2.FEB.2021 6 MIN READ | 6 MIN READ

Healthy changes in the way you live, such as healthy eating and exercise can go a long way toward improving your health.

Take control of your health by incorporating these 10 healthy tips into your daily routine. Choose one or two of the tips below to start with. Begin with baby steps and see how far they take you.

Missed part 1 of this series? Read 10 ways to improve your health.

1. Start your day with a stretch

Start day with a stretch
Stretching isn’t only for yogis or gymnasts – everyone should stretch. If you’re a pet owner, you may have observed that your dog or cat does so naturally every morning – a sign that stretching is a natural activity we should be doing more of, especially if you lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle.

A published Harvard Health letter says that stretching keeps our muscles flexible and healthy, while maintaining our range of motion. Stiff and inflexible muscles can shorten and become tight, increasing the risk of strains, joint pain and muscle damage.

2. Meditate

Did you know that chronic stress can affect our immune, digestive and reproductive systems, and even make us more susceptible to heart attack and stroke?

When living or working in high-stress environments, the practice of meditation can be a life-changer. In fact, a study of over 3,500 adults proved that meditation is an excellent way of relieving stress.

Meditating can be challenging for beginners, so start small (eg. 30 seconds). Build on your momentum and slowly make your way up to longer meditation periods. Try downloading a meditation app for a guided experience, or simply sit on the floor, close your eyes and focus on your breath as you breathe slowly for your preferred period of time.

3. Research a diet before jumping on it

Research a diet
From keto to paleo, vegan to Mediterranean, there’s no lack of options for people looking to try a new diet to be healthier and even lose weight. The only question is, which diet should you choose, and is it right for you?

The best diet should be one that complements your health goals and lifestyle. If you intend on starting a diet, research its pros and cons, and learn how to embark on it safely. Remember that while your immediate goal may be weight loss, your long-term health should be placed above any short-term gains.

4. Lose (or reduce) the sauce

As Asians, we love our sauces. After all, what’s chicken rice without a generous dose of garlic chilli sauce? Or char kuey teow without its aromatic black sauce? Some may also argue that dipping fries into cheese make them taste better.

But how many calories do your favourite sauces contain? Here’s a quick glance:

  • Thousand Island dressing: 56 calories (per tablespoon/tbsp, or 15ml)
  • Chilli sauce: 20 calories (per tbsp/18g)
  • Soy sauce: 10 calories (per tbsp/15ml)
  • Mayonnaise: 90 calories (per tbsp/13g)
  • Cream sauce: 439 calories (per cup/244g)
  • Gravy: 123 calories (per cup/233g)

Next time you’re eating out, ask for less sauce to reduce the amount of calories you consume. This may also help you to appreciate your food better – you may be surprised by the subtle flavours hidden behind that extra spoonful of sauce.

5. Get a body composition scale

This can be a useful addition to your home (and health). Depending on the complexity of your chosen device, these scales typically measure your body’s weight, muscle, water, fat and bone density.

Whether your goal is to lose weight or gain muscle, the measurements you can get from a body composition scale can help you track your progress more clearly than a simple bodyweight scale. Just be sure to step on the scale once a day, and at the same time each day, so you can track your progress. Remember that you’re not looking for day-to-day fluctuations, but long-term trends in fat and muscle mass.

6. Choose a nap over coffee

Nap instead of coffee
Are you always relying on caffeine to get you through your days? A good alternative is taking a nap. You can get a powerful energy boost from a 20 or 30-minute nap, which may even positively influence your productivity in your daily activities.

In fact, the National Sleep Foundation quotes a study from NASA – which found that sleepy military pilots and astronauts who took a 40-minute nap demonstrated a 34% improvement in their performance and an astounding 100% increase in alertness.

7. Sign up for a run

Need some motivation to get up and running? Round up your friends or colleagues and sign up for a run together. Choose a category based on your interests and current fitness level. Consider a 5km race for a start.

If you choose slightly more challenging events and distances, you’ll be motivated to not only go attend the event, but to also train up for it, thereby improving your fitness level.

8. Join a gym that’s next to your office or home

It’s been said that approximately 80% of people who own gym memberships don’t actually go to the gym. Another study revealed that 80% of people who sign up for memberships in January of any year usually quit within the first 5 months.

If you’re considering signing up for a gym membership, choose one that’s in close proximity to your office or home. This can reduce the possibility of the gym being “out of sight and out of mind”. Being able to walk to the gym also makes exercising a simple thing to do, and prevents you from skipping workout sessions whenever you feel unmotivated.

9. Care for an animal

Care for an animal
If you have children, getting a domestic pet will not only give them a playmate and walking companion, but may also help them develop immunities against allergies. In a study, it was documented how children are less likely to develop pet-related allergies if they grow up in a household with dogs or cats.

It’s important to remember that pets are a lifelong commitment. Before making the decision to get one, be sure you and your family are willing to commit the time, energy and money needed to care for them.

10. Fall (or stay) in love

The feeling of being in love makes us feel like we’re on cloud nine, which is one of the best things about being in love. This is because our brain is rewarded with blasts of dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin, endorphins, the “happy” brain chemicals that are released by our brain when experiencing the emotional and physical stages of a relationship.


In addition to the health tips listed above, you should make time for health checks. Visit your doctor for regular health screenings and stay up to date on shots, including getting an annual flu shot.

To find out which health screening package is suitable for you, you should speak to your doctor to discuss what tests and procedures should be included. You can also ask your doctor to make a recommendation on the type of lifestyle changes you can make, specific to your health condition.

 

Article reviewed by Dr Samuel Low, clinical director at Parkway Hospitals

References

Sauces & Dressings Calories (n.d.). Retrieved November 21, 2019, from https://www.calories.info/food/sauces-dressings

The Importance of Stretching (2019, September 25) . Retrieved November 21, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-stretching

9 Surprising Gym Statistics (n.d.). Retrieved November 21, 2019, from https://www.realbuzz.com/articles-interests/fitness/article/9-surprising-gym-statistics

Blake Stilwell (2020, April 29). Retrieved January 21, 2021. NASA just researched the perfect midday nap. https://www.wearethemighty.com/mighty-culture/best-power-nap/

Jeanne Segal, Melinda Smith, Robert Segal, Lawrence Robinson (2019, October) Stress Symptoms, Signs, and Causes. Retrieved November 21, 2019, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-symptoms-signs-and-causes.htm

Goyal M, Singh S, Sibinga EM, Gould NF, Rowland-Seymour A, Sharma R, Berger Z, Sleicher D, Maron DD, Shihab HM, Ranasinghe PD, Linn S, Saha S, Bass EB, Haythornthwaite JA (2014, March) Meditation Programes for Psychological Stress and Well-Being: A Systematic Revierw and Meta-Analysis. Retrieved November 21, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24395196

N. Aichbhaumik, E. M. Zoratti, R. Strickler, G. Wegienka, D. R. Ownby, S. Havstad, C. C. Johnson (2008, October 22) Prenatal Exposure to Household Pets Influences Fetal Immunoglobulin E Production. Retrieved November 21, 2019, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2222.2008.03079.x

Loretta G. Breuning (2018, February 13) The Neurochemistry of Love. Retrieved November 21, 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-neurochemical-self/201802/the-neurochemistry-love

2.FEB.2021
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Dr Samuel Low
Clinical Director
IHH Healthcare Singapore

Dr Samuel Low holds a medical degree and has clinical experience in anaesthesiology/intensive care, primary care and emergency medicine.