I just read that September is “Self-Improvement” Month! Who knew? But I thought it was a good theme for this time of year. It may have been a lazy summer of what might have been slightly poor eating choices. I know most of us over-indulge at least a little bit over the summer with BBQs and their accompanying sauces, picnics, family gatherings, and so many other food temptations. I know it can be tough eating healthy while traveling, as well, if you aren't sure what to look for.
As you and your family get back into a different schedule, which may include a renewed focus on learning, I thought it was time for us to do a little self-assessment on our health – and our healthy habits – as well.
So let’s talk about 3 easy “self-improvements” you can make for your health habits this month
- Keep moving!
- Keep catching the rays, and
- Know your blood sugar – and then do something about it, if you need to
Focus on these 3 things this month, and you will improve your ongoing health.
I know that in many neighborhoods, once September comes along, the streets and parks become empty. The kids are back in school, vacations are history, and with cooler weather changes, some people start to stay indoors more frequently.
Back at work after having had a summer vacation, we’re all sitting for many hours in our dreary offices. This is bad for a variety of reasons.
Research shows that sitting for long periods of time is unhealthy.
It has been linked with high blood sugar and increased blood pressure. It can cause the dreaded excess body fat around the belly. Prolonged sitting can also increase the risk for metabolic syndrome, even obesity. Studies have even shown that excessive sitting increases the risk of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease! In fact, sitting in front of a computer for four hours has the same effect as smoking a pack of cigarettes!
Intentionally incorporate more movement in your day.
You can invest in a standing desk, or even make one of your own. You can hold meetings while walking outside, which happens to be a personal favorite of mine. I also use a timer system. The way it works is you set a timer to go off every hour. When your timer goes off, do a minute of burst exercise. Just a minute of your time, yet it is so healthy for you, with the added bonus that it will make you feel more energized as well! Use the first 15 seconds for warm up, then go 30-40 seconds in full out intensity. End it with a cool down period of 10-15 seconds.
Burst training has huge positive effects on your health.
If you aren’t familiar with burst exercise, check out my earlier article on how to do burst training. It has definitely become my favorite way to exercise. Research has shown it is incredibly effective at regulating your blood sugar and insulin levels. It also stimulates growth hormone, which is important for healthy cell reproduction and regeneration. Burst training also stimulates your body to build muscle and burn fat!
While you are moving, don’t forget to keep the FUN in your day.
For those with Fitbits and other tracking devices, incorporate challenges into your week. It is really fun and motivating to get in those extra competitive steps! Walk the dog yourself rather than having your child do it. Or, better yet – go together! Incorporating fun into everyday tasks will likely create many great “connecting” opportunities, either with others, your pets, or with nature! Here is an earlier blog post on FUN Are you incorporating fun into your day?
Keep catching the rays.
As the weather starts to change and thoughts of summer vacations fade, we humans tend to spend more time indoors. That can be a problem for several reasons. First, we’re not getting our Vitamin D! Second, we need sunlight to hit our retinas each morning. It helps set and maintain our body’s circadian clock, which in turn helps us get a good night’s sleep. This is very important for our overall health – and mood!
Vitamin D – get out in the sun at least 20-30 minutes a day!
Even in the summer, many of us are deficient in Vitamin D. That is partly due to all the sunscreen and protective clothing people now wear.
Vitamin D is important for your bone health, plus it also promotes calcium absorption. Without enough Vitamin D, your bones can become brittle, thin, and even misshapen. It also helps control cell growth, immune function, and neuromuscular activities. There are many genes controlled by Vitamin D that also regulate cell growth, cell differentiation, and cell death! Read more about the importance of Vitamin D, whether you are getting enough, and how to increase your intake of this important vitamin.
You should also consider getting tested for your vitamin D levels. The 25, hydroxyl vitamin D test is an inexpensive and common test that you can ask your doctor to do. Based on the results, you might want to consider supplementation. Many of my patients end up needing to take a good liquid vitamin D supplement because of deficiencies.
Let the light hit your retinas in the morning to help your circadian rhythm. You’ll sleep better!
A third of you – including me – sleep less than 6 hours a night, even though that is not optimal for our health. Part of your sleeping issues can be due to the circadian clock. Your internal biological clock needs to be set each day, and one of the best ways to do this is to go outside and just look towards the sunlight for 15 minutes or so, even if it is cloudy. The UV light hits your optic nerve, which then tells your brain’s hypothalamus it is “awake” time. Read more about how your body’s circadian clock impacts belly fat, energy levels, and risk for disease, along with what you can do about it.
Implement a few of the linked article’s strategies, and you will see ways you can help your body improve its immunity, detoxification, fat burning, and more!
Know your blood sugar!
I’m ending this blog article with one of the most important things you can do this month!
Get a handle on your blood sugar.
Blood sugar is the root cause of many health symptoms and diseases. It is likely that about 50% of you out there have an issue with your blood sugar. Many of you don’t even know that there might be a problem, and won’t know it until you experience greater – and very life-impacting – health issues, such as insulin resistance or diabetes.
The best “self-improvement” task for you to do today is to go out and purchase a glucose meter if you don’t already have one. You can get this for under $15 at almost any pharmacy or drug store. Check to see what the prices are for the replacement test strips for each model, as that cost can add up. Buy it and start using it.
Check out this information as to how to chart your baseline and what results to look for.
Having this baseline information is incredibly empowering. You can start to really understand what impacts your blood sugar. Learn what foods cause your blood sugar to increase it to over 110, then see what happens as you remove these foods from your diet. You will also see how a bad night’s sleep can cause a spike. Stress is often a huge impact to blood sugar, so if that is what you suspect to be true from tracking your readings, consider the steps you can take to do something about it.
Learn to de-stress
I recommend HeartMath™ as a starting point. I became a certified HeartMath coach years ago, and I still find it a wonderful way to de-stress. It has been clinically shown to reduce blood pressure, balance neurotransmitters, improve learning, along with many other great health benefits. I know I have also shared many times about how stress is a pivotal piece to a good digestive system. Plus, positivity is contagious!
Make a few “self-improvements” to your health habits!
Don’t just SIT there (pun intended) for a month. Sit back and evaluate how you feel about yourself, then get up and get moving! Don’t beat yourself up if you haven't done it in the past. Let it go and move forward with your life. Catch some rays and test your blood sugar. You may be quite surprised at how good it will make you feel! Be grateful for knowing all this. Gratitude is one of the best remedies for improving your health, mentality, and attitude toward yourself and those around you.