5 Healthy Habits for Better Physical Health

The Fresh Perspective Podcast - Episode 3

How’s it going everyone? I’m Nick and you are listening to the Fresh Perspective Podcast.

This episode is the first in series we call: “50 Habits For Maximizing Personal Health and Wellbeing.” In this series, we will get to the bottom of what experts actually recommend when it comes to those small-yet-impactful health choices we make, day to day. This advice will be for the average person, so those who want to become athletes or have serious health conditions will need to adjust their application of this list accordingly. Today, we will discuss the first five habits you can adopt for better physical health.

This program is brought to you by the members of the Free Thought Initiative.

We help those in need of an inclusive, supportive, and free-thinking community by hosting public discussions on moral philosophy, healthy living, and science, to improve the cohesion, health, and scientific literacy of our society.

Everyone is welcome, (regardless of personal religious belief, political leanings, etc.) to participate (in-person) in these open and civil discussions.

To find a Free Thought Forum meeting near you, to start your own local group, or to become a member and support this program through monthly donations – please visit freethoughtforum.org

Why not start off with an introduction to the 50-Healthy-Habits program itself?

Whether your goal is to become a better person, improve the world, or do something in between, a sound first step is to get your own personal health in order. Adopting healthy habits to improve your own personal wellbeing not only helps you avoid several forms of pain and suffering in the short term and in the long term, but it also frees you up to be a force for good in the lives of others.

The real question is, where do we begin?

We live in an age flooded with both good and bad advice. Sometimes, online health advice is sound, but it is not targeted toward the average person. Whether this advice comes from social media shares, self-appointed health gurus (peddling their own so-called “remedies,” to the gullible), or even articles with reputable sources, it is no wonder that the average person can feel a bit disoriented and overwhelmed. When considering the various health issues that plague our society, how can we afford this much confusion? How can someone sort the good advice from the bad?

“Healthy Living” is one of the key values held and promoted by the Free Thought Initiative. It is a topic that deserves serious consideration, given that it addresses three of the six social issues each Free Thought Forum exists to combat: “Isolation & Depression,” “Misinformation & Anti-Intellectualism,” and “Overindulgence & Addiction.” To this end, the “50 Healthy Habits Program” was first launched in April of 2019. The objective of this program is to list simple and universally applicable personal habits that have been tested and supported by scientific evidence. These habits will be made available on our website (freethoughtforum.org) one section at a time and will be regularly updated as new and better information is brought to the attention of our executive board.

As this program is developed, your feedback, suggestions, and links to relevant research articles all play an indispensable role. Thank you for your consideration of the following, and for your participation in this ambitious undertaking!

If you would like an updated version of this list, or to dig even deeper into our referenced sources to the studies and articles on which this advice is based, visit: freethoughtforum.org/blog/50-habits

And now, onto the first five habits!

1. GET ABOUT 8 FULL HOURS OF SLEEP EACH NIGHT

Eight hours of sleep each night is what is generally recommended for adults. However, everyone has slightly different needs depending on one’s age, body size, activity levels, diet, and so forth. Therefore, it is important to remember that your mind and body requires a certain amount of sleep, an amount that must be met regularly. Getting enough sleep has been shown to improve (among other things) one’s immune system, brain function, memory, mood, eating habits, and overall life expectancy. In fact, losing just a half hour of what is personally needed on a regular basis can have dramatic consequences. For those struggling to regularly get a full night’s sleep, here are a few suggestions that may help:

  • Leave a fan on in your bedroom while you sleep. (This can promote air flow, cool the body, and produce calming white noise.)

  • Ensure that all light sources are turned-off or covered.

  • Refrain from looking at a phone, computer, or other bright screens before sleeping.

  • Deeply stretch your muscles before climbing into bed.

  • Set and strive to keep a regular sleeping schedule.

  • Engage in meditative exercises in bed, such as counting your breaths.

  • Allow your body about four hours to digest your last meal before sleeping.

  • Make a to-do list of things to think about in the morning, allowing yourself to relax afterward.

  • Ensure that your blankets, pillowcases, and sheets are laundered on at least a weekly basis.

  • Consider bathing at the end of the day and allow time for your hair to dry before retiring for the night.

  • Consider increasing your physical activity and/or reducing caloric intake in order to prevent surplus energy at the end of the day.

2. DRINK ONE GLASS OF CLEAR WATER WITH EVERY MEAL

To maintain healthy body function, the average adult needs to drink a minimum of about 6 cups of clear water directly, in addition to the water gained through food consumption. Recent studies suggest that a large portion of our population may be chronically dehydrated. To combat this, it is recommended that every adult should consume at least two cups (one glass) of plain drinking water three times a day. For those who drink coffee or alcohol, engage in vigorous physical activity, are exposed to sunlight, or are affected by other similar factors, increased water consumption is essential. In addition, replacing sweet drinks, sodas, juices, and other beverages with clear, clean, and unflavored drinking water has been proven to make a significant difference in overall caloric consumption. Therefore, filling one’s stomach in part with water (in place of other drinks) can be a powerful tool in fighting obesity.

3. FILL ½ OF EACH MEAL WITH A VARIETY OF VEGETABLES

Vegetables are some of the most nutrient-dense low-calorie foods we consume. In addition to the dietary fiber they provide (critical for our indispensable gut bacteria), vegetables have also been shown to reduce the risk for heart disease, stroke, and even several types of cancer! When replacing more energy-dense foods, vegetables can also positively influence healthy body weight. (In part, this is because we often feel “full” or satiated based upon the volume in our stomachs, rather than the energy levels of our food.)

Despite all this, less than 14% of Americans include the recommended amount of vegetables in their diet! Federal Recommended vegetable consumption is about four cups per day, which can easily fill half of the volume of three average adult-sized meals. In fact, the National Institute of Health flat out recommends that “Half of your plate should contain green vegetables.”

Given these governmental recommendations, the various nutrient benefits from vegetables, and their capacity to help us feel “full,” the Free Thought Initiative encourages all members to scale their meals according to their needs while also ensuring that 50% of their meals’ food consists of a variety of vegetables, especially raw vegetables, allium vegetables, carrots, green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and tomatoes.

4. AVOID FOODS WITH ADDED SALT, SUGAR, AND/OR FAT

Four of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States are associated with diets that are too high in sodium, calories, cholesterol, fat, and saturated fat. Eating these types of foods can lead to coronary heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, osteoporosis and a number of other disorders and conditions. As a general rule, the less-processed a food is, the better. This is not to say that raw food is preferable to food with minimal cleaning and processing. Rather, it is important to remember that heavily processed foods tend to lose much of their nutrients and are often packaged with added salt, sugar, and/or fat. Therefore, it is recommended that one’s diet consists largely of minimally-processed foods, while the consumption of foods high in salt, sugar, and/or fat content is dramatically reduced or completely avoided.

5. VIGOROUSLY EXERCISE FOR AT LEAST 30 MIN. DAILY

Studies have shown that even a few minutes of exercise a day yield intense health benefits in men, women, children, and even in those with a high risk of cardiovascular disease. Those who engage in vigorous leisure-time exercise (such as jogging, weight-lifting, or playing high-intensity sports) for at least 30 minutes, six days a week, (or at least 180 minutes of total exercise a week) have been shown to have an 18% reduced risk of all-cause mortality and had a 3 year longer life expectancy than those who do not engage in any such exercise. Despite the clear health advantages to regular intense physical activity, less than 10% of Americans meet the minimum recommended amount of exercise.

The recommended 30 minutes a day does not include any warm-up, stretching, or cool-down time. Such additional activity is conventionally recommended, however scientific studies on the short-term benefits of warm-ups and cool-downs are inconclusive.

That is all I have for you today, but the conversation continues across social media and in the comment sections below. Do you agree with today’s message? Am I mistaken about some detail? How can I better elaborate on this topic in the future? Feel free to share your perspective!

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Written By Nicholas Burk, Executive Board Member © 2019 Free Thought Initiative

Free Thought Forum