After months of heavy clothes, hearty food, and gloomy weather, your body, mind and spirit start to crave something different – something lighter, brighter and more active. Fortunately, just about the time soups, sweaters, and snow are getting on your last nerve, spring shows up. And not a moment too soon! (Includes affiliate links)
This year, take that yearning for lighter, brighter and more active things and put it to work for your health. Spring is the perfect time to get healthy – and to establish habits that will help you stay lean, strong and healthy in every season. Here are 6 things you can do to get healthy this spring, all of which will help you look good and feel great:
Ditch the crappy food.
You know you want to stop eating chips, candy, cookies, fast food and other stuff your body doesn’t need, so just do it. It makes you feel bad, and it doesn’t even taste that good. (Well, some of it tastes pretty good…) If your goal is to look better, feel better and live healthier this spring, then that stuff needs to go. Get it out of your house, office and car. Throw it away and don’t buy it again.
Instead, get healthy this spring and replace it with food your body does need, like fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains. Plan easy and healthy meals that don’t require complicated ingredients or lots of prep time. And avoid the urge to grab a candy bar or chips by prepping healthy food and snacks on the weekend that you can grab during the week.
Follow the 2 x 3 + 1 rule.
One of the fastest and easiest ways to get healthy this spring is to eat 2 fruits or vegetables at every meal (2 x 3) and one as a snack (+1). Following that simple equation means you’ll be eating at least 7 fruits or vegetables every day (and more is better, especially when it comes to vegetables). And it means you’ll be eating more vitamins, minerals, fiber and other things your body needs, and less salt, sugar and chemicals it doesn’t.
Embrace healthy fats.
If you’re switching to a healthier diet, and especially if you’re trying to lose weight, you may be tempted to cut way back on fat. But avoid the temptation. Low-fat diets don’t provide any health benefits for the average person, but diets that include healthy fats can improve heart health, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar, and can help you look and feel better — and even lose weight. So, cut way down on processed foods (that are full of unhealthy fats and sugar) and eat more foods high in good-for-you fats, including nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil and some fish (e.g., salmon, albacore tuna).
Most of us just don’t move enough. We feel exhausted much of the time, but it’s likely because we expend so much emotional energy, not physical energy, as we plow through our schedules each day. And because we don’t move enough, we tend to feel tired, flabby and generally out of sorts. The antidote to those feelings – and one of the best ways to get healthy this spring – is to get up and move, to do some sort of moderate intensity activity (like brisk walking, biking or dancing) at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
Or track your steps, using a pedometer, FitBit or other fitness tracker to build up to about 10,000 steps a day. Use a monitor to keep track of how much you’re moving. I use a FitBit Inspire 2, which lets me monitor steps, distance, heart rate, and sleep. (This one also comes with a free year of FitBit Premium, which can be useful for women who are trying to create healthy habits.) And you can find dozens of other fitness trackers, from the very inexpensive to the very elaborate. You can also use a simple and inexpensive pedometer. (Obviously, consult your doctor if you have any health problems or questions about the safety of beginning to move more.) This amount of exercise helps you feel and look better, and helps prevent chronic diseases, like diabetes and high blood pressure.
Many busy people, and especially women, tend to skip strength exercises. I’m one of those people; I find strength exercises to be incredibly tedious, and would rather walk 10 miles than life weights. But they’re really, really good for you. Regular strength training helps you build and maintain muscle mass, and increased muscle mass burns calories, promotes bone strength, prevents fractures, and helps you look trimmer.
So this year I’m disciplining myself to do strength training for about 15 minutes a day, three days a week, and you can do the same. You don’t have to go to a gym (although it’s great to get some instruction from a trainer); I work out at home with hand weights, body weight exercises and fitness bands.
You probably don’t get enough sleep. And the bad news is that, over time, lack of sleep can make you sick – it increases your risk of stroke, diabetes and heart disease and lowers your body’s ability to fight infections. It also ages your skin, messes with your hormones and sex life, and may prevent you from losing weight. So if you want to get healthy and feel great this spring, figure out a way to sleep 7 to 8 hours most nights. That may mean saying “no” more often, delegating some tasks, or making changes to your family’s schedule.
All of these strategies require you to do one thing – prioritize your health and well-being – in order to get healthy this spring (and stay healthy throughout the year). Whatever you have going on in your life — and I’m guessing you have a lot — very little of it should take precedence over finding time to get lean, strong and healthy this spring and this year.
What are you going to do to get healthy this spring? Please share your plans in the Comments – I’d love to hear from you.
Also published at Medium.
Cassie from True Agape says
I totally agree that we should prioritize our health. As the saying says, health is wealth. Having water handy will definitely keep us hydrated all the time.
Thanks so much, Cassie. Yes, health is definitely wealth!
Karen Grosz says
Love this post, I completely believe that health comes when you focus on food, sleep, movement, and stress reduction. Then make sure you have good, meaningful relationships and health comes. Oh and I love your 2×3 + 1. Great way to get in 7 fruits and veggies.
Thanks so much, Karen. I really appreciate your support and kind words.
Penny Plain Fit (@pennyplainfit) says
I agree with everything you said. After years of being overweight, I finally found my happy place and I’m doing my best to stay here :).
I would add: always eat breakfast and have water available at all times. Sometimes we think we’re hungry, but we’re just dehydrated.
Hi Andreea – I agree with you 100% about breakfast and water. They are key parts of getting healthier, leaner and stronger.
Thanks so much for stopping by.
These are great tips. I find it so difficult to make myself a priority and take proper care of myself. I like the 2 x 3 + 1 rule. It’s a great way to try and add more fruits and veggies to my diet. Found your post at the #LetsGetRealSocial
Nicole | The Professional Mom Project
Thank you, Nicole. It IS so hard for women (and especially moms) to find time to take care of themselves. I hope that this simple idea is helpful to you.
Thanks for your “Get Strong” paragraph. I call strength training – even body-weight exercises – “Exercise That Matters”. I used to jog when it was all the rage until I injured my ankle/foot. Then I used to walk abut 1.5 miles several times a week. I had back pain, knee pain (from an old injury), shoulder pain (so that I couldn’t sleep on my side). I never lost any weight with that mild exercise and I never developed much stamina.
When I started strength training at the age of 69 six years ago all of that changed. All of the aches and pains went away (95%) and I was able to stay on my carb-restricted diet with, which I lost 30+ pounds (5’9″ @ about 200#) and my gut. I have kept at my current weight for 3+ years. No more yo-yo.
As you suggest, my workouts are generally less than 20 minutes (I suffer from procrastination going from one exercise to the next) but there are several sites on the Internet that have body weight workouts of 5, 10, 15 & 20 minutes’ duration. What surprised me was how little strength training it takes to make great improvements in a person’s fitness. Before long, you will find chores that used to be difficult are now easy.
I still walk but I see it as a good way to improve my insulin sensitivity and not so much as a fitness tool.
I also like the tools you use in your strength training. Body weight and hand weights, if the exercises are done standing, provide a full-body workout. You exercise your whole body rather than one muscle group at a time so you get fit in just a few minutes a few times a week rather than spending hours a day working on each separate muscle. I have no experience with the bands but I suppose they have a similar benefit.
Body weight and free weight (dumbbells & kettle bells) exercises improve every measure of fitness: Strength, stamina, balance, coordination, flexibility and cardiovascular health. One last benefit that I suspect, but for which I have no proof, is that periodic intense exercise like strength training will bring your hormones into proper balance with each other and within each individual if the exercise is combined with a No-Junk Diet.
Thanks for including “Get Strong” in your program. Ladies need to do that as much as men do. People who follow your complete program have a good chance of staying out of those little “Wal-Mart Carts” well into very old age.
Hi bbh – Thanks so much for sharing your experience with strength training. It sounds like you have done incredibly well with it and have seen so many improvements in your health. Also, you started at an age when most people would say “I’m too old for that,” when exactly the opposite is true. The older my husband and I get, the more I realize how much we need that kind of exercise. And, as you said, staying out of the “Wal-Mart carts” is a huge incentive!
I think you are probably right about balancing hormones. I work in the exercise science field in my “day job,” and have learned that muscles are involved in almost every aspect of health. They don’t just hold us up and help us move – they’re involved in most of the major functions of the body, and play a huge role in health.
Thanks so much for sharing your experiences.