50 Ways To Improve Your Health In 2020
A new year, a new you! You don't have to make lofty New Year's resolutions to improve your health in 2020. Being a better version of yourself can be achieved by revamping your health in a few incredibly simple ways. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke to some of the top health experts in the country and compiled a list of 50 ways—ranging from diet and fitness tips to self-care methods—that will help you improve your health in the new year.
Start Counting Steps
Become a healthier version of yourself in 2020—one step at a time. Matthew Mintz, MD, and Internist, suggests getting a step counter or step-counting app on your phone. "While going to the gym is great, research has shown that a high daily step count may be just as good for many things. Fitbits have become quite popular and come in all sorts of types and styles," he says. However, while they are becoming more popular, not everyone is using one. He points out that while data varies on how many steps you need to take within a day, falling somewhere between 8,000 and 12,000, and is also dependent on your health goals, he recommends an average of 10,000 steps per day. If you don't want to invest in a fitness tracker, he suggests finding a fitness tracking app and keeping your smartphone in your pocket.
Visualize Your Goals
Instead of just setting goals for the upcoming year, you should visualize them, according to Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, Ed.D., LPC, BCN, LLC, an integrative and pediatric mental health expert. "The intentful practice of visualization is a powerful way to not only get clarity on your goals but to help manifest them," she says, pointing out that successful people spend a lot of time visualizing what they want. "First, they hone in on their authentic purpose and then create goals around it. Then, they 'see' what they want and everyday spend time visualizing that outcome and pair it with action around those goals that get them to their BIG outcome." Whether you have a health goal, family, or business goal, intentful visualization is a great way to create positive momentum.
Take Magnesium for Stress Reduction
Before popping a prescription pill for anxiety, Dr. Capanna-Hodge suggests trying a supplement first. "Magnesium is the most used nutrient in the body, and when you are stressed, you just can't get enough of it," she explains. "By supplementing with magnesium, you not only calm the nervous system you help your body combat stress and give what it needs to work at an optimal level." In lieu of a supplement, you can even take a magnesium salt bath. "In today's stressful world, we need a ton of magnesium to support the brain and body," she adds.
Get More Sleep
One of the best things you can do for your health is to get enough sleep. "We are all tired, and most people are just not getting enough sleep," Dr. Capanna-Hodge points out. "Your brain and body simply can't work optimally without enough sleep." In her experience as a psychologist, the most common issue that she sees preventing people from sleeping is looping, worrisome thoughts. "Stress and anxiety are on the rise, and constant worry causes the nervous system to stay in a revved state, thereby making it hard for one to relax before sleep," she says. She suggests calming down the brain before bed by journaling, reading, meditation, biofeedback, or gentle yoga in addition to avoiding blue light at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
Use Progressive Meditation
Meditation can calm both your mind and body. Progressive relaxation meditation is a type of meditation where you are guided to relax each part of your body, as well as calm one's inner chatter that often feeds stress and worry and keeps us too stimulated for sleep. You'll find many wonderful free meditation apps, like Calm, in app stores.
Take A Walk
Instead of setting lofty fitness goals for the new year, Joyce Shulman, Founder of 99 Walks, suggests taking a walk—or lots of them! "Walking has incredible benefits for your mind, your mood, and your body," she points out. "It offers time and space free of distractions, fuels your creativity, and is the easiest way to improve your fitness effectively."
Cut Down Your Drinking
There are no health benefits to drinking in excess! Ralph E. Holsworth, DO, a board-certified osteopathic family physician at Southeast Colorado Hospital in Springfield, suggests making drinking in moderation a priority. To do this, he offers several tips. First, continuously hydrate. "If you drink, be sure to hydrate continuously. Drink plenty of water before starting to drink alcohol," he says. Next, slow down the rate at which you consume alcohol. Before you even start drinking, he suggests enjoying a light meal that's high in healthy fats to help slow the body's absorption of alcohol. "Fat will line your intestines, which will make it harder for the alcohol to be absorbed," points out. Lastly, skip the salt. "Stay away from sodium-heavy drinks as sodium helps your body absorb alcohol more quickly."
Take The Right Vitamins
Instead of taking lots of different vitamins, invest a little time in figuring out which are right for you. "We do not all have the same vitamin needs," points out Arielle Levitan, MD, co-founder Vous Vitamin LLC. "It's best to address your individual needs with a personalized vitamin regimen." Not only can this can help you feel your best and achieve your best health, it will enable you to efficiently target and treat many conditions agitated by vitamin deficiencies—such as thinning hair, fatigue, migraines, and muscle aches. "A great way to get exactly the vitamins you need in the proper doses is to take a vitamin survey that helps you purchase a personalized all in one vitamin," she adds.
Get On Top Of Your Gut Health
Unless you live under a rock, you are well aware that gut health has been a trending health and wellness topic for the last few years. "Gut health is so important and affects immune system health, adrenal health, endocrine health, skin, and hormones," explains Inna Lukyanovsky, PharmD, functional medicine practitioner and author of Crohn's and Colitis Fix and Digestive Reset. She claims that she often sees health issues resolve themselves after gut microbiome balancing or by taking a course of a great probiotics. "Investigate your gut health, and check how well balanced is your gut microbiome," she advises. Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition, also encourages adding prebiotics—fibers which are uniquely found in all plants, but in concentrated amounts in Jerusalem artichokes, onion, garlic, legumes, dandelion greens, green-ish bananas, leeks, asparagus, and apples—to the mix.
Avoid The 'Dirty Dozen'
An easy way to eat a little cleaner in 2020 is by studying the EWG.org's "Dirty Dozen" list and omitting the most pesticide-contaminated foods from your diet. "It's very useful," Dr. Lukyanovsky points out. "Especially if you are on a budget and can't eat all organic, you can simply avoid the foods that can be the most toxic."
Increase Your Intake Of Whole Foods
Instead of trying a new trendy diet, focus on incorporating more whole foods into your meals. "When you eat more whole foods, you improve your fiber intake and improve your system's pH, and you can even increase the intake of micronutrients which is important for all body's functions," says Dr. Lukyanovsky. Additionally, decrease your intake of processed foods. "You can improve your digestive process and even lower the chances of developing cancer since we already know that heavily processed meats are cancerogenic," she says.
Study Symptoms Of Inflammation
Inflammation can be a symptom of a variety of health conditions. Therefore, Dr. Lukyanovsky urges the importance of educating yourself about the simple signs and symptoms of inflammation to rule out silent inflammation. "Once you realize the simple signs of inflammation, you can prevent more serious and chronic problems," she explains, pointing out that early signs of inflammation can include chronic heartburn, muscle aches, chronic flatulence, and more.
Set Digital Detox Days
Take a vacation from technology—every week! "When you detox from all electronics once a week, it will create a room for better human communication and often that helps decrease symptoms of depression and create a better sense of community," Dr. Lukyanovsky says.
Amp Up Your Fiber Intake
Another easy way to improve your diet in 2020, is fueling up on more fiber—as Dr. Lukyanovsky points out that it's likely that you (and most Americans) aren't eating enough. "Fiber intake is necessary to prevent colorectal cancers," she explains, suggesting starting with 10-20 mg per day and working your way up to 30.
Take At Least One Day Off Work
With technology, many of us end up working seven days per week. However, Dr. Lukyanovsky urges the importance of taking at least one mental health day once a week. "We need to recharge to prevent burnout," she points out.
Do Regular Skin Checks
If you aren't already checking your body for irregularities regularly, start now! "Prevention is always better than treatment with health in general, and serious skin problems are often overlooked, including very dangerous melanoma," points out Dr. Lukyanovsky. Seeing a dermatologist regularly can also be life-saving.
Focus More On Your Feet
According to podiatrist Velimir Petkov, DPM, foot pain, and foot care are often overlooked. "Most people spend a lot of time each day taking care of their face, skin, hair, and teeth, but feet often end up being overlooked when it comes to daily routines," he points out. "Many tend not to realize just how important proper foot care is until they end up being in pain with every step. Devote enough time to your foot hygiene." He suggests washing your feet with warm soapy water daily, paying attention in the space between your toes. Then, dry them thoroughly. "Make sure that you wear comfortable moisture-wicking socks to prevent toenail fungus and always wear flip flops in common areas such as public pools, gym showers, parks, and hotel rooms to avoid infections such as Athlete's Foot and plantar warts," he adds.
Indulge In Pedicures
Pedicures are usually considered an unnecessary indulgence; however, Dr. Petkov points out that there are health benefits involved as well. "Getting your feet and calves massaged helps with blood circulation, and trimming your nails, when done properly, helps avoid painful ingrown toenails," he says, specifying that toenails should always be cut straight. "Gentle exfoliating helps prevent unpleasant corns and calluses."
Invest In The Right Footwear
Properly fitting and appropriately selected footwear can be a game-changer when it comes to your health. "Wear shoes that fit properly and are appropriate for the activity in which you are engaging," instructs Dr. Petkov. Additionally, avoid walking, running or exercising barefoot. "Our feet need proper cushioning and support, especially when engaging in activities that have a repetitive impact on them. Running barefoot on hard surfaces (such as concrete) puts a great amount of stress on your joints and may lead to fractures, among other issues," he explains.
Resume The Use Of Fluoride
Over recent years, as the wellness industry continues to trend towards all things natural and additive-free, Heather Kunen, DDS, MS, co-founder of Beam Street, points out that there has emerged an anti-fluoride movement that vilifies fluoride as a highly dangerous substance that should be removed from dental products. "While fluoride can be harmful if consumed in excessive amounts, it is extremely effective in keeping our teeth strong and protected against invading bacteria," she explains. "The discovery of fluoride as a substance that helps to remineralize our enamel and keep it strong is one of the most significant discoveries ever to be uncovered in dental medicine." Dr. Kunen tells her patients that they should continue to incorporate fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwash into their oral care routines to keep their teeth strong and healthy.
Dr. Kunen points out that over the past year, there has been mounting evidence against the claims that vaping is a safe alternative to smoking. "Hundreds of teens and young adults have been hospitalized from the dangerous habit, and doctors are seeing more clearly now that vaping is indeed highly dangerous," she says, pointing out that e-cigarettes have a higher nicotine concentration than cigarettes, which make them incredibly addictive. "They also contain carcinogenic chemicals like formaldehyde and acrolein, and heavy metals, which can be detrimental to our health." Even though long term studies do not yet exist for e-cigarettes and there has been a delay in our ability to understand the long term health implications of these products, she strongly discourages their use as "it is becoming more and more clear that we should cease from using them."
Moreno points out that some people like to demonize caffeine, which isn't necessarily fair. "Caffeine can be consumed safely for most — but don't adulterate your caffeinated beverage with sugars/syrups, and don't depend on caffeine instead of sleep or fitness for energy," she says. You can also choose an alternative to a coffee jolt by going with matcha, which provides more sustained/serene energy from its l-theanine combination with caffeine. She suggests trying RSP Nutrition's Matcha Bomb, a tasty and creamy matcha option, as "plain matcha can be very bitter."
Snacking doesn't have to derail your diet. Moreno suggests making sure snacks are fun and delicious, yet functional—packed with protein, good fats, and fiber—to keep you full and nourished. For example, chips alone are fun—but not functional. An orange alone is functional—but may not be fun (and doesn't have fat/protein). "Choose balanced snacks—like an RSP Nutrition WholeBar—that are hefty enough to tide you over between meals with no added sugars and 11 grams of satiating protein / 10 grams of belly-filling fiber," she says.
Clean Out Your Pantry
Start 2020 by getting rid of all your junk from 2019. "Health begins in the kitchen, not the doctor's office," says Roberto Tostado, MD, author of WTF is Wrong with Our Health? "Go through your fridge and cupboards and throw away ALL processed foods, all! This reduces temptation and refocuses your mind to eat the fresh foods that you LOVE that will heal your body."
Stop Counting Calories
Dr. Tostado suggests opting out of calorie counting. "This just means you are allowing yourself to eat limited crap every day," he says. Instead, refocus your diet to involve eating wholesome delicious foods daily, including your proteins, fruits, vegetables, good fats like avocados, organic butter, almonds, walnuts, olive oil, organic eggs, fish fats, and seeds. "Healthy fats keep you full longer and increase energy," he points out. "Organic means fewer chemicals, antibiotics, and hormones in your body so less chance of developing cancers and heart disease."
Reorganize Your Omega Intake
Not all omegas are created alike, points out Dr. Tostado. "Eat less omega-6 fats and eat a lot more omega-3 and omega-9 fats," he suggests. Fish and seafood that are high in omega-3's include salmon, cod, sardines, and herring. If you enjoy red meat, lamb is also high in the good fat, which helps lower inflammation, "the umbrella term for essentially all diseases," protects our heart and brain and can also lower cholesterol. Other significant sources include seeds like chia, flax, hemp, and pumpkin. Omega-9 fats include avocado, olive oil, walnuts, walnut oil, and avocado oil.
Omit Bad Oils
Dr. Tostado encourages removing all vegetable oils like corn oil, canola oil, cottonseed, safflower, and peanut oil, "since they are all processed and have trans-fats which cause cancer and heart disease." Included in this bunch is all margarine, since fake butter is bad for your health so eat real organic butter or ghee," he suggests.
Find a Farmers' Market
A tremendous new ritual to kick off the new year, according to Dr. Tostado, is making a weekly date at the farmer's market to pick up fresh produce. "The more you go to farmers' markets, the less you need to see the doctor!" he says.
Consult With A Nutritionist
Invest a little bit of money in your health by booking a consultation with a local nutritionist. "It can help you become familiar with the nutrients that many of us lack because of poor eating habits and start integrating whole food-based supplements to ensure your body is functioning at a higher level," Dr. Tostado explains, pointing out that medical doctors such as himself aren't trained in nutrition.
Spice Up Your Life
Instead of relying on salt and pepper to add flavor to your food, focus on livening them up with a variety of spices and herbs that you enjoy to make your meals delicious but also nutritious. "The American diet sucks when it comes to spices," Dr. Tostado points out. "Most people eat the same two to three things weekly without any nutritional value. He suggests adding ginger to soups, sea salt to your proteins for minerals, and others such as fresh chile peppers, garlic, turmeric, onion, mint, and oregano, to spice up your food and life!
Cut Out C(r)appuccinos
Dr. Tostado suggests ditching all those sugary, syrupy coffee drinks for something a little more nutritious. "No more soy milk, caramel syrup, white sugar, you get the picture," he explains. "Drink your coffee with organic butter or coconut oil for more energy and sweetness and to give you serious fuel for the morning and the rest of the day."
Add Pelvic Floor Exercises To Your Routine
Certified personal trainer Courtney Virden suggests that women start training their pelvic floor. "Whether it is with pregnancy and childbirth, age, or daily life, our pelvic floor is prone to issues that can greatly impact our quality of life," she points out. "Training your pelvic floor can reduce or eliminate pelvic floor dysfunction, improve your posture and confidence, and lead to better sex."
Punch Up Your Plant-Based Intake
Making your diet more plant-based doesn't have to involve merely eating more fruits and vegetables. Jackie Newgent, RDN, culinary nutritionist, author of The Clean & Simple Diabetes Cookbook, and spokesperson for KIND Snacks, suggests playing with your produce to promote health. "For instance, eat veggies and fruits that you already enjoy, but in one new way per pick in 2020," she explains. "If you only eat zucchini by sautéing it, then this year add a new preparation for it to your repertoire, such as eating zucchini noodles (zoodles) or pan-grilled zucchini. If you only eat apples as a snack, consider thinly slicing and adding the crisp rings to a sandwich or make slow-baked apple chips."
There is no better time to get nutty than in 2020! "There are so many potential benefits to enjoying a handful of nuts every day, including playing a protective role for the heart and reducing the risk for developing diabetes," points out Newgent. "So, nosh on one daily handful of almonds or pistachios."
"And for the chef in you, create nutty plant-based dishes at least a few times a week, like a pistachio pesto pasta, pecan 'meat' tacos, or classic green beans almondine. Actually, do all of the above, if you like!" she encourages.
Cut Out Inflammatory Foods
Nutritionist Lisa Richards, CNC, author of The Candida Diet, recommends cutting out inflammatory foods. "This may seem like an overwhelming task, but if approached in stages until health improvements are seen," she explains. "The food we eat plays a large role in placing our bodies in an inflammatory state. This chronic inflammation can lead to a host of health issues, including fatigue, poor gut health, brain fog, skin issues, and Candida overgrowth, to name a few." She suggests taking the first step by cutting out refined carbohydrates. "These are commonly found in prepackaged convenience foods, but can also be found in health foods. It is important to read the ingredients list and avoid foods that state enriched flour, even if it is wheat."
Try Walking Meditation
Improve your physical and mental health simultaneously! Fitness expert Denise Austin recommends "mindful walking" or walking meditation, where you take in nature and be present—instead of listening to music or a podcast or talking on the phone. "Walk as much as you can and incorporate a bit of this into your routine to be mindful," she explains.
Organize Your Eating
Austin also recommends being conscious of the timing of your eating. For example, don't eat too late at night if you can avoid it. She also suggests prepping meals and snacks ahead of time, "so you're not cooking or eating as late."
Stretch Every Morning
While you might not have the time to exercise in the morning, Austin encourages setting aside five minutes for a daily stretch. "By getting up and moving, it's beneficial for your mental and physical health," she points out.
Make Positive Thinking A Priority
If you want to be successful, in terms of your career, personal life, or health, you must start with your thoughts. "To lay the foundation for success, you need to first start with what you feed your mind," explains certified personal trainer Rob Killen, BS, MPA. "Positive thinking is critical for long-term and sustained success in anything you do in life." He notes that this is especially true when it comes to changing behaviors and attempting to create new habits pertaining to your health and fitness. "Programing your mind includes speaking victory to yourself in everything that you do. The body cannot go where the mind won't first go, and you must believe before you can achieve," he continues. For example, he maintains that merely saying you're going to "try" to eat healthier or "hope" to lose some weight in 2020 is already unknowingly programming your subconscious for defeat. "Instead of saying words like hope, try, or attempt, say and think on words such as will, achieve, complete and accomplish," he suggests. "This one small play on words can have a profound impact on your level of success and perseverance in reaching your health and wellness goals in 2020 and beyond. This positive programming must be a daily process to be consistent with not only reaching your goals but more importantly, maintaining your hard-earned results."
Just Breathe (Through Your Nose)
Venice, CA-based certified personal trainer Adam Friedman suggests taking a deep breath—through your nose. "Manage your stress by practicing conscious nasal breathing throughout the day and night," he says. "When you bring awareness to your breathing patterns in various stressful situations, it helps you connect to your body. In return, you can relieve unnecessary tension that could accumulate." He explains that nasal breathing helps to down-regulate your sympathetic nervous system that gets activated during times of stress.
Practice Intermittent Breathing
Friedman also encourages intermittent breathing exercises using gentle breath holds following an exhale. "Practicing a periodic series of gentle breath holds will help move you closer to a parasympathetic nervous system state. This creates a feeling of calm and relaxation, which leads to more creative and productive mental states while stabilizing your mood," he says.
Work On Improving Your Relationship
A healthy relationship can be a game-changer, points out Lisa Ballehr, DO, as they can directly impact your mental health. Working on things such as listening skills, open communication, trust, respect, commitment, thoughtfulness, and having fun together can make a huge difference
Know Your Numbers
Start the new year by taking a look at your numbers—including Body Mass Index (BMI-18.5-24.9 is ideal), blood pressure, blood cholesterol levels (Cholesterol, HDL, LDL), fasting blood sugar, waist circumference (35 inches for women; 40 inches for men)—suggests Susan Piergeorge, MS, RDN, Nutrition Education Manager for Rainbow Light vitamins. "These are important to know for your physical well-being," she explains.
Make The Mediterranean Diet Your Go-To Way Of Eating
The Mediterranean is often considered the healthiest diet on the planet. "Researchers found that people who followed the Mediterranean diet, did not smoke, consumed moderate amounts of alcohol, and exercised, had a 50% reduction in all-cause mortality," points out Cancer & Nutrition Expert Patrick Quillin, Ph.D., RD, CNS. "If this healthy lifestyle were a drug, it would be headline news around the world! No prescription required, and it's free."
Taking A Cooking Class
If you feel like your cooking skills are getting stale, Colin Zhu, DO, suggests learning some new tricks! "Taking a cooking class will enhance your skills in the kitchen, influencing your overall health," he explains.
Try A Meal Delivery Program
If you don't have the time to take a cooking class, considering joining a meal delivery program, such as HelloFresh. Not only will you save yourself trips to the grocery store, but they can help reignite your creativity in the kitchen.
Improve Your Posture
Make 2020 the year you stand up for yourself—straight! "As we age, your body is more prone to injuries, so improving your posture and spinal alignment is important to keep you active and healthy," explains Allen Conrad, BS, DC, CSCS of Montgomery County Chiropractic Center in North Wales, PA. A device like Lumo Lift, which attaches to your shirt and pings when you slouch, as been shown to help.
Again, instead of popping a pill to deal with stress, investigate some alternative treatments. Dr. Capanna-Hodge suggests biofeedback, a technology that can help you to reduce stress and enhance your sense of well being with only a few minutes of practice a day. "Biofeedback works at the conscious level, as you learn to control your heart rate, breath, body temperature, skin conductance, or muscles typically to reduce stress," she explains. The practice has been used for decades to reduce anxiety, stress, depression, pain, and insomnia, but has recently experienced a surge in popularity. She suggests starting with heart rate variability training (HRV) as it is a natural type of biofeedback technology that you can incorporate into the daily routine that teaches you to sync your heart rate and breath. "With HRV biofeedback, your nervous system calms, focus improves, tension decreases, and many report improved sleep and better mood," she says.
Practice Self-Care Daily
Self-care is different for all of us. For some people, it equates to exercise or meditation, and others, a hot bath or manicure. But whatever it is, make sure you do at least one thing a day for yourself. "It gives you time to pay attention to yourself to maintain emotional wellbeing," says Dr. Zhu.
Reflect On 2019
Piergeorge suggests reflecting on the previous year before setting health goals for the next. "Is there anything you want to change-maybe get more exercise, sleep, relaxation time, eat more consciously. If so, think about it and make a realistic plan with one goal at a time and how you are going to achieve it for the long term," she suggests. "Think big picture and what's realistic for you and your lifestyle!" And to live your happiest and healthiest life, don't miss these 70 Things You Should Never Do For Your Health.
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