12 healthy habits to adopt in 2021
Healthful living is a 365-day process made up of small steps that can add up to a big change. Embrace healthy habits now to become the best you that you can be.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. How important are fruits and vegetables? A diet rich in produce can help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke and protect eye health.1
- Move more. Exercise can improve brain health, help you manage your weight, and strengthen your bones and muscles. Regular physical activity can also reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes as well as reduce your likelihood of developing heart disease or stroke. Try to get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week.2
- Eat earlier. Consuming calories later in the day may be associated with obesity. When researchers compared 6 p.m. dinners to 10 p.m. dinners, they found higher blood sugar levels and less fat burned overnight for the late dinners.3
- Practice gratitude. Grateful people are more likely to take better care of themselves, including eating better and exercising more. But practicing gratitude does more than lessen your aches and pains; it also reduces toxic emotions and lowers stress.4
- Eat breakfast. In addition to giving you a boost to start your day, recent studies have shown that people who eat a hearty breakfast may burn twice as many calories as those who eat their biggest meal in the evening.5 Another study showed that adults with type 2 diabetes were better able to control their blood sugar by eating a high-energy meal for breakfast and a low-energy one for dinner. Simply changing the timing of meals can reduce glucose peaks throughout the day.6
- Drink more water. Your body needs water to survive, yet many of us don’t drink enough. You have likely heard that you should drink at least eight 8 oz. glasses of water a day. While that is a reasonable goal, the fact is each of our needs is different, based on our health, activity level and even where we live.7
- Power down. One in four Americans brings their cell phone to bed with them. Six in 10 use a laptop within an hour of going to bed. Yet studies have shown that the blue light from devices can interfere with sleep. Power down at least an hour before bedtime and make your bedroom a device-free zone.8
- Get more sleep. Not getting enough sleep is linked to increased risk of obesity, stroke, heart attacks, type 2 diabetes, depression, even Alzheimer’s disease.9
- Try new things. Trying new things keeps your mind and body active. In fact, learning a new skill can lead to changes in adult brains, creating new connections between brain cells.10
- Quit smoking. The benefits once you quit smoking can be seen almost immediately. In fact, within 20 minutes of quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure will drop. Over time, your circulation and lung function will improve, and your risk of heart attack, stroke and smoking-related cancers will decrease.11
- Build muscle. For most adults, adding strength training to your exercise plan two to three times a week can have many health benefits, especially seniors. In addition to increasing muscle strength, strength training can preserve bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise plan.12
- Get outside. Nature has been linked to many health benefits, from lowering stress to increasing attention, even improving empathy and cooperation. From a walk in your local park to hiking in the wilderness, there is increasing evidence that nature positively impacts both our physical and mental wellbeing.13
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- Vegetables and Fruits (n.d.). Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
- Benefits of Physical Activity (n.d.) Centers for Disease Control.
- People who eat a late dinner may gain weight (2020, June 11). Endocrine Society.
- Morin, Amy (2015, April 3). 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude, Psychology Today.
- Oltmanns, Kerstin M., et al (2019, Feb. 19). Twice as High Diet-Induced Thermogenesis After Breakfast vs Dinner On High-Calorie as Well as Low-Calorie Meals. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
- Jakubowicz, Daniela, et al (2014, Nov.23). High-energy breakfast with low-energy dinner decreases overall daily hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetic patients: a randomized clinical trial. Diabetologia.
- Water: How much should you drink every day? (n.d.). Mayo Clinic.
- How Electronics Affect Sleep (n.d.). Sleep Foundation.
- The dangers of sleep deprivation (2020, June 5). American Heart Association.
- Rev up your thinking skills by trying something new (2015, Dec.) Harvard Health Letter.
- Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking Over Time (n.d.). American Cancer Society.
- Seguin, Rebecca, Nielson, Miriam. (2003, Oct. 1) The benefits of strength training for older adults. American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
- Weir, Kirsten (2020, April 1) Nurtured by nature. American Psychological Association.