At this extreme moment, we began working from home, away from campus, and keeping social distance for as many people as possible. As we stay home and are stuck with the foods that have been in our fridge or pantry for a while, we are temporarily living a sedentary lifestyle with increased odds of physical inactivity, excessive eating and sitting, stress, anxiety, and depression. In particular, many of us will gain some weight during the pandemic and may keep the extra weight permanently, which may carry considerable health risks for type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart attack, stroke, and other health problems.
Improve Your Health
Keep a journal of daily wins
Referencing a Harvard Business School professor in her TEDx talk on achieving success through small wins, educator Mehrnaz Bassiri says that keeping a daily diary of progress helps us to reflect on our days and record all the small achievements that would otherwise go unnoticed.
This habit helps us to chronicle and celebrate our small wins, even on those frustrating days when we feel we haven’t accomplished much.
These “wins” can be anything from making a healthy eating choice during lunch, reacting positively to a negative situation at work, or simply doing something that made you happy or inspired, for the first time.
Remember, you can lead a healthier life by simply making small changes, one at a time. Start by picking a few of your favourite tips mentioned in this article and incorporating them into your daily routine!
Smile and laugh more
This is one of the simplest, yet more powerful changes you can make to improve your mental health.
Why does this work? When we laugh, we breathe deeper and take in more air, which stimulates our heart, lungs and muscles. It also increases endorphins released by our brains, which positively influence our physiology and mood – automatically placing us into a better, happier state.
So go ahead, smile often and inject more laughter into your days. Sometimes, laughter really can be the best medicine.
Sleep for 6 – 8 hours daily
Did you know that 6 – 8 is the recommended number of hours of sleep adults should get every night for better health? According to a paper on sleep duration and mortality, researchers also found that people who get less than 7 hours of sleep a night are 12% more likely to die prematurely.
However, be careful to not oversleep, as it was also found that people who sleep more than 8 – 9 hours daily have a 30% added risk of dying prematurely.
The conclusion? Go to sleep at a time that allows you to have 6 – 8 hours of rest, then wake up when the alarm rings – and not after hitting the snooze button several times!
Get a fitness tracker (and use it)
These days, fitness trackers are changing the way people live and work out. These intelligent wrist-based devices can track your heart rate and the distance of your run, and count the number of calories you burn during workouts.
While the accuracy of fitness trackers (and smart watches) may have been questionable a few years ago, the accuracy, reliability and reputation of these devices have been said to have improved remarkably in recent years.
While legislation has placed disease-riddled images on cigarette boxes and eliminated tobacco advertising for decades, smoking is still a fairly common habit in Singapore. According to HealthHub, 6 Singaporeans die prematurely from smoking-related diseases every day.
Quitting smoking can be challenging, but also one of the most life-changing decisions you make. Some strategies to overcome the addiction include exercise, support groups, relaxation techniques like breathing, or even nicotine replacement therapy.
Work out (at least) 3 times a week
According to Active Health (an initiative by the Singapore Sports Council), adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week. The reality though, is that only 26% of Singaporeans do so.
Hitting this goal doesn’t have to be difficult. You can try:
- Do more of an activity you’re already doing
- Picking an activity you think you’ll enjoy doing, and start doing it
These can be small changes. For example, instead of walking with your dog, put on your running shoes and jog with your dog. And if you’re already running twice a week, add a third day to explore different routes at a relaxing, enjoyable pace.
Eat more fruits and vegetables
A health survey of more than 65,000 participants found that people who ate the most portions of fruits or vegetables (7 or more) each day had a 42% reduced risk of dying (from any cause), compared to individuals who ate less than one portion a day.
However, you may want to choose more fresh produce, as it was found that frozen and canned fruit can also increase the risk of dying by 17%.
Need a tip on how you can add more fruits and vegetables into your diet? Buy some cut fruit after lunch and bring it to your workplace. The next time you’re hungry, that fruit will be the closest and most convenient snack you’ll reach for.
Read nutrition labels
If weight loss is one of your health goals, make it a habit to read the nutritional labels on your foods during your grocery shopping.
Look out for the total amount of calories a product contains, and not just for 1 serving (which is typically what’s stated on the label).
Reading nutrition labels will also help you to avoid only reading marketing labels like “high in fibre”, “low fat” or “zero sugar”, as these labels may be misleading. While a product is “high in calcium”, it could also be high in sugar – a detail you may have missed if you hadn’t read the nutrition label.
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Drink more water
You may have heard of the saying to “drink 8 glasses of water a day”, yet not many may actually follow this, often choosing to count their total liquid intake instead – which usually includes sodas, coffee, and other beverages.
Your body isn’t made up of soft drinks and beers, however. Depending on age, about 60% of the human body is made up of water. There are numerous benefits of drinking more water – it helps us to control our calorie intake, energises our muscles, keeps our kidneys healthy, and hydrates the skin.
As you stay hydrated with water, you’ll also find yourself having fewer cravings for sugary or less healthy beverages.
Did you know that eating too quickly can cause weight gain?
According to research, faster eaters are more likely to be overweight, as compared to people who eat more slowly. In one study, it was also suggested that this is 115% more likely to happen in middle-aged women.
As you eat, your body releases ‘fullness hormones’ that tell your brain you’ve eaten and should stop. However, as this process takes about 20 minutes, speedy eaters may consume too much food and only receive this signal later – which explains the ‘post-buffet bloat’ you may feel after a satisfying meal.
The next time you’re having a meal, make a conscious effort to eat slower and observe the effect on your appetite.
Take Multivitamin Supplements
To make sure you have sufficient levels of nutrients, taking a daily multivitamin supplement is a good idea, especially when you do not have a variety of vegetables and fruits at home. Many micronutrients are vital to yourimmune system, including vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, and E, as well as zinc, iron, copper, selenium, and magnesium.
However, there’s currently NO available evidence that adding any supplements or “miracle mineral supplements” to your diet will help protect you from the virus or increase recovery. In some cases, high doses of vitamins can be
bad for your health.
Reduce Sitting and Screen Time
Exercise can’t immunize you from your sedentary time. Even people who exercise regularly could be at increased risk for diabetes and heart disease and stroke if they spend lots of time sitting behind computers. Practically
speaking, you could consider taking breaks from sedentary time, such as walking around the office/room a couple of times in a day.
Drink plenty of fluids
The right weight for each us depends on factors like our gender, height, age, and genes. Being affected by obesity and overweight increases the risks of a wide range of diseases, including diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer.
Excess body fat comes from eating more than we need. The extra calories can come from any caloric nutrient – protein, fat, carbohydrate, or alcohol, but fat is the most concentrated source of energy. Physical activity helps us spend the energy, and makes us feel good. The message is reasonably simple: if we are gaining weight, we need to eat less and be more active!