Realistic healthy habits to adopt in 2019

Setting healthy resolutions for the New Year always seems like a great idea, but can be very challenging to see through. Still, research shows that small actions we take every day can have a big impact on our lifelong health, and physical and mental well being should be a priority.
Our ability to maintain health and wellness is shaped by many factors, including family circumstances and social networks, community safety and availability of affordable, nutritious food.
On the other hand, we play an important role as guide and coach for our children as they make choices about healthy living, so it’s important to be models of good behavior for them. Here are some realistic healthy habits for a good and long life.
Physical activity
Regular physical activity is essential to good health. Moving our body includes carrying out everyday activities – such as doing housework, grocery shopping or walking to work. It’s also important to schedule exercise into our weekly activities.
Starting at age 18, we should get at least 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity every week. Any activity done for 10 minutes or more counts toward the weekly total. Elderly individuals require a lesser amount of physical activity and should focus on those that improve balance and prevent falls.
Sedentary behavior (sitting or lying down for long periods of time) is bad for our health too. Sedentary behavior is different from not getting enough exercise. If we spend most of our day sitting, even if we are physically active for 30-60 minutes each day we can still be considered sedentary. Common sedentary behaviors include sitting for long periods of time at home, school or work (at the computer, reading or watching television) and long driving or commuting.
Food and nutrition
Healthy eating plays a very important role in our overall health and the health of our family. Good nutrition is not only about individual choice. What works best for us and our family depends on what we like to eat, our food budget, where we live, and our community’s food traditions.
A balanced diet, containing all the essential foods, including vegetables and fruits, fish and meat and grains is key. Generally healthy individuals may follow the Food Guide published by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute. Those with special dietary needs should follow their doctor’s advice.
If we help our children establish good eating, exercising and sleeping habits early in life, we won’t have to break bad habits later on. Let’s expose our children to a variety of flavors and pair those new sensations with positive contexts and food that they already like.
Children generally choose food that are familiar, easily available and ready to be eaten. Let’s encourage our children to eat more fruits and vegetables by making them just as convenient as sugary snacks.
Children who see their parents or caregivers buying, cooking and eating healthy food are more apt to eat healthy food themselves. Let’s avoid using food as a reward for good behavior. Making unhealthy food a reward for good deeds promotes the idea that healthy food isn’t as appealing as junk food. Limit eating out. Eating out is not only expensive, but can also be unhealthy.
Mental wellness
Mental wellness comes from feeling balanced, connected to others and ready to meet life’s challenges. Mental wellness goes hand-in-hand with physical health. When we eat well, get enough sleep and stay active, our emotional health can improve. Following healthy routines can improve our self-esteem, help mental function, and make it easier for us to deal with stress. In turn, feeling mentally well can boost our motivation to stick with healthy habits. Friends and family play an important role in our mental wellness. Maintaining supportive and caring relationships lowers stress and reduces our risk of developing a mental health and/or substance use problem.
Substance use
Many people use substances to alter the way they feel or think. They may use legal substances such as caffeine, regulated ones such as alcohol or tobacco, or illegal ones such as heroin or cocaine. All substance use carries some risk. It’s important to know how a substance can affect our health and when it may become a problem.
Any tobacco use is associated with health risks as is alcohol, except in the smallest amounts. These risks include organ damage, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, certain cancers, difficulties with brain function and injuries.
Needless to say, the use of illegal substances such as heroin, cocaine, shabu (methamphetamine) puts us at risk not only of illness but of incarceration and violent death. Let’s make sure we and our loved ones never start to use them.