Ask The Expert:
What are the most important lifestyle changes that will have the biggest impact on my health?
Eating healthy foods and participating in regular physical activities are two important lifestyle changes to consider improving your health, says Sarah Srock, a healthy living director for the YMCA of Greater Kansas City.
Creating healthy habits will reduce your risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer, and can also boost your immune system.
Improving your physical health actually all starts with your head, Srock says.
“Your mind is powerful, and it’s in the mind where change begins,” she says. “You must accept the challenge to change your mindset to make lifestyle changes that will last a lifetime.”
Here are Scrock’s tips to adapt healthy lifestyle changes for the biggest impact on your health.
Take One Change at a Time
“It’s important not to overwhelm yourself with too many changes all at once. You want these changes to become habits, and you’ll be more successful if you start out slow. It’s much easier to build from a foundation of successes than a foundation of failures, and making smaller, realistic goals you know you will achieve is a great way to establish success.”
Remember That Nutrition and Exercise Work Together
“Proper nutrition gives the body the fuel it needs to move! It will also help those seeking weight loss to shed unwanted pounds, as well as help those at a healthy weight maintain their weight.”
Find Foods That Work For You
“There is not a diet that is one size fits all. Our bodies are unique and so are our taste buds. A good place to start healthy eating habits is with vegetables. How many meals can you add vegetables to? Working to fill half your plate with veggies at every meal—even breakfast—is a great way to boost your intake of health-promoting vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals. If you need guidance or direction, try meeting with a registered dietitian to help you get started. Choosemyplate.gov is also a great resource. Incorporating healthy foods comes with many benefits, including fewer health problems, increased energy and better moods.”
“Find activities that you enjoy. I have found that individuals who do this stick to their programs longer and find great success. If you have not exercised in a while, check with your physician before starting any type of exercise program. Start out slow and gradually work toward a routine that includes cardiovascular exercise, strength and flexibility. Physical activity helps to improve your cardiovascular health, respiratory function, muscle strength and boosts your endurance. Staying active also reduces your risk of chronic conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Track Your Progress
“Track your progress and celebrate your successes along the way. Whether you choose to track through a fitness app or a journal, research shows that those who track their progress keep up with their exercise habits long term. Always celebrate your milestones, because they are worth celebrating. It’s important to remember these changes can take weeks, months, and even years to establish, but if you stick with them, they will eventually become part of your daily routine.”
“Join a wellness center, such as the YMCA, to help you get started or stay focused. The Y offers group exercise classes, personal training, one on one meetings with a registered dietitian, and weight loss programs that allow you connect with others who are also working toward a healthy lifestyle.”