Good health is cumulative -- it's not necessarily the big things that make a difference, but the small decisions we make every day. Try these 10 suggestions for easy ways to make yourself healthier.
1. Cook up some squash
Nutritionists recommend eating fruits and vegetables in a rainbow of colours for maximum nutritional benefit, and no time is better than October to feast on all things orange: carrots, yams, and especially winter squash. Don't limit yourself to pumpkin pie; from acorn and butternut to kabocha and turban, there's an array of squash available to incorporate into hearty autumn meals. Go simple by serving baked squash with butter and brown sugar, or cook up something more elaborate like a pureed soup of roasted squash and yams. For more unusual varieties of squash, visit your local farmer's market.
2. Ditch the leaf blower
Not only are they noisy and bad for air quality, but they don't seem to be any more efficient than old-fashioned leaf-gathering methods. Save yourself the hassle and expense and clear up your fallen leaves with a simple rake. You'll also be doing your body a favour with the exercise -- just make sure to stretch before and after. For extra fall fun, chase the kids around in the leaves before you pack them away.
3. Go wild for pomegranates
Pomegranates have become trendy in recent years, and for good reason -- not only do they look and taste amazing, but they deliver high levels of vitamin C, folic acid and antioxidants. And while you can buy premade pomegranate juice or syrup (aka grenadine), the tastiest way to enjoy this fall treat is by eating it fresh -- try using the arils (seed casings) as a garnish to jazz up salads or desserts.
4. Take the stairs
Getting fit doesn't have to mean endless hours spent in the gym. Incorporating small amounts of exercise into your daily life is a great way to stay active. Canadians are getting bigger each year, and one culprit has to be the escalators, elevators, moving sidewalks and automatic door openers that have become ubiquitous, devices that were originally meant for people who really needed them -- those with true difficulty opening doors and climbing stairs. Make a point of taking the stairs and opening doors everywhere you go -- you'll be surprised at how many calories you burn from these everyday tasks. (Try this calculator from Health Canada to get an idea of how many calories you're burning.)
Feeling stressed? In our busy modern world, who isn't? But you don't need to visit a meditation retreat to calm your mind. When you're feeling stretched too thin, take a minute to close your eyes and focus on your breath. Those 60 seconds of calm will do wonders for your peace of mind.
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6. Do push-ups
The old-fashioned push-up has a lot going for it: it's simple and effective, and you can do it anywhere, with no more equipment than a big enough patch of floor. To add some strength training to your daily routine, drop and do 10 a few times a day. Sure, you may need to work up to it -- you can start out on your knees and work your way up to 10 reps -- but it's a quick and easy way to strengthen your arms, chest and core muscles, and you'll burn extra calories as well.
7. Eat more berries
Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries or strawberries -- whatever your favourite, when they're this delicious and healthy, why wouldn't you eat them every day? Instead of paying through the nose for out-of-season fresh (and often tasteless) berries from as far afield as Chile, buy them frozen. You can either thaw them before eating (put them in the fridge before bed to add to your breakfast the next morning) or chow down on frozen berries for a tasty and low-cal dessert.
8. Challenge your mind
Research shows that a healthy brain is a stimulated brain, and that covers both mental and physical exercise. Keep your brain at peak health by making sure you challenge it regularly. Doing crosswords is a great way to keep thinking, but if crosswords aren't your thing, don't worry -- there are many other ways to keep your mind stimulated. Anything that makes you think is eligible, from the tough moves in your ballroom dancing class to political debates with friends.
9. Pick up some plants
Modern homes contain a number of chemical pollutants, many of which are a result of "off-gassing" from such common household components as carpets, upholstery and paint. A number of houseplants have been shown to significantly reduce the amount of these chemicals in the home: peace lilies, spider plants, Boston ferns and English ivy are among the most effective. Add some greenery to your decor and reap the benefits in cleaner, healthier air.
10. Catch up on your checkups
It's easy to fall behind on medical visits -- between the dentist, the doctor, the optometrist and any other specialists you may frequent, it often seems like waiting rooms are our second homes. But these checkups are essential for short- and long-term health and well-being, so make sure you're on track. If you're all caught up, then get ahead by making your next appointments ahead of time -- you'll be glad to get that task off your to-do list.
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