After Cancer articles address topics for those in survivorship. This month, dietitian Mindy Athas shares ways to get healthy in 2021.
Now that we can kiss 2020 goodbye, it’s time to focus on the future and that means getting healthy in the new year. Protecting your health means doing four things; think of it as a quad plan:
1. Get enough rest. Both quantity and quality of sleep can impact health. Most adults need seven to nine hours of shut-eye each night, preferably in a cool, dark room. Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or frequent waking can interfere with deep restful sleep cycles. Teeth grinding and snoring may be signs of sleep apnea, so for any of these issues consider a sleep study or discuss with your provider.
2. Learn to manage stress. Things happen out of our control, but take a deep breath and tell yourself this too shall pass. Regaining a sense of control reduces the stress response and that’s enough to lower cortisol and improve immune function. It’s not the stressor but your response to it, so take a minute to relax and practice a positive attitude, even if you have to fake it.
3. Eat more plants. Scientific data consistently links fruit, vegetable, nut, seed, bean and high-fiber whole grain intake with health and longevity. Adults should aim for a combined five cups daily of fruits and veggies. Add beans, lentils and peas one to two times per week, a handful each day of nuts, seeds or their butters, and grains with at least three grams (g) of fiber per serving. Check the Nutrition Facts panel on food packages for fiber.
4. Move your body. Modern society and quarantining increases sedentary time. Humans are designed to move; just watch a toddler for an hour. Rest means rust, so set an alarm to get up and stretch every 30 to 60 minutes. Try two yoga moves each day, play some music and dance, or bundle up and walk outside for 10 minutes.
Do some indoor activities like going up and down the steps for 10 minutes, a few jumping jacks or wall push ups. It doesn’t matter what, just do something. Adults should aim for 30 minutes of cardio exercise on most days and resistance training two times per week. Try walking the dog and then some chair or desk exercises that work muscles in a repetitive way. Do a sofa ab workout while watching TV and then running between rooms during commercials. Pilates or barre stretches followed by a walk at the mall.
At the grocery store, go up and down each aisle a few times, then race your shopping cart to the car. Little bursts of fast-paced movements are good for the body. Fidget more, tap your toes, swing your legs and reach those arms up and out. Exercise in any form improves muscle tone, bone strength and heart-lung function. Movement is life, so get motivated and just do it!
Here are some activity links to get moving at home. Make 2021 the year you get healthy and fit. Cheers!
Exercise Links and Resources
Mindy Athas, R.D.N., C.S.O., L.D.N., is the outpatient dietitian nutritionist at the William E. Kahlert Regional Cancer Center.