Improving your health doesn’t have to mean overhauling your overnight routine. Instead, the experts at University Health recommend investing in yourself—and your health—by making one small change at a time. Not sure where to start? Here are 10 steps to consider.
Reach for Water
It’s estimated as many as 75 percent of Americans suffer from chronic dehydration. Combat that by drinking water throughout the day. Plus, choosing water over sugary options like soda or sweet tea—which can have 10 to 12 teaspoons of sugar in each serving—will also decrease your risk of multiple health issues, including diabetes and heart disease. Missing the flavor? Add slices of cucumber, lime or a few berries to your water.
Grab a Book Instead of Your Phone
When you’re winding down and getting ready for bed, opt for a book rather than your phone. Exposing yourself to blue light before trying to sleep has been linked to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity, according to Harvard Medical School. Reading a book, on the other hand, has been shown to reduce stress and have positive effects on the brain’s cognition.
Go to bed
Only 10 percent of American adults are getting enough sleep, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association, and inadequate sleep puts you at a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. Adults ages 18 to 64 need seven to nine hours of sleep each night while adults 65 and older require seven to eight hours. Start regulating your sleep schedule by moving your bedtime up by just 20 minutes each night until you find the ideal time that leaves you feeling most rested. Make an earlier bedtime more feasible by reading instead of scrolling through your phone to wind down at night, limiting caffeine and alcohol in the hours before you go to bed and ensuring that you’re getting enough natural sunlight during the day. When you’re sleeping better, research shows that your mood and energy improves, you have better concentration and you’re at a lower risk of obesity and other chronic diseases.
Enjoy Your Coffee Outside
Instead of sipping coffee while getting ready or driving to work, grab your cup and head outside to the backyard or the balcony. Taking a few quiet moments outside at the beginning of the day can help you focus and gear up for the activity that’s to come.
Consider a Standup Desk
Studies show that people who sit for most of the day have an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and even early death. Consider adding a desk to your office or home workspace that will adjust to allow you to stand while still working at your computer. The simple act of standing up can encourage blood flow and have a host of other health benefits.
Make a Walking Date
You’ve likely heard that 10,000 steps a day is the ideal goal, but it turns out that’s an arbitrary number. Research has shown that people who get 7,000 steps a day are less likely to die of any cause during the next decade than those who got fewer steps. So instead of meeting up with a friend for happy hour this week, consider a leisurely walk outside. Walking improves muscle tone, lowers stress and enhances your mood—not to mention the multiple positive impacts that cutting back on alcohol can have on your overall health. Plus, when you make a regular date with a friend, you’ll have someone to keep you accountable to staying active. Not at 7,000 steps yet? Try adding 500 steps per day of the week until you hit your goal.
Hang Up and Connect
Whether you’re walking or just spending time with friends and family, put your phone away and take the time to be present. Research shows that those with healthy social connections tend to live longer and healthier lives than those without a social network on which they can rely.
Spend More Time with People
Establishing a healthy social circle requires time and effort. Be intentional about making time each week to visit with friends and family, whether by instituting Friday family game nights, Monday night dinners with friends or regular phone calls with family living in other cities.
Set Realistic Workout Goals
Committing to a daily workout routine can be daunting. Instead, start small and make plans for a 30-minute workout one evening or morning a week. It can be as simple as a walk around your neighborhood. Once that has become a habit, add another day. The more achievable your goals are, the more likely you are to stick to them.
Want a healthier tomorrow? University Health believes in the power of change. Learn more about healthy changes you can make at UHchange.com.
This article was produced by San Antonio Magazine‘s content studio as part of a paid partnership with University Health.