Tips on choosing the path to a healthier lifestyle.
What is a healthy lifestyle? A healthy lifestyle goes beyond preventing illnesses and keeping the mortality rate low. It encompasses the mind, body, and soul. How a person lives depends on eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep and exercise, good stress management, social interaction, and mental and emotional stability.
Everybody wants to lead a healthy lifestyle. Who doesn’t want to live long enough to enjoy the fruits of labour with family, friends, and loved ones, right? However, the million-dollar question is, why is it easier said than done? What hinders a person from enjoying a healthy lifestyle?
It all begins with the mind. The first step is to identify the common barriers to a healthier lifestyle. What to do about it requires an action plan and the willpower to do it!
The common barriers are roadblocks that keep us from achieving a healthy and productive life. Therefore, anything that obstructs the road to a healthy lifestyle is a red flag.
1. Personal barriers to physical activity
There are a thousand reasons not to exercise, just as there are a thousand reasons not to stay healthy. Reasons like illness or injury, childcare, and safety issues may be valid, but the all too familiar refrain like too tired, too busy, or too lazy are lame excuses health buffs do not want to buy.
Here are the top three personal barriers to physical activity and see which one resonates the most:
· Lack of time
Everybody shares the same 24 hours a day. Productive people find time to squeeze exercise into their busy schedules, while others barely get by. It all boils down to time management and purpose. What is the purpose of exercising? A person with a goal will find time to exercise instead of dishing out the no-time excuse.
· Lack of energy or motivation
Some people think of exercise as a daunting task that saps their energy. Others see exercising as unfamiliar and strenuous. A sedentary lifestyle may contribute to a lack of motivation unless somebody steps in and compels a person to move his butt. It is prudent to dig deeper into the reason behind such an issue. Motivation (or lack thereof) is a mindset. If people change their notion about exercise, even simple and less strenuous physical activity can do the trick.
· Lack of resources
Exercise may seem costly if hitting the gym is the only venue to stretch muscles. But public parks and recreational facilities provide ample space to burn calories at little to no cost. If public transportation to such places is an issue, why not ride a bicycle to warm up those calves?
2. Unhealthy habits and lifestyle
Old habits that give comfort and joy are hard to break, including those detrimental to health. Unhealthy habits become a lifestyle. It is like the air we breathe. How to break free is a constant struggle for most of us. Do not fall prey to these unhealthy habits:
· Skipping breakfast
Waking up late in the morning entices a person to skip breakfast. The perfect alibi is late for work. A long hiatus on an empty stomach makes one binge on mouth-watering dishes in large servings. It could lead to a spike in blood sugar after lunch and dinner.
· Staying late at night
Why is staying late at night to binge-watch television shows on a weekday a bad idea?
Lack of sleep is a challenge to the immune system. This is because our body produces proteins called cytokines during sleep. The protective cytokines ward off viral infection and inflammation. Inadequate sleep produces lesser cytokines, thus making a person susceptible to colds, flu, and other infectious diseases. Also, antibodies and cells that fight illnesses significantly decline during sleep deprivation.
· A couch potato
A couch potato is someone who leads a sedentary life devoid of physical activity. This unhealthy lifestyle leads to poor blood circulation and obesity. It could lead to illnesses like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension.
· Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
Cigarette smoking and heavy alcohol consumption wreak havoc on health and usher in untimely death. A heavy smoker could meet an untimely demise thru lung cancer. Drinking in moderation may not affect health, but too much alcohol consumption leads to cirrhosis.
· Binge eating
Incessant worriers turn to comfort foods like junk, sugary, and fatty foods during stress. The body releases serotonin or feel-good hormones at the first bite, and binge eating continues until the person cannot count the calories consumed. Obesity and life-threatening diseases kick in.
There is nothing wrong with temptation per se. The problem begins when a person lacks self-control and cave into sinful pleasures that are unhealthy. For instance, a sweet indulgence with cakes, chocolates, and ice cream can spike blood sugar levels if diabetes runs in the family. Or a hefty appetite for fatty foods and meat can trigger high blood pressure if hypertension runs in the family.
Fast-food outlets that cause cholesterol to shoot up are another temptation for people who do not have the luxury of time to prepare nutritious meals.
4. Knowledge deficit
Most people are clueless about the need to change unhealthy habits until the laboratory test results come in. Others know they need to take action but don’t know where to start.
5. Anxiety and depression
Mental well-being is just as important as physical health. Anxiety, which leads to depression, takes a toll on mental health. Depression results in illnesses such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, digestive disorder, and chronic pain.
Another barrier to a healthy lifestyle is procrastination. It is the do-it-tomorrow syndrome. Why put tomorrow if you can do it today?
The slogan ‘You can do it!’ personifies the power of the individual to achieve anything – including a healthy lifestyle – as long as he sets his heart and mind to it.
Here are some tips to overcome barriers to a healthy lifestyle:
· Begin with the end in mind
There must be a clarity of purpose in every health plan. Think about the benefits in the future if there is a conscious effort to develop healthy habits today. Then, envision a long and productive life many years from now.
· Make incremental changes
It all begins with small and gradual steps. An incremental change in eating habits and behaviour will be beneficial in the long run. For example, instead of driving to work, why not ride a bicycle to stay fit? Rather than eating in a fast-food outlet, prepare simple meals at home. It is economical and healthy.
· Remove temptations
It is hard to resist indulgence in sweets, carbonated drinks, alcohol, and cigarettes. The first step is to remove them from the line of visibility or avoid peers who consume them.
· Get busy with physical activities!
Getting enough exercise is the best antidote to aging and various diseases. A sound mind and body are products of deliberate attempts to engage in worthwhile physical activities. Choose a favourite physical activity and set aside at least thirty minutes daily. Jogging, walking, callisthenics, and aerobics are excellent exercises.
· Social support
Get healthy tips from friends who lead a healthy lifestyle. Ask family members to join you in physical activities like swimming, marathon, or simply a walk in the park. Rally behind family members and loved ones who are battling against unhealthy habits and lifestyles.
· Track progress
Use an app to monitor heart rate, blood pressure, and burned calories. Ensure adequate sleep by using a sleep monitor. Monitor weight gain or loss to check deviations from ideal body weight.
Have you identified the common barriers that keep you from enjoying a healthy lifestyle? A healthy lifestyle is now within reach. All you need is the willpower to do it!
If you have congenital physical dysfunction, cardiorespiratory dysfunction, or geriatric conditions, our licensed physiotherapists will help you achieve optimal health and well-being.
We also offer exercise physiology services for people recovering from illness or injury.