4 essential health tips to skyrocket your vitality
Welcome to the time of year when those in the health and wellness world start promoting the “next big thing in health”. The wonder cures, the panaceas, the hacks to make you an invincible, bulletproof, superhuman for a New Year. Well, I’ve taken a peep into my “crystal ball of common sense” and here’s my realistic prediction of four practical, time-tested ways to feel better in 2020. Special bonus – they won’t put a dent or even a tickle on your credit card.
Let’s get started.
You’ve been able to do this since you were knee-high to a grasshopper. Walking is our special skill. Humans are uniquely built to stand upright on our two legs. It’s one area where we still walk rings around the robots.
Why walking is so good
- It’s free. No weekly membership fees.
- You can do it pretty much anywhere, at any time.
- You don’t need any special equipment. Yes, it is possible to go for a walk without activewear and designer sports shoes!
- It’s practical. Hey, I need some food – why not walk to the shop.
- In an eco-conscious world, it’s also beneficial for the planet – zero emissions. Well unless you ate lentils for dinner the night before.
- Unless you’re a toddler or Facebooking on your phone – there’s a low risk of injury.
Health benefits of walking
- Helps you maintain a healthy weight
- Supports blood sugar regulation
- Improves your sleep
- Keeps your heart healthy and your blood pressure low
- Supercharges your brain – enhances creativity and problem-solving.
- Boosts mood – daily walking helps reduce anxiety and depression.
So, why don’t we praise walking like we should (to paraphrase Fatboy Slim)? Is it just too common-place a skill? Are we looking for a more sophisticated solution to our problems? Do we take walking for granted?
How to get more walking into your life
- Start your day with a 20-minute walk instead of checking your social media feed.
- Walk to work or part of the way – get off one stop earlier or park further away.
- Walk to the shops
- Walk the kids to school
- Walk to a park to eat your lunch instead of on leaving crumbs in your keyboard for the office cockroaches
- Have walking meetings – it’ll keep things short and sweet.
- Schedule social activities that involve a walk, followed by a “recovery” meal. You’ve earned it!
- Ditch online retail therapy and power walk around the shopping centre.
2. Morning sunlight exposure
Keeping your circadian rhythm in time
We are creatures of rhythm. I’m not talking about your skill on the Djembe you bought at a folk festival. We are creatures of circadian (24 hour) rhythm.
The billions of different cell that keep our systems running all rely on circadian signalling to optimise their operations. One of the conductors of this biological percussion is sunlight exposure. The technical term is “entrainment”. Left to its own devices, the circadian rhythm runs slightly longer than 24hours. If we don’t haul it back into line regularly things can get a little out of sync.
Certain body functions are optimised at certain times in the circadian cycle. Digestion and insulin release works best in the daytime. As the night progresses, you don’t break down food as efficiently. That’s why late-night Netflix snacking is a bad idea. The most well known circadian rhythm in the sleep-wake cycle.
If you want more information on this, I highly recommend reading “The Circadian Code” by Dr Satchidananda Panda. He is a scientist who has spent many years studying circadian rhythms. This book is a practical and accessible look at what he has discovered and how you can apply this to your life.
The role of sunlight in circadian rhythm
Many of us spend a lot of our lives indoors. The brightest indoor lighting doesn’t come close to the intensity of the sun (even on cloudy or overcast days). Exposure to morning light (without sunglasses) triggers receptors in our retinas which keep the circadian rhythm robust and in time.
Why you want to let the sunshine in
- It lays the groundwork for melatonin production for later in the evening. Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland involved in getting to sleep and staying asleep.
- The circadian rhythm optimises your digestive function by ensuring enzymes and hormones are released at the right time to help you efficiently break down and absorb the nutrients from food.
- Supports healthy metabolism and weight management.
- Again, it’s free to do and no special equipment required.
How to do it
- Go outside for around 20 minutes without sunglasses (Sunglasses will blunt the effects)
- Try to make it around the same time each morning
- Don’t look directly in the sun – that would damage your eyes
- Combine it with your walk or your morning walk to work/school
- Sit in the backyard and drink your morning cuppa while contemplating how great life is!
3. Getting plenty of sleep
If you’ve been around me for any length of time, you’ll know how much I bang on about the benefits of sleep. That’s because it’s so good for you and almost half of us aren’t getting enough time between the sheets.
Aside from how incredible a night of deep, refreshing sleep feels sleep also helps you:
- Be smarter – sleep improves your long term memory
- Lower your blood pressure
- Boost your metabolism
- Supercharge your immune system
- Regulate your appetite
- Boost your mood
- Gives you glowing skin
- Reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s
All these benefits and more while your lying on your back doing nothing. It’s got to be the best health hack, in like all of human history. Like the previous two health tips, it also costs you nothing.
Go to bed and get healthy!
If you want some tips on how to improve your sleep, I’ve written bucket loads of articles. Here is a couple of my most popular but head on over to my blog for many more.
4. Eat more fibre
Like walking, fibre is not something that has marketing allure. Researchers are catching on and are now revealing that adults who consume around 30g of fibre per day have an up to 30% reduced risk of dying from chronic diseases such as cancer or diabetes.
Most of us languish around 15-20 gram/day mark of fibre intake. There’s plenty of room for improvement.
Four reasons fibre is fabulous
(But there are many more)
- Keeps your bowels moving. Regularly pooping is one of the ways your body detoxes and eliminates waste. If your stool sits too long in your colon, you can start reabsorbing some of the toxins. Also, you’ll feel uncomfortable.
- Feeds your good gut bugs. We now know the importance of beneficial bacteria in our digestive tracts for optimising digestion, reducing whole-body inflammation and improving immunity and mood. Forget the expensive probiotics. We now know they don’t colonise the gut. Instead, consume more dietary fibre and boost up your numbers.
(That’s not to say probiotics don’t have a place in health care. However, they should be targeted with selected for strains to support specific health conditions. Generally, healthy people won’t get much benefit from them.)
- Curbs your appetite for the sweet stuff. Fibre takes a longer time for your body to digest and won’t spike insulin the way lower fibre, highly processed food will.
- Helps you maintain a healthy weight. Keeps you full for longer and regulates blood sugar. Also feeding your good gut bugs reduces inflammation which may be an underlying roadblock in the ability to lose weight.
How to get more fibre in your diet
There’s no need to use bland fibre supplements. For most of us simply eating more whole fruits and vegetables and reducing processed food will do the trick. Here are some ideas to incorporate more fibre in your diet.
Instead of: Cornflakes and orange juice
Try: Overnight oats with grated apple and chopped nuts
Instead of: Blueberry muffin
Try: Carrot sticks and hummus
Instead of: Sushi
Try: A salad with roast sweet potato, greens, snow peas, grated beetroot, cucumber, pumpkin and black beans.
Instead of: Pasta Carbonara
Try: Baked salmon with quinoa, kale and broccoli.
A word to the wise
If you’re currently at the lower end of the fibre range increase things gradually; otherwise, your digestive tract might rebel in the form of bloating and excessive gas. Remember to consume adequate fluids to keep things moving.
Now, strictly speaking, this one’s not free, but you would be spending money on food anyway. Now you’re just spending your cash on food with fibre.
Give it a go
There you have it. My top four tips to transform your health. I won’t promise they are going to be the only thing you’ll need to do for your health in 2020. You are far more complex than that. But, I’ll give you your money back if, after consistently implementing these four things for a month you don’t feel at least a little better than you did before.
What are you waiting for? Give it a crack. You can always sign up for the $500/per month juice cleanse** in February if it doesn’t work out.
** To be clear I don’t offer juice cleanses as part of my services. Although if anyone wants to sling me $500…
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Norelle Hentschel is an experienced naturopath with a clinic in Crows Nest, Sydney who enjoys supporting her clients to reach their health goals.
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