Even with the best of intentions it can be hard to stick to your workout goals but simply putting the time in at the gym isn’t the be all and end all of accomplishing optimum health.
Everyone knows that balance is required when it comes to your exercise, your nutrition and your mental health — but what exactly are the best ways to keep your body and mind in tune when it comes to maximising the benefits of your exercise and diet? What follows are five examples of things you can do to give yourself a head-start when it comes to your personal health.
Stay away from processed foods
We all know the score: it’s been a long day tapping away at your laptop and by the time quitting time rolls around, sometimes the last thing we want to do is stand over the stove and prepare a proper, balanced meal. Prepping food in advance is the ideal way to combat this but sometimes that isn’t an option and it’s easier to head to the corner store to pick up a frozen pizza and feast on its empty calories.
“One of the main issues with processed food is the materials they add to the food to keep it fresh or fresh-looking or fresh-tasting – colours, flavours, chemicals,”Dr Arash Ahmadi told The Guardian, adding that he advises people to “delete your UberEats app, try to cook as much as you can and look at the nutritional panels on the back of foods in the supermarket.”
Exercise five times per week
This doesn’t necessarily mean five sessions in the gym, but can take in more easy-going activities like personal sports, running or even extended walks. Each workout should be around 30-40 minutes in duration and you should push yourself as much as you can.
“The way I explain that to my patients is that if you’re going for a walk, you want to not quite be able to finish your sentences because you’re that puffed. Going for a walk where you’re comfortable the whole way is good but not great,” Dr James Stewart said.
“The main benefits from exercise, I feel, is to do with mental health. You get a good release of endorphins and serotonin when you exercise and that leads to an improved mood and sense of wellbeing. So if you exercise in the morning, you’ve got a nice buzz that sets you up for the day.”
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This may seem a little wishy-washy to some but mindfulness and meditation have been proven to provide wide-ranging health benefits to those who practice them. There is evidence which suggests that something like yoga is a proven stress-reducer which in turn can impact the damage that stress can do to your body.
“All sorts of inflammatory conditions would be worse with stress: skin diseases, auto-immune diseases,” said Dr Kelly-Anne Garnier. “Even things like the risk of heart attack and stroke increase with stress,” she says. “The other impact of stress is sleep disturbance, and we know sleep disturbance is bad for us for all sorts of reasons. And an increased stress level puts us at risk of anxiety, depression and burnout.”
Take fish oil supplements
Of all the supplements that we regularly take, cod liver oil (or something related) is among the most important. It is high in omega-3 fatty acids, something which is linked to numerous health benefits including reduced inflammation and lower blood pressure, while also containing vitamins A and D — both of which are very important as we enter the winter months.
You can pull out all the stops when it comes to your exercise and personal nutrition but if you aren’t maintaining a proper sleeping schedule, a lot of it can be for nought. If you get your eight hours per night (at a regular time and routine) it can provide a huge boost to your immune system, while also improving your mood, productivity and others.
It is also a vital function of giving you enough energy to actually maintain and stay on top of your exercise goals — because we have all felt the pain of having to drag yourself out of bed after less-than-satisfactory sleep to grind out your morning run. Do yourself a favour, go to bed earlier.