Start this new year off right with a commitment to good health. The following is a list of practical things you can do to keep yourself and your family healthy:
* While a lot of fad diets may promote the neglect of specific food groups, the healthiest way to feed your body is a well-balanced diet. Your body needs the correct amounts of protein, carbohydrates and even fats to function properly.
* The most neglected food groups are fruits and vegetables. Sneak them into your meals to try and get four to five servings of each a day. Put cut fruit on your cereal or oatmeal or add veggies to your spaghetti sauce.
* Whether you're just "too busy" or trying to skimp on calories, skipping meals is never a good idea. Your body best metabolizes your food by getting a steady amount throughout the day. Consider eating five smaller meals instead of two or three large ones.
* Drink plenty of water. Water is essential to transporting nutrients in your body, it aids in digestion and even helps to keep your skin healthy. If you have special health conditions, you may want to talk with your doctor about how much water to drink daily, but otherwise, the recommended amount is at least six to eight eight-ounce glasses a day.
* Exercise is essential to good health. Besides keeping your heart and body healthy, it lowers stress levels, helps increase energy levels and even helps you sleep better.
* Talk with your doctor if you don't already have an established routine -- certain health conditions may limit the amount and level of strenuousness that you can handle.
* Don't overdo it -- don't expect to run a marathon if you're just starting out. Gradually build up the amount of aerobic activity and amount of weights (or other resistance tools) that you lift each week rather than starting at advanced levels. Try to build up to a half hour of aerobic activity at least four days a week.
* Be sure to rest. Overworking your body will actually work against you. And if you are weight training, give your muscles a day of rest in between trainings. Or alternate what muscle groups you use each day (i.e. lower body on Monday and Wednesday and upper body on Tuesday and Thursday).
* Find out what works best for you. Some people find that exercising with a buddy provides motivation, accountability and social fun. Others prefer to workout alone.
* You don't need a gym membership or fancy home equipment to have good fitness. Try a home video series or even something simple such as jumping rope.
* Don't forget to stretch. Consider adding basic stretching exercises, yoga or pilates to your workout routine. Good flexibility will help prevent backaches and sports injuries and will help you keep good posture.
* Be sure to make your annual checkup with your doctor. And don't forget any recommended screenings and vaccinations for your age group and that of your family.
* Don't forget dental health -- beyond what you do at home with brushing and flossing, be sure to schedule regular cleanings with your dentist.
* Be sure to get enough sleep each night. Studies have shown that lack of sleep can lead to poor metabolism, concentration problems and increased stress.
* Keep yourself spiritually healthy as well. Numerous studies have shown that people who attend regular church services and pray are less likely to have stress-related illnesses.
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