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How to overcome the top five roadblocks to a healthy lifestyle
Most people know what a healthy lifestyle looks like, but making that leap from understanding what you should do to lower your risk of health problems to actually making a healthy lifestyle a regular part of your life can be difficult. Identifying what roadblocks are preventing you from making healthy lifestyle choices is the first step to making the changes essential to reducing your risk of heart disease, diabetes, some types of cancer, and back and joint problems.
What roadblocks do you face?
- Eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats
- Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight
- Getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week and including strength training two to three days a week
- Effectively managing stress
- Getting adequate, quality sleep
- Avoiding unhealthy behaviors, including smoking and alcohol misuse
So what factors get in the way of people following these behaviors?
- Not knowing what changes you need to make: Developing a healthy lifestyle calls for different steps for different people.
- Talk with your doctor. Your doctor can tell you what types of changes you should make to lower your personal health risk factors. He or she may also be able to recommend resources to help you get started, such as nutritionists, exercise classes, and smoking cessation programs. A health advisor can be another good resource as you build your strategy and plan.
- Not enough time: With busy schedules, people often feel that adding regular exercise and cooking healthy meals to their week just isn’t possible. But there are some simple ways to find the time you need.
- Break up your workout. You don’t need to go to the gym to work out for half an hour. Instead try splitting your daily exercise into smaller segments of 10 or 15 minutes of walking, doing yoga, riding your bike around the block, or other exercises you can do at home or during your lunch break. Studies have found that you get the same health benefit from three 10-minute aerobic exercise sessions as you do from one 30-minute session.
- Cook on the weekend and brown bag it. Instead of trying to cook healthy meals each day, try preparing several days’ worth of healthy dinners on the weekend, so you only need to heat them up after work. Bring your lunch rather than eating out at least several times a week.
- Cost: Many people have the misconception that getting the exercise you need and eating a healthier diet is prohibitively expensive. But it doesn’t have to be.
- Look for deals on gym fees. Even if you prefer to do your workouts at a gym rather than walking or doing home workouts, there are a growing number of low-cost gyms with monthly fees as low as what you probably spend on your morning latte. Check your local rec center for lower-cost exercise classes as well.
- Be a smart shopper. Although healthy foods like fruits and vegetables and whole grains do cost more than fast food, chips, and soda, think of this as an investment in your health. You can also lower your food costs by buying the produce that’s in season or frozen (which has the same health benefits as fresh as long as there are no added ingredients), choosing store brands for staples, and buying grains and other items in bulk.
- Not making bedtime a priority: After a long day at work or home, most people want to spend as much time as they can in the evening doing something they enjoy, whether that’s reading, watching TV, or talking to friends. This can lead to pushing off bedtime and not getting an adequate amount of sleep.
- Set a regular bedtime. Choose a time that will allow you to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Studies have found that you cannot completely make up for lost sleep by sleeping late on the weekend. In addition, sleeping late disrupts your sleep wake cycle, which may make it harder to fall asleep during the week.
- Practice good sleep hygiene. Put away your cell phone, computer, and TV 30 minutes before bedtime and spend that time doing something relaxing, like meditating or listening to music.
- Having trouble turning new behaviors into lifetime habits. Even if you start strong, making lifestyle changes can be challenging over time.
- Don’t try to change everything at once. It’s easier to make incremental changes, so start by focusing the new behavior you think you’ll have the most success changing. Once you’ve got that going smoothly, add another behavior change.
- Give it at least 21 days. Some psychologists say that it takes at least 21 days to develop a new habit, so stick with your plan. It also helps to have the support of friends or family. Make your walk family time or get your partner or children involved in cooking healthy suppers.
Our Health Risk Management white paper can help you learn what factors, from lifestyle to medical errors, can affect your personal risk. You can download it free here.