We all know that to be healthy, we should eat right, exercise, get plenty of rest, and drink lots of water. Total health, though, isn’t only about being physically healthy. When thinking about your well-being, you should consider your overall health, including your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
There are many unexpected habits you can develop to create positive changes in your overall health. Here are six overlooked habits every woman should develop for her health.
Do you regularly dedicate time in your day to being grateful? Research has consistently demonstrated gratitude can have a profound and lasting impact on our health. Regular gratitude practices have been scientifically proven to help you sleep better, reduce stress hormones, lower blood pressure, improve self-esteem and even lower the risk of depression.
A gratitude practice doesn’t have to be extremely involved or take a lot of time. Try starting your day by thinking of five things you’re grateful for every morning. Or you can make a nightly gratitude list before going to bed each night. Adding gratitude to your life is a small change that can have a large impact on your well-being.Research demonstrates that gratitude can have a profound and lasting impact on our health. Click To Tweet
Most of us know what the number on the bathroom scale reads without even checking, but how well do you know the other numbers related to your health? Can you spout off your blood pressure, cholesterol or blood glucose numbers from memory? Many of us can’t, so instead we trust our medical professionals to track the information for us.
Educating yourself about your personal health information is extraordinarily important. It can help you to understand what’s normal for you, and it will give you the confidence to push your doctor to look deeper at something when you know something isn’t right.
Tracking your medical information can seem daunting, but you can use a simple online program such as My Medical to track all your records in one place. You can also access the records from anywhere, which can come in extremely handy in an emergency.
Most people recognize doing volunteer work has positive effects on your mental and emotional well-being. But did you know it can be good for your physical health too? A study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found a link between people who volunteer regularly and lowered blood pressure.
In addition to the health benefits, volunteering is a great way to meet people with similar interests and to share your expertise with people who need it. You can find volunteer opportunities in your area at VolunteerMatch.org.
As a woman, taking care of yourself is something that gets pushed to the bottom of the list of things to do. Self-care is critically important to our well-being though. As women, we often feel as though we have to give to others first and put ourselves last. But if you’ve completely worn yourself down and left no time for rejuvenation, you have nothing left to share with others anyway. By taking the time to care for yourself first, you’ll find you have even more energy and time to share with others.
Self-care rituals don’t have to be time-consuming either. By taking time throughout the day to check-in and care for yourself, you’ll be less likely to find yourself completely drained. If you’re not sure where to start with self-care, check out this list of 45 simple self-care practices to get started.
It might be easier to say yes when someone makes a request of you, but it’s not easier on your health. According to the Mayo Clinic, while it might initially feel more stressful to say no to a request, it can relieve stress in the long run. Simply because a request is a worthy one doesn’t mean you have to be the person to do it.
Consider new commitments carefully before agreeing. If you don’t feel like enthusiastically saying yes, then you’re probably better off saying no. It will give someone else the opportunity to participate and reduce the stress you feel from overcommitting yourself.
While excessive drinking can have serious health repercussions, research has consistently demonstrated drinking wine in moderation (one glass per day for women) can have positive effects in a variety of health-related areas. Moderate wine consumption, specifically red wine, has been shown to improve memory function, prevent blood clots, reduce inflammation, promote weight loss, reduce the risk of cancer, improve bone mass and reduce blood sugar problems, among many others.
You should still pay attention to the activities traditionally associated with good health, such as eating right and exercising. As you can see from this list, though, there are also a lot of nontraditional ways to improve your health and overall well-being.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock, provided by LaToya
Action: Subscribe to our blog. Read the posts with a glass of wine. Do it for your health.
Bio: LaToya has been involved in the fitness and health world for more than 25 years. An author and researcher, she has written extensively on topics ranging from alternative medicines to cutting-edge fitness programs. She now writes for eHealth Informer. LaToya has a passion for self-improvement and wants to make sure you have the tools and confidence you need to reach your goals, no matter your age or ability.
Need more support to embed healthy habits? These posts may help:
Just to be clear, in this case, “we” was NOT my sister and I (see the part just there that mentions romance). Last year my sis and I went to the spa for Bike Week, so you can go for the active adventures, or wind down with spa treatments. Or both. This time I went for relaxation and spa treatments (you don’t have to be a guest to take advantage of the spa services, FYI).
For Pixie Month, my particular friend and I showed up in time for dinner, which included a Pixie mousse for dessert. Yes, you CAN get dessert at a fitness spa. Our goal was to relax after a busy week, so we took a short stroll after dinner, then sat in the hot tub contemplating our good luck at having it all to ourselves.April is Pixie tangerine month at the Oaks at Ojai. Ready for your visit? Click To TweetAfter breakfast, which included as many Pixies as we could fit in our pockets, we drove to the Ojai Meadows Preserve for a hand-in-hand stroll, where we saw several hundred teeny tiny frogs. We were tempted by both the morning hike and the aqua class at the spa (I have done both in the past, and loved them), but we were focused on our “together” time, so chose solo activities instead.
By the time we got back to The Oaks at Ojai, it was time for our spa treatments. In my case, that meant a pixie pedicure. Yup, it included a foot and leg scrub infused with tangerines, plus a fresh tangerine squeezed into the foot soak water. I almost chose tangerine as my nail polish color, then decided to go with a merlot color. I’m sure both sound delicious. My friend had a massage, which I was surprised to learn was the first he’d ever had in his life. How is it possible that he made it into his fifties without ever having a massage? In any case, he loved it, including the hot stones, and now he knows what he’s been missing.
ABC Channel 7 did a piece about Pixie month and the Oaks at Ojai, which we recommend you watch. The spa is only 45 minutes away from Santa Barbara, and includes a scenic drive past Lake Casitas. If you’re coming from L.A., it’s only an hour’s drive.
My little extra piece of advice? You can go for a girls’ getaway (some friends did that a week before our visit), or with a male partner. Some people think the Oaks at Ojai is just for women, but that’s not the case at all. There were a number of men there (though mine was the handsomest). And if you want to laugh, ask for Rachel at the front desk. She’s a hoot.
Alexandra Williams, MA
This is not a sponsored post, though I was a special guest at the spa for the night.
Turns out that fear of falling starts to haunt us as we hit middle age. Either directly or out of concern for our aging parents, we start seeing more risk of hitting the ground and adjust our lives accordingly. Unfortunately “adjust” usually means shrink our world. We baby boomers (and our parents) stop doing things we once enjoyed as we fear injury. Have you discontinued an activity you once considered fun and now look at as risky? Then it’s time for some Fall Prevention.
Kymberly: In our family, we no longer snowboard after my husband’s fall led to shoulder surgery and my spill hurt my back.
Alexandra: I haven’t exactly fallen, but I did a major wipeout playing soccer back in 1998. After a number of knee surgeries, I no longer play soccer.
Fortunately we baby boomers can take action to prevent falls and bolster our balance so we age as actively and confidently as possible. Let’s arm (and leg) ourselves with a few insights. Plus take a look at Stability, Balance, and Age once you’re done reading this post.Worried about falling? Increase core strength and apply any of 3 key strategies Click To Tweet
Kymberly: When Alexandra and I attended and spoke at an IDEA Personal Training Institute conference, one of my favorite presentations (besides our own, of course!) was “Improving Balance and Mobility Skills.” This 6-hour session was offered by Karen Schlieter, MBA, MS whose expertise is in gerokinesiology, a new and specialized area of study that focuses on physical activity and aging. Some of her key points included the following:
One: Did you know that one-third of older adults fall each year? Women tend to break their forearms and wrists; men tend to hit their heads and suffer traumatic brain injury. Hold it right there! That is not the future we baby boomers envision, is it?!
We need to work on our balance by controlling our center of mass, also known as our core. The stronger and more respondent our core is, the more we are able to shift our center of gravity safely, quickly, and comfortably. Midlife and older is no time to ignore the core as part of fall prevention! So the first order of business is to strengthen our core.
Alexandra: Take advantage of the core exercises we present in our Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50. Below are two selections from that collection. Give them a whirl. Then consider getting all the videos and content.
Rotating Abs/ Core Move Video
Two: When something unexpected threatens to up-end us, we try to maintain balance using several strategies. In order of use, they are:
Ankle strategy: the first place to adjust in order to stay upright is at the ankle joint. Most people send their spine or shoulders into tilt and end up on the ground as a result. Start implementing a small amount of sway or bend at the ankle as a postural, or balance strategy. For example, if you are out walking your energetic dog, who then bangs into your legs at full run, bend at the ankle and knees, not the spine, to protect yourself from going down.
Before getting to the next two strategies, find out how good your balance is via this post:
Hip strategy: the bigger muscles around our pelvis help keep our center of gravity actually centered. If an ankle bend is not enough to keep us from a fall, we depend on the larger muscles that surround our hips. Again, keep the spine long and strength train the hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, hip extensors, and abs so they can support with extra oomph when balance surprises come along.
Step out strategy: The final strategy to kick into fall-prevention gear is to step forward, backward, or laterally. If you’ve ever done the panic shuffle when tripped, you know exactly what we’re talking about. Taking a quick salvation step or many depends on our senses, overall strength, and ability to scale our movement to our environment. While we can’t do much to train our eyesight or hearing, for instance, we can be proactive on the latter two functions.
Three: The last big insight we want to share from Karen’s session is that we lose power ahead of strength. For reducing falls, we have to have power. To get back up quickly after a fall we need power. Yes, resistance training is important (twice a week seems to be the sweet spot between reaping benefits and being time/ life/ schedule efficient). However, power training tends to go by the wayside once we say good-bye to our 40s.
A quick definition of the difference between power and strength is that power has a speed and often an explosive element to it. Strength training is generally slow and controlled applied force. Bottom line — add some kind of jump to your life. Jump rope, perform squat jumps, do switch lunges, work in a few box jump ups.
Alexandra: I’ll add a few final comments. Fear of falling can actually contribute to a fall. Even if you haven’t fallen in the past, if you have a fear of falling, you are at more risk. As well, if you find yourself shuffling, you’ll want to work on lengthening your stride and picking up your feet, as a shuffling gait can lead to instability and decreased mobility.
Action: Do check out our Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50 if you want to become more fall proof.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Even for us, we find it a challenge to pull ourselves away from the computers blogging about living actively as boomers. Fitness irony, right? There’s always one more email to answer or that quick post to enter. Next thing you know — wham! Sitting on the Dock of the Butt for hours on literal End!
Can you handle reading about leaking fat cells? Then read to the end. Ewwwwww.
If your challenge is finding exercise time with all the sedentary work you are laboring under, ponder this: If you are not reaching your goals, it boils down to only two reasons – either not enough Motivation or Education. Motivation you have to get from yourself; Education is coming at you live in the next paragraph without further commercial interruption (unlike the sitting interruption we are aiming for. Oops that was a break right there).
Your preadipocyte cells (pre-fat cells waiting in the wings) turn into full-fledged fat cells faster and in greater number when the body is “actively inactive.” That means you are working at being sedentary for hours at a stretch. Existing fat cells reload with more fat as well. Insert loud horror movie scream here!
When muscles — such as glutes, in this case — are in a stretched position for an extended time, the cells in those muscles “leak” and “drip” lipids. Yes, that’s another word for “fat.” The weight of the body increases lipid production via a process called “mechanical stretch loading.” For those who like the science behind growing behinds, read these two articles on sitting causing fat gain. Brace yourself for the educational story about fat cells lurking and invading our muscles as we innocently plunk our hinies in one spot too long. Believe me, you will be motivated to sit less after reading the research results.
ACTION: Are you sitting as you read this? We thought so. Time to stand up and subscribe so you can enjoy moving more, sitting less, and aging actively. Enter your email in any of the subscription boxes; claim your bonus while you’re at it.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA