According to the Journal of American Medicine, more than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese.
This alone should be an indicator that we need to invest more in our health yet so many of us ignore this. We continue eating fast food, drinking sugary sodas, not sleeping enough, smoking cigarettes and drinking excessively.
This goes beyond just obesity though. Just because you’re not obese does not mean that you are taking care of your body properly.
I believe there are 10 key areas that we should all be investing in our health. Any one of these topics could have an entire article on but are limited to a basic overview for each. Some are obvious such as not smoking but there are others that may hopefully provide additional motivation or insight.
Quality Sleep is King
I did not just say that “sleep is king” but was specific that quality sleep is what we all need.
It goes beyond just getting 8-9 hours of sleep per night, though that would be a great start.
It includes ensuring that you are getting enough REM sleep so that your body heals itself.
There are a number of ways that you can start hacking your sleep that I have detailed before.
You shouldn’t aim to focus on tackling all of the ways to improve your quality of sleep. Try one or two options and give those a try for a couple of weeks.
Understand Hydration vs Consuming Water
Drinking enough water daily is a great start but understanding how your body uses that water so that you stay properly hydrated is better.
A simple change is to switch to drinking mineral water. That small change could be enough to ensure that your body uses that water properly.
If you’re an athlete, forget everything you have ever heard about needing to drink 1-2 gallons of water per day. Your body can’t process that much water on a daily basis.
So how much water should you be drinking? Newer research suggests that men should drink approximately 3 liters (roughly 12-13 8oz glasses) and women should drink approximately 2 liters (roughly 8-9 8oz glasses).
Get Educated on Vitamins
There is a big difference between a generic multi-vitamin versus high quality individual vitamins. I cringe whenever I see a commercial for a cheap daily multi-vitamin. So many people I know take a cheap multi-vitamin.
Get educated about vitamins instead of blindly taking a multi-vitamin to check the box.
Dave Asprey of The Bulletproof Executive provides deeper insight into why you should throw away your multi-vitamin and focus on taking individual vitamins.
Buy a Standing Desk or Use an Exercise Ball
We spend most of our time sitting down whether that is during the work day or at night while watching TV.
We know that it is killing us slowly and accounts for low back pain, headaches and other aches yet we do not spend a few hundred dollars to buy a stand-up desk.
When you do purchase a standing desk, don’t try standing all day at first. Your body won’t be able to handle it. Instead, slowly work your way up starting with standing for 15 minutes followed by sitting for 30 minutes.
Even if you can’t afford a standing desk, try sitting on an exercise ball instead of in an office chair. Sitting on an exercise ball will engage your smaller stabilizer muscles and help to force good posture.
Don’t be surprised if you’re sore for several days after using either a standing desk or exercise ball.
Maintain Proper Posture
Some of this is fixed with buying a standing desk or sitting on an exercise ball but not all of it.
I bet as you are reading this your back is rolled or your legs are crossed or you are looking down at your laptop screen. All of this is terrible for your body yet we unconsciously do it all throughout our days.
I highly recommend buying Becoming a Supple Leopard and watching the videos available atMobilityWOD.com to understand simple tricks to fixing posture. In fact, consume any content by or featuringKelly Starrett to understand more about posture, mobility and movement.
Do Not Drink Excessively or Smoke Cigarettes
This should go without saying however, according to the CDC excessively drinking was responsible for 10% of all deaths among working-age adults aged 20-64 in the U.S. Furthermore, the CDC estimates that 18.1% of all U.S. adults smoke cigarettes and 20% of all deaths are from cigarette smoking.
Enjoy a couple glasses of wine with dinner or a couple of beers while watching the game but that’s it. There is no need to consume enough alcohol that it leaves you hungover the next day. We’re not in college anymore.
There is no health benefit to smoking. We have known about the health issues associated with smoking for a long time now. It is a choice to pick up a cigarette for the first time. If you’re a smoker, take the steps to quit smoking for good. It’s not an easy road to break the addiction but is something that can be done.
The rise of Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and other healthy grocery stores have helped us become more informed about the food that we are buying but we need to go further.
We need to starting eating better.
Do research into the different types of diets that exist and pick the best one for your goals.
It does not matter if it is gluten-free, paleo, low-carb, slow carb, juicing or another type of diet.
Become educated and stick to eating well.
Even though I have some preferences into what “eating well” means, everyone has different goals when it comes to their health, fitness and diet.
One thing you must avoid is not eating well because the food is gluten-free or fits within your micros. That is a recipe for disaster. As an example, if you are gluten-free you can and should search for gluten-free pizza when you order. That does not, however, give you a free pass to order pizza whenever you want just because it is gluten-free.
Put Down the Fast Food and Sugary Beverages
There are 50 million Americans who eat fast food on a daily basis with a third of them consuming fast food more than two times per week.
Even if you do need to eat fast food due to a busy schedule, order something healthy off of the menu. Fast food restaurants have increasingly started to add healthy items to their menus.
According to KickTheCan.com, “sugar sweetened beverages are the single largest source of added sugars in the American diet, 3 with the average American drinking nearly 42 gallons of sweetened beverages a year, the equivalent of 39 pounds of extra sugar every year.”
Opt for water instead of sugar sweetened beverages. If you’re not a fan of plain water, try squeezing a slice of lemon or lime into it.
I have purposely chosen exercise as one of the final ways to invest in your health. Why? Because too many people focus on exercise when it comes to becoming healthier.
Properly exercising is one of the best things you can do for your health but it is not the only thing.
Exercising can also be among the most intimidating especially if you’re overweight.
It doesn’t need to be, though. Collectively we need to break this fear of how others see us. We also need to stop judging others.
Whenever I see someone who is overweight at the gym I am happy that they’re trying to change their lives.
It doesn’t matter if you start out just going one day per week – it is better than what you were doing before you made that commitment.
Try out a number of different exercises to find something that you enjoy and that fits with your schedule. Pilates might be great for you. Or maybe Crossfit pushes you. It could be that yoga is a way that you choose to stay healthy. It could be as simple as running around your neighborhood. The point being that there are so many different ways to workout today beyond the typical lifting weights or cardio machines.
Focus on Proper Form When Exercising
Exercising is great but not if you get injured.
Focus on proper form when exercising, not just throwing around weight or hopping on a cardio machine.
Understand how to properly stretch. Do not just twist your neck side to side or lazily reach for your toes to stretch. It is a recipe for injury.
How you properly stretch will depend on what type of exercise you’re doing. But it is critical that you take time to stretch before and after your workout.
There are dozens of other ways that we can continue investing in our health. These are only a few of the most important ways that we can become healthier. Many of them are so simple as to almost be laughable yet so many of us continue to make these mistakes on a daily basis.
Take the time to invest in yourself. We all have a limited time. While you may not be passionate about exercising or eating healthy does not absolve you from investing in your health. We all have to do things that we are not passionate about.
Beyond just exercising and eating healthy there are several other ways that you can invest in yourself as listed above.