We are constantly bombarded with messages on how to live a healthier lifestyle. The airwaves are filled with offers to help us lose weight fast, shake our muscles into shape, and prevent chronic illness.
For the low price of $49.95, we can get a six-month supply of fat-burning tablets or a new exercise contraption. If we want to spend more, we can even invest in elective medical procedures that will undo the damage we’ve already done to ourselves.
But living a healthier lifestyle is really much simpler than that. A lot simpler. In fact, we have the power to make changes at any time. Here are five easy (and free!) things you can start doing today:
Lose 5-10 pounds
“Nearly all of us could stand to lose a little weight, and even five or 10 pounds can make a significant difference in our health,” says Paul Karazija, M.D., Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield chief medical officer. “Losing weight can improve blood pressure, lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and make it easier to exercise.”
Find simple ways to exercise
When was the last time you parked in the far corner of the parking lot? Or took the stairs instead of the elevator? It’s these simple things, according to Karazija, that help promote a continually active lifestyle.
“Even with all the gyms, exercise equipment and youth sports, most Iowans exercise less than their parents and grandparents,” he says. “Taking a walk each night after dinner, or helping the kids rake autumn leaves will keep you up and moving, and also provide more family time in your hectic schedule.”
Eat one more serving of fruit, and one more serving of vegetables, each day
Most Iowans have a hard time dieting, and one of the main reasons is that they feel restricted in what they can – and can’t – eat. One way to ease into healthier food habits is simply to include more fruits and vegetables into your diet.
Fruits and vegetables generally have no fat, and are high in fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. Karazija suggests adding a salad, or including fresh or frozen vegetables with your dinner entrée. Fresh fruit can be incorporated into your diet as part of breakfast, or as snacks throughout the day.
Keep track of your preventive exams
Now that we’re losing weight, moving more and eating better, we can’t forget about taking care of the rest of our bodies. Most Iowans don’t receive the preventive medical services they should, Karazija says, starting with an annual physical exam from their primary care provider. Other services (depending on age) include screenings for breast, prostate and colon cancers; blood testing to monitor cholesterol and blood sugar levels; and getting an annual flu shot.
Volunteering won’t necessarily help you lose weight, exercise more or eat right (unless you volunteer to run through the orchard picking apples, perhaps). What volunteering does do is contribute to your sense of purpose, which in turn can improve your relationships, your community, and your overall outlook on life.
“Volunteering is easy, and the best part is that you always get back just as much as you give,” Karazija says. “Contact your local school, hospital or church If you have some free time, but aren’t quite sure where to start. You won’t regret it.”
For more information on health and health insurance, call the Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield Personal Health Assistant 24/7 at 1-800-724-9122.