We all know that online education saves students from commuting costs, traffic jams, and parking headaches. Distance learning also eliminates the hassle of lugging book bags across campus. But physical exertion isn’t always a bad thing – especially considering the medical concerns (high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease) that plague so many Americans. Below are some tips we’ve gathered from various health and fitness experts. Surprisingly simple and common sense measures can make a big difference when it comes to your overall health and wellbeing.
1: Work-in is the new workout
One way or another, you have to get moving. The Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, on 4 or more days each week. Activity can include jogging, brisk walking, swimming or biking. If you think you’re too busy, map out an exercise schedule (and don’t use winter weather as an excuse!) We realize that today’s tight budgets don’t always leave room for a gym membership, but you can do lots of exercises inside your own house. Jumping rope is a great way to boost your heart rate, and it can usually be accomplished in a high-ceilinged garage or basement. Alternately, there are plenty of DVD options for at home yoga, pilates or aerobics.
2: Food for thought - literally
When you eat right, you nourish your body – including your brain cells. And contrary to popular belief, eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to give up all the foods you love. In fact, crash dieting and stringent rules will only backfire in the long run. Experts say that eating smart means eating regularly and in moderation. Pack yourself small, healthy snacks - like fruit, wholegrain cereal and yogurt – to eat throughout the day. Regular snacking will help curb you hunger, and keep you from overdoing it at mealtimes. At lunch and dinner, try to fill your plate with color and variety, involving as many food groups as possible. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients and antioxidants. For dessert, experts say that some borderline “junk foods” - nuts, wine and dark chocolate - can actually be good for you, in limited quantities.
3: Dr. No-Show
Can’t remember the last time you sat in a waiting room? Lots of us are guilty of procrastinating when it comes to making doctors’ appointments. Even though we know we should be seeing the dentist twice a year and getting our annual physical checkup, it’s easy to get caught up in more seemingly pressing, day-to-day chores. But small medical problems can quickly turn into big ones. Exams like blood tests and mammograms are vital status reports. Make your regular appointments and catch any early signs of illness or injury.
4: The supplement theorem
Vitamins are such a quick and easy addition to a healthy lifestyle, it’s amazing that so many people don’t take them. Even the healthiest eaters can’t always absorb the right mix of nutrients. Women, for example, need to be sure they’re getting enough calcium. Do yourself a favor and stock up on any supplements and multivitamins your doctor recommends. (Above case in point: you’d know what those were if you made your appointment!)
There’s no puzzle when it comes to cold season. Washing your hands is another simple way to ward off illness and infection. Whether you’re at home or in a public environment, germs abound. Neutralize bacteria by washing hands thoroughly with warm water and soap. As a rule, physicians advise washing for at least 15 seconds (about as long as it takes to sing the alphabet.) Remember to scrub between your fingers and under your fingernails. Finally, dry your hands with a clean towel. Use the towel to shut off a public faucet and to grip the door pull when exiting a public restroom.
6: Clean slates
You can save yourself some sick days by investing in a few antibacterial sprays and wipes. At home and at work, you should regularly wipe down any objects you frequently contact. Good items to include are keyboards, telephones, door knobs and light switches. Get your family in the habit of sanitizing their spaces as well.
Water is a great health booster because it’s inexpensive and it’s fail-proof. Just keep drinking. How easy is that? Research shows that by the time a body registers thirst, it’s already nearing dehydration. So stay on top of your water intake. Drink a full glass of water before your breakfast or morning coffee. Remember that caffeine dehydrates your system. To stay fully replenished, keep a water bottle nearby at all times. When you hydrate regularly, you’ll find that you have more energy. You’ll also be less likely to overeat.
8: Desk jockey
The human body was designed to move, bend and stretch. Untapped muscles tend to cramp and weaken. Stretching helps to heal and strengthen your body’s muscle groups, while reducing stress and relieving tension. Before workouts, after workouts, and first thing in the morning, you should try to perform some simple stretches. You won’t be fully limber right off the bat, so go slowly to avoid a pulled muscle.
Between school and work, it’s easy to spend half your day staring at a computer screen. All that sitting and staring can be detrimental to your health (which is why desk workers often complain of headaches and muscle strain.) Your eyes need to take breaks, as do your neck, back and wrists. Make a point to stand up and walk around for every hour you’re sitting still. Besides relieving overworked muscles, movement will help your blood circulate, and will help your head to refocus on the task at hand.
9: Quantum sleep
How often do you find yourself complaining that there isn’t enough time in the day? When students need an extra hour to do homework or housework, they usually borrow time from their sleep schedule because it seems like the easiest solution. But late night overdrive can be problematic if it becomes a pattern. You might throw off your sleep cycle – making it hard to fall asleep when you’re finally ready. Besides, most adults need 8 hours to function at an optimal level. Being overtired impairs your physical strength and concentration abilities. Decreased productivity and drowsiness are bad enough at work, but the consequences can be far worse if you’re sleep-deprived and driving. Plan ahead for the things that absolutely need to get done during your day, and accept that there will be extras you have to put off until tomorrow.
10: Mind the nap
Napping has somehow acquired the undue perception that it only applies to certain categories of people: the very old, the very young, the sick and the lazy. In reality, short naps are a smart way to recharge your mind and your body. Brief naps can leave you feeling refreshed and invigorated. Some cultures, in fact, have built the benefits of midday rest (i.e. “siesta”) into their communal schedules. If you feel overtired, try taking a 20 minute catnap. But don’t overdo it! Sleeping too long during daylight hours may have adverse effects, including increased fatigue and irritability.