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Healthy living starts small

Column by Shakeena Bradley

Last week, I wrote that we can be truly healthy. Small, simple lifestyle changes add up and make a difference in our state of health. A healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be expensive, either. Here are some foundations you can build on in your journey to optimal health.

Food: We’ve heard the phrase “You are what you eat” more times than we can count.  As cliché as it is, it’s true. The things we consume become the nutrients that feed our cells (for better or for worse).  However, a truer phrase would be “we are what we digest.” Digestion is perhaps the most important function in our entire body.  To help our digestive system function properly, it’s imperative to nourish your body with foods as close as possible to their natural state.  Try cooking more at home with recipes, with an emphasis on whole-food ingredients, rather than overly processed, pre-prepared and packaged items. One of the blogs that helped me get started on a real food journey is 100 Days of Real Food (100daysofrealfood.com).

Hydration: The average adult body contains 55-60 percent water, which equates to 10-13 gallons. It’s no wonder, then, that water is the most important nutrient we need, but many of us overlook simple H2O in favor of more flavorful beverages. While our bodies can last weeks without food, we can only last a few days without water. Adequate hydration is important for countless functions in the body, and even slight dehydration can cause fatigue and other negative health effects. A good guideline for hydration is to choose pure filtered water, and to try to aim for half your body weight in ounces per day.  Add a pinch of unrefined sea salt to get the electrolytes needed for hydration, and add lemon or other fresh fruit as a way to replace sugary beverages.

Sleep: Getting adequate amounts of deep sleep is essential to optimize our health.  When we are rested, we feel better overall. Quality sleep helps regulate our stress hormones, boosts energy and can even help keep your weight in balance. A huge sleep disruptor is blue light from televisions, computers, cell phones, tablets, and other electronic devices. Aim to turn off your devices at least an hour or two before bed, and try for at least 7-8 hours of good sleep per night.

Movement: The majority of Americans sit for most of their waking hours, at work and at home, so we all know we need to incorporate some form of daily exercise into our lives. Movement has a host of health-promoting benefits, and exercise doesn’t have to be torture. The easiest way to counteract all the negative effects of sitting is to walk. Try to get up and walk around for at least two minutes every hour, and walking outside is even better. If you need some motivation, try a fitness tracker or app that will send periodic reminders to get up and move.

Next week, we’ll discuss the importance of stress management and community in taking care of ourselves. Our body is the most precious gift we have – let’s treat it with care.  We each only have one, and we can start right now.

Shakeena Bradley is the creator of Whole Health Revival, a movement to educate and empower us all to achieve true health and vitality.  She is currently studying to be a Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner.  She can be reached at wholehealthrevival@gmail.com. Information presented within this article is for educational purposes only, and is not meant as a substitute for medical advice or care from a licensed health professional.