Today we celebrate World Health Day.
Here are my top tips for moving towards health & wellness.
Inadequate sleep affects every system in our body and can increase our risk of adverse health outcomes. Sleep allows our brains to consolidate our memories and process information from our day. Our brain also uses approximately 20% of the calories that we burn every day; resulting in a lot metabolic by-products. Sleep is necessary for our body to repair itself and for the brain to clean out these by-products that accumulate throughout the day. If we don’t sleep enough, these by-products build up and are not properly removed, impacting cellular health and neural communication, hormone systems, and can even affect inflammation in the brain.
How to improve the quantity and quality you get each night:
– Make sleep a priority
– Aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night
– Support your Circadian Rhythm by following the natural light-dark patterns every day. Ensuring we get the right amounts of cortisol and melatonin is critical for good sleep.1
Get outside. Getting enough sunshine or even bright light (“blue” light) on a cloudy day is critical to healthy sleep. If for some reason you can’t get outside during the day, you can still improve your exposure to the beneficial “blue” light of bright light by using a light therapy box (aim for 10, 000 lux).
To support melatonin production, decrease your exposure to this “blue” light in the evening. Begin by dimming lights, installing blue-light blockers on your electronic devices (f.lux or twilight are some examples that are available for download), you can also wear amber tinted glasses for the last 2-3 hours of your day.
– Reduce and manage stress.
Healthy cortisol levels are critical for healthy hormone and sleep patterns. Cortisol should be lowest at night and highest in the morning. It’s what helps us wake and get our day started. If there is high or chronic stress, cortisol levels remain elevated. This not only impacts Circadian Rhythm, meaning you may not get the restful sleep you need, but now you also have the impacts of dysregulated cortisol. Cortisol provides glucose to the body for energy (think fight or flight). When we are stressed, we are in constant fight or flight, and our body thinks we need more glucose for energy; resulting in dysregulated blood sugar levels. This can lead to insulin resistance and other negative health outcomes.2
– Increase your movement and activity.
Melatonin production is supported when there is some kind of activity during the day;
Activity, with proper recovery if it is intense, can help with managing stress.
Whole foods, when properly digested, give us the building blocks for the all of the metabolic and biochemical processes that our body needs to do all of its jobs. The more highly refined and processed foods are, the further away they are from what our body recognizes; our bodies just don’t know how to utilize them. We are eating more, yet we are becoming undernourished.
– Choose live, good quality, natural whole foods;
– Eat as seasonably and local as you can;
– Get back to the kitchen. Take a cooking class, go to the library and check out some new cookbooks, and have fun with it!
Many people do not drink enough water or they underestimate the amount they are actually consuming. Water is vital to our health. It helps flush toxins and metabolic by-products from our body through sweat and urine. It is critical for nutrient transportation, aids in regularity, and can improve energy levels. As your brain is mostly water, ensuring we are consuming enough, also improves focus and concentration. 3
– Aim for 8-12 cups of pure water a day;
– Opt for non-caffeinated beverages like herbal teas;
– Eat fresh fruit and vegetables with high water contents such as cucumber, celery, radish, strawberries, and watermelon.
Move your body
We all know the health benefits of exercise; it decreases risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, strengthens bones and muscles, and benefits mood and mental health. Movement should be incorporated throughout the day. Whatever your body’s ability is, do what you can. Incorporating rest, gentle and restorative practices is just as important and valuable as high intensity activity.
– For every 20 minutes of sitting, get up and move for a couple of minutes;
– Walk at least 30 minute a day;
– Add moderate intensity activity throughout the week and ensure proper rest and recovery.
Connect with others
Connections are vital to our health and well-being. Social isolation and loneliness are connected to mental and physical health, and mortality risk.4 There is no magic number we need in our inner circle; it’s more about quality of relationships than quantity of relationships. Here are a couple of suggestions to improve social connection and reduce isolation.
– Take a cooking class. You meet others and may learn a thing or two;
– Invite a friend or two over for a shared meal (like the one you learned from the cooking class). Food is a social event;
– Focus on quality instead of quantity. Aim to nurture meaningful interactions with a few instead of superficial ones with many;
– Get a pet. They provide companionship and can help get you more active;
– Ask for help if you need it.
3 Popkin, B. M., D’Anci, K. E., & Rosenberg, I. H. (2010). Water, Hydration and Health. Nutrition Reviews, 68(8), 439–458. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x
4 Umberson, D., & Montez, J. K. (2010). Social Relationships and Health: A Flashpoint for Health Policy. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 51(Suppl), S54–S66.