an addiction, perhaps drugs, alcohol, gambling or sex, then there are options available to you that can help you to break the cycle. Joining support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous offers a network of people who truly know what you are going through, or find a suitable place to detox using find rehab centers, a rehab directory that lists centers in every state. It is estimated that one in seven Americans will have a substance abuse issue at some point in their lives, so you are not alone. The key is addressing it and finding a way to move towards a healthier lifestyle that is sustainable for you.
Focus on your mental fitness
Getting fit and staying healthy also means keeping your brain active and alert, so focus on ways to get your mind working on a regular basis. Not only can learning a new skill or a new language be good for increasing your social circle and adding a new skill to your resume, but it can also help to ward off diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer. If you don’t have time to undertake a new hobby then even just spending ten minutes per day doing a cryptic crossword can keep your brain busy and keep it creating new connections. Taking up a regular meditative practice, such as Mindfulness, can also help to increase your focus and mental abilities, as well as improving your ability to deal with stress and promoting a sense of inner calm. Meditation is suitable for anyone of any age or physical ability to introduce it into your daily life and feel your inner peace increase.