As a fitness and wellness trainer, I’m always going to champion exercise as part of a healthy life. However, going to the gym isn’t for everyone. We also have busy lives and squeezing more into our schedules can be problematic. So what is the answer? I like to think that making small changes, being kinder to ourselves and building good habits are a pathway to feeling healthier.
Here are my top five ways to feel healthier without exercise:
Get lots of sleep
From childbirth, sleep is one of life’s greatest healers and rejuvenates. Getting plenty of rest cannot be underestimated. It’s where essential learnings from your day get uploaded to your brain and reset you for the next day. It’s a powerful tool at your disposal, every day.
Burning the candle at both ends, although attractive as it sounds is counterproductive. Without sleep you are more likely to become ill and run the risk of being burnt out, (trust me I know that one). Both poor mental health and physical health are linked to sleep. This is something I cover a little more in-depth in my Wellness Training Programme.
Tiredness alone can lead to some unhealthy habits. The brain loves rewards, it constantly looks for things to stimulate it. Late at night when you should have stopped watching that Netflix series and gone to bed your brain is still searching. That’s why many of us enjoy a late-night treat or have one eye on the TV and the other on our phones. Doing this repeatedly, as fun as it may seem, can have adverse effects.
What you need is a good night’s sleep (ideally many nights in a row). Setting a regular bedtime and sticking to it will serve you plenty in return. The best thing about sleep, it’s free and you can master it with the least amount of effort possible.
Check out this article about sleep for more information.
Take regular breaks
Similar to sleep, taking breaks is important. Unfortunately, there is a culture of working, eating at your desk, attending every meeting, working over and checking your emails on your phone at night. Is it any wonder there are so many mental health issues?
Even when working from home it can be as bad. We get lost in our list of tasks, work way past what we’d usually do within office hours, filling the spaces between with housework, meal making and parenting. There isn’t even a commute to decompress and get a quiet moment. What are the boundaries of flexible working?
As simple as it sounds, taking a break can seem hard, almost frowned upon. Why should we feel guilty for taking lunch? I say the opposite should be true. We should applaud one another for taking better care. Meeting a friend and getting out for an hour should be celebrated. What we do and how we spend our time matters. Taking breaks rewards you with mental clarity and heightened productivity. Isn’t this something we could all do with?
If you want your body to function properly, drink lots of water. Even if you’re not doing exercise, you need water. Caffeinated drinks, alcohol, fizzy drinks and energy drinks, do not hydrate you the same as water-based drinks.
Having a glass of water at your desk while working can help your hydration. Building healthy habits like drinking a glass of water before getting out of bed will give you a great start to the day. Drinking at least one glass of water with every meal is a simple way to increase the number of millilitres you consume.
Having a limit on caffeine per day and swapping out regular teas for herbal teas can be a winning hydration strategy. Place water where you spend most of your day, if it’s there, you increase the chances of drinking it.
Swap your snacks
We all love a good snack. A biscuit with a brew, a piece of cake or a slice of buttery toast with a cup of tea. Snacks are quick-fix treats that serve a hunger craving. Who doesn’t like a snack? Thing is, the ready available snacks, the things that are fun to eat, are usually the worse for us. If you’re looking to feel healthy, eating healthy is a key component.
Building healthy habits around food is more about recognising the craving and replacing poor nutritional quality snacks with better ones. Rather than operating on a cookie jar auto-pilot, try and catch yourself. Swap a bag of cheese puffs for carrot sticks, and potato crisps for lentil crisps. Try finger foods like olives, cherry tomatoes, orange segments, grapes, sliced apples, and even certain nuts and seeds that can be a great substitute. If you want to guarantee your snack has nutritional benefit, fresh fruit and vegetables are great replacements.
It’s worth noting that some food labelled as ‘healthy’ in supermarkets is misleading. Check out my article about food package labelling for more information.
Winter in the UK is rubbish. Hardly anyone gets enough vitamin D to feel good. However, even though the weather is challenging, getting outside is healthy for everyone. We’ve already covered how important taking breaks are. Why not supercharge your break by going outside?
We’ve all spent far too much time stuck indoors over previous years. It doesn’t take a genius to see the issues being confined to spaces has created. Reluctance to re-engage in society, lack of motivation, loneliness and isolation. When there are so many health benefits to being outdoors, I honestly don’t believe we are meant to be inside.
By simply stepping outside and taking in the sounds of the birds, you are stopping for a moment. Soaking up the sights and smells in a wooded area, spotting a squirrel preparing for winter, standing by a river listening to the water, feeling the grass under your feet – all these have therapeutic properties. Get out into the open with a hot drink, pack a picnic adventure with the kids, or even dress for wet weather and jump in puddles.
Sometimes ‘just being’ is all you need to feed your mind, body and soul. Make time to stop and look, slow the pace, wander, explore and get mucky from time to time. As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad weather just inappropriate clothing choices. Embrace the outside and let it mend the insides.
Taking small steps on the path to health isn’t just about exercise. Making small changes, forming healthier habits and making conscious choices about what we put into our body, makes a difference. Things might not change overnight (although a good night’s sleep helps), it takes time. Feeling healthy is about making positive choices and sticking with the process which over time becomes a standard part of life.