Good posture keeps the spine strong and stable while supporting its natural curves. By paying attention to how you sit and stand, you can make simple adjustments to improve your posture.
Align your workspace.
Working at a desk can cause slouching and put stress on the spine. All of the components of your workstation should be properly aligned to reduce strain on your neck, shoulders, and back. The height of your desk, monitor and chair, how you sit, and how you organize the items you use can often improve your posture while you work.
Scrolling the screen of your smartphone or leaning over a plate to eat can cause you to hunch forward and puts stress on the back and shoulders. To correct this position, sit up straight and pull your shoulders back. When seated, choose a chair that supports the natural curve of the lower back or place a rolled towel behind the small of your back to create support. When you resist the urge to hunch forward, you improve posture by moving your spine back to its natural position.
Strengthen your core.
The spine is supported by your core muscles, which makes it important to keep your abdominals and lower back strong. Weak muscles can throw your spine out of alignment and result in poor posture. Regularly incorporate ab and lower back exercises into your routine to build strength in your core and make maintaining good posture easier.
Bending and reaching require that your spine be flexible. When it’s not, you risk muscle strain and back pain. Include flexibility training in your exercise routine. This can be as simple as stretching your lower back after strengthening the core. Devote more time to spine flexibility, and consider a yoga class.
When you encounter challenges, it is easy for negative self-talk to take over, but you can reduce it by using positive affirmations. A positive affirmation is a word or phrase that confirms a positive aspect about you or your life. These affirmations can be used when you accomplish a goal and when you fall short to improve your attitude and boost your self-confidence.
When you meet a food goal.
It’s important to set small, attainable goals so that you always have a reason to celebrate your healthy changes. You can emphasize the impact of meeting a food goal, like drinking enough water, reducing saturated fat, or eating five vegetables, by following it up with a positive affirmation. Repeating phrases, such as “eating healthy is getting easier,” “I can make healthy choices,” or “I have the power to improve my health with every bite,” will continue to boost your confidence.
When all the changes stress you out.
A healthy lifestyle is possible, but you may feel overwhelmed when starting out. Choosing healthier foods, exercising, and dealing with emotional issues may leave you unsure of where to start. Meditate on affirmations that focus on confidence in your ability to reach your goals such as “one day at a time,” “small changes make a big difference,” and “keep trying; it will get easier.”
When you gain weight.
It’s normal for the number on the the scale to fluctuate as you work towards your weight loss goal, but an increase is discouraging. Prevent weight gain from getting you off track by meditating on a phrase that focuses on the bigger picture. “Health is a journey,” “I am working hard; results will come,” or “my health includes more than weight” are all examples of affirmations that will help you view minor gains in a more positive way.
When you have to skip a workout.
Some days things simply don’t go as planned, and a workout will not be possible. Don’t let one missed day ruin how you view months of hard work. Be flexible and patient with yourself. “My fitness is improving,” “I am healthy,” and “a break is okay” will help you let go of your shortcomings and move forward with renewed commitment.
When you are faced with a challenging workout.
Nothing beats the feeling of accomplishment after a challenge, but sometimes you need a mental boost to push through. Stay focused and use phrases, like “I am strong,” “I can do this,” and “I am up for the challenge,” to change your attitude and reach new goals that you once thought were impossible.
Cooler temperatures, low humidity, and changing colors make autumn one of the best times to hike. Rough terrain can help improve balance, challenge the cardiovascular system, and build core and lower body strength. Research also shows that hiking can reduce stress and anxiety.
Add winter squash to the menu.
If you don’t like pumpkin, don’t give up on winter squash until you’ve tried new varieties and different ways of preparing it. Winter squashes, like acorn, delicata, buttercup, and butternut, all have unique flavors and textures. Winter squash is loaded with antioxidants, and research shows it may help fight inflammation and improve blood sugar control.
Winter squashes can be prepared in many ways. Roast cubes of squash until tender and sprinkle them on salads, or stir into black beans and use as a burrito filling. Simmer chunks of squash in curry or add to fried rice. Pureed squash makes delicious smoothies, soups, and oatmeal.
Take advantage of shorter days.
Fewer daylight hours doesn’t have to be a negative part of autumn. Take a cue from nature and adjust your routine. Many of us are sleep deprived and don’t take enough time for stress-reducing activities. As the days grow shorter, use the evenings to create a calming ritual to reduce stress. Try journaling or reading with a cup of hot tea. Gradually shift your bedtime to increase your hours of sleep. This will leave you feeling rested and ready to function at your best.
As seasons change, you may notice a change in your eating and exercise habits. While some of these changes are positive, others can have a negative impact on your choices and lead to unwanted weight gain.
Summer is a season of fresh, nutritious foods, but a few things may work against your healthy intentions. Backyard barbecues can tempt you with high-calorie burgers, hot dogs, chips, and ice cream. Local fairs and festivals offer deep fried foods and high-sugar desserts. It can be difficult to pass up these once-a-year treats.
Summer can also make it harder to stick to your workouts. Hot temperatures and humidity can leave you feeling lethargic and make it unsafe to exercise outside.
What to do: Be selective about the foods you eat. Choose only those that are true treats, and take the time to savor them. Make a plan for workouts at home or consider a temporary gym membership so you don’t abandon your workouts due to a hot day.
Autumn brings cooler temperatures that are ideal for outdoor activities such as hiking and biking. Unfortunately, it is also a busy time of year for families. As you adjust to the back-to-school season, you may feel overwhelmed with little time to be active. The extra stress can lead to emotional eating, little exercise, and poor nutrition.
What to do: Find healthy ways to control stress and make those activities a priority. Even 10 minutes of meditation or yoga each morning can set the tone for a healthier day. Get outside when you can. Being in nature is calm and relaxing, which also reduces stress.
When winter hits, the cravings for high-carbohydrate comfort foods come with it. With fewer fresh foods available, you may fall into a rut with food choices and be tempted by unhealthy comfort foods. As the weeks move into the holiday season, temptations for unhealthy food grows and stress can increase emotional eating. Additionally, shorter days and cold temperatures make squeezing in your workouts more challenging.
What to do: Don’t let the holiday season sneak up on you. Make a plan and apply it as early as October. Choose when you will stick to healthy eating and what is worth a splurge. Plan for a busy schedule and how you will adjust your workouts. Find ways to make your favorite comfort foods healthier by incorporating more vegetables and fewer heavy creams and sauces.
As you transition out of a long winter, spring weather can be a motivating force to eat healthier and to get moving, but one thing could get you off track. After three months of sticking to your new year’s resolutions it may be tempting to give up, especially if you aren’t seeing the changes you expected. Heading into spring feeling discouraged may prevent you from taking advantage of outdoor workouts and seasonal fresh foods, and cause you to return to old habits.
What to do: Reevaluate your resolutions. Check your progress, and if you aren’t where you want to be, determine if your goals are on track. Perhaps you are expecting too many changes too soon or you are forcing yourself to do an activity you don’t enjoy. If your goals are no longer working, set new ones. Change up your routine to keep both your eating and exercise interesting and exciting.
Blood pressure is the pressure the blood produces against the artery walls when it is pumped through the body by the heart. When this pressure gets too high, and stays high, it damages the body and can lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. High blood pressure is often referred to as hypertension.
When you have your blood pressure taken, the results will contain two numbers. The top number is the systolic blood pressure, which is the force exerted on the arteries when the heart pumps. The bottom number, or diastolic blood pressure, is the amount of force produced when the heart is resting between beats. Only one of these numbers needs to be classified as too high to be diagnosed with high blood pressure.
High blood pressure has no symptoms, so it is important to have it checked regularly to ensure that you are within a healthy range. The National Institutes of Health classify normal blood pressure as having a systolic value less than 120 and a diastolic less than 80. Blood pressure fluctuates when you are awake, when you sleep, and in response to stress. If your doctor determines that your blood pressure is staying above this normal level consistently, he or she may diagnose you with prehypertension. This means that your blood pressure reading is 120-139 (systolic) or 80-89 (diastolic). Being prehypertensive means that you are at risk for developing hypertension unless you make changes to prevent it. A blood pressure that measures 140 (systolic) or 90 (diastolic) or above is considered hypertension.
While your doctor may prescribe medication to help control your blood pressure, it is also important that you make lifestyle changes. In fact, a healthy lifestyle has been found to help delay or prevent a rise in blood pressure that occurs naturally with aging. Eating a healthy diet with fewer than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight are all factors that contribute to maintaining normal blood pressure.