Spring is well underway in most areas of the U.S. The flowers are blooming, warmth is filling the air, and more people are venturing outside. The change in season often brings a resurgence of motivation to shift into healthier habits that may have been neglected all winter long. However, getting back into a rhythm of healthy habits after several months can often be intimidating. Our advice: begin building a healthier lifestyle by starting with a few small steps and realistic goals.
Move every day
There’s no way around it: one of the most impactful ways you can start to improve your health is to adopt a consistent exercise routine. Doctors recommend getting around 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, or 75 minutes of higher intensity exercise. If that sounds like a lot, try breaking it up into small increments throughout the day.
What’s best is there is no need to limit yourself to traditional exercise. Take advantage of the weather by going for a walk to your favorite coffee shop or riding your bike to a park. Any type of movement is beneficial; even just taking a break from your desk to stand and stretch can do a world of good.
Shop locally and eat with the season
The ability to access a wide variety of fresh produce year-round often requires long-distance transport of goods, which may mean foods are picked long before they are ripe enough to consume. Rather than buying out-of-season produce, take full advantage of the season by filling your pantry with seasonable, local fruits and vegetables picked at peak ripeness. Not only is this more environmentally friendly, but fresh, in-season produce is typically much more nutritious than imported fruits and vegetables. Spring produce typically includes apples, broccoli, lettuce, and kale, depending on what area of the country you live in. When summer arrives, eat your fill of fruit like peaches, tomatoes, watermelon, and more.
Don’t have easy access to a farmer’s market or somewhere you can purchase local produce? Opt for frozen fruits and vegetables or choose organic produce, and try to avoid the Environmental Working Group’s “dirty dozen,” a yearly compilation of fruits and vegetables rated highest in pesticide use.
Schedule time to unwind
Warmer weather can be invigorating, but it can also mean a more hectic calendar full of vacations to plan, schedules to coordinate, and traveling to endure. Rushing back into a busy schedule after a wintertime social hibernation can easily make you feel overwhelmed. Consistent overwhelm can up the risk for chronic stress which can disrupt sleep, affect metabolism, increase high blood pressure, disrupt digestion, and even manifest into disease by driving up inflammation.
Avoid falling into this trap by being intentional about taking time to relax the nervous system and take a break from stressful distractions. Tried-and-true relaxation methods can include meditation, breathing exercises, listening to calming music or reading a good book. Even better, try unwinding with some aerobic activity. Studies show movement is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety and depression.
Get more sunshine
Sunlight does more good than we think. It allows the body to produce vitamin D, an essential vitamin that helps improve bone health, regulate inflammation, improve the immune system and metabolism. Yet vitamin D deficiency is rampant among the U.S. population, especially during the winter months.
The good news is you don’t need much sunlight for the body to begin producing vitamin D. Depending on where you live and the time of day, you only need about 15 to 20 minutes of direct sun exposure on the skin to meet the recommended daily amount. However, medications like steroids, laxatives, and cholesterol-lowering drugs can interfere with this process, which may mean you’ll need to spend some extra time outside. Invite some friends for a picnic or take that long-awaited vacation to the beach. (Note: sunscreen is important for skin health, but to get the largest effect of vitamin D production, direct sun to skin exposure over a short amount of time is recommended.)
Spring back with a healthy lifestyle
Whether you’re maintaining healthy habits or trying to bring them back to life, small steps towards better health can start to form the foundation of personal well-being and help you steer clear of preventable diseases that can negatively affect long-term health.
Not sure where to start? Seek a provider who uses a preventable and comprehensive approach to health care and one who thinks outside the box of symptom management by emphasizing healthy, long-lasting lifestyle changes. There is simply no better way to ensure health and longevity than by taking a proactive and preventative approach to improving the way you live.
Interested in incorporating lifestyle changes into your health care experience? See how our providers can help by scheduling a meet and greet today.