The prospect of taking control of your health can be overwhelming. If you’ve ignored your health for years or if you never received the tools you need to take properly care for your body, you may wonder where you should begin.
Think of learning to live a healthy life the way you think of learning to play baseball. You don’t automatically walk out on to the field and walk off with an MVP. You start with learning the fundamentals from a coach who has been around the block.
Below, you’ll find the essential fundamentals of living a healthy life. Think of them as the batting, fielding, pitching, and base-running of health. Get a firm grasp on them, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goal.
Your body uses food as fuel. Like any engine, if you fill it with the wrong fuel, it will not work properly. And eventually, it will come to a grinding halt.
To avoid that, start by familiarizing yourself with the basic guidelines. The Federal Department of Agriculture provides a handy tool for getting started. You can find it at ChooseMyPlate.gov. This website provides several simple-to-use tools to help you determine how much of each major food group (i.e., fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains, and dairy) your body requires to function optimally.
Great sleep hygiene is an essential component of overall health. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, sleep plays a pivotal role in physical health, brain function, emotional well-being, and daytime performance and safety.
For the basics on establishing health-promoting sleep habits, get your information from the professionals. The National Sleep Foundation and its consumer-facing site, Sleep.org, offer solid guidance on bedtime routines, the number of hours of sleep you need at different stages in life, when napping is and is not your best choice, information on sleep-related disorders and other sleep-related topics.
Exercise is a fundamental component for establishing and maintaining physical (and emotional) health. The latest recommendations from the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine are for a minimum of a half an hour a day, five days a week of moderate intensity exercise.
To determine a moderate level of exercise, professionals at Mayo Clinic suggest evaluating how you feel and how fast your heart is beating. While exercising, you should be able to have a conversation with an exercise buddy, but unable to sing a duet with him. As far as heart rate, to achieve a moderate level of exercise, shoot for 50 to 70% of your maximum heart rate, which you can calculate here.
Stress can directly cause or profoundly exacerbate very serious health problems. From obesity to heart disease to depression, getting your stress under control can literally make a life or death difference. Though everyone experiences stress, some people are naturally more resilient to it than others.
To shore up your ability to successfully cope with life’s stressors, try employing one or more of these time-tested approaches:
- Spend time with friends
- Exercise regularly
- Consider adopting a pet
- Establish a daily or weekly routine (predictability helps)
- Take regular “mental health days” away from work purely to relax
Knowing when to call in the big guns
If you find yourself struggling with the above fundamentals, or if your situation is more complex than most, the best favor you can do for yourself is to enlist the help of a professional. That can mean anyone from a personal trainer to a cardiologist to a psychiatrist.
For example, you may know all of the fundamentals of pursuing a healthy diet, but still find yourself struggling with weight. If so, consider getting your physician involved. Ask for his or her professional advice, and take that advice. That advice could range from adding a certain supplement to your diet to hiring a personal trainer.
By learning the above fundamentals and including the right “coaches” on your team, you can pursue health and win!