How simple lifestyle changes can transform your health for life
April 03, 2017
You know those days when you don’t get enough sleep, so you decide to skip the gym and then you end up eating nothing but garbage for the rest of the day? We’ve all been there. Greg Wells, author of The Ripple Effect, says there are ways we can make small changes to our sleeping, eating, exercising and thinking habits that can transform our health for life.
Almost 20% of our population is chronically sleep deprived. Our busy work schedules and home responsibilities leave us with less time to get proper rest. According to the National Sleep Foundation, people sleep 20% less than those a century ago.
Lack of sleep not only impairs our ability to function but also has a powerful impact on our health. With sleeplessness comes increased risk of heart attack, stroke, anxiety and depression. In fact, not enough sleep is so damaging that it shortens our life. Sleep makes everything better.
If you want to lose weight or control your weight, don’t ignore sleep. Lack of sleep disrupts the hormones that control our appetites, so when we sleep properly, the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which help manage hunger and satiety, are regulated and controlled.
Sleep and exercise have reciprocal relationship. If you sleep soundly, you will perform better during your next workout or race. Conversely, if you exercise consistently, you will sleep better. It’s a positive cycle.
Lastly, we actually grow neurons in our brains when we sleep. These neurons connect with other neurons in our body, allowing us to encode new learning, movement patterns and memories.
How to get more sleep
Defend your last hour. This means calming down in the hours leading up to when you want to fall asleep. It all comes down to changing your hormone levels so that your body and brain can repair and regenerate instead of breaking down. Don’t check your electronic devices within two hours of when you plan to go to sleep unless you absolutely have to. Unwind by reading, preferably fiction. Reading can calm the mind and activate parts of the brain that help you fall asleep and cause you to dream.
Physical inactivity and unhealthy diets are the leading causes of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cancers. And 80% of our population does not get enough physical activity to prevent chronic disease.
Move a little every day and that will change everything for you.
How to move more
This is super simple. For every 20 minutes of sitting, stand and stretch for 20 seconds – and, if you take public transportation to work, stand instead of sitting. The same goes for meetings or even classes: stand instead of sitting. You can also stretch your hips, calves, do wrist curls. You’ll feel so much better at the end of the day.
Rates of obesity are skyrocketing around the globe. In North America in the early ‘80s, people who were overweight or obese made up less than 20% of the population. Now that figure is about 58% in Canada and 68% in the US. And it’s poor nutrition that leads to obesity. Proper nutrition can control chronic inflammation – inflammation, according to some researchers, being the cause of most of the chronic diseases affecting us; and have a potent effect on the health of your cardiovascular system.
How to eat smarter
Consume more nutrients, fewer calories. Your goal should be to eat nutrient-dense foods while avoiding calorie-dense foods. For example, skip the muffins and bagels, instead choosing protein and vegetables. An apple has about 90 calories and loads of great nutrients, whereas a blueberry muffin has 350-plus calories and few nutrients.
Chronic stress is problematic. We’re constantly connected. The number one problem we’re seeing is an addiction to distraction, like phones, social media. We check our email upwards of 150 times a day!
Stress weakens our immune systems, putting us at risk of chronic diseases; mental health is also closely tied to inflammation in the body – inflammation being linked to most chronic diseases, including cancer.
How to combat chronic stress
The magic is finding time every single day to disconnect and focus on something you love. Whatever matters to you the most: family, friends, physical training, writing a book, painting, etc. Whatever! Do this for 1.5 hours a day and you’ll find that everything changes.