The Complete Guide to Ways of Keeping Yourself Healthy
You wake up feeling like a zombie and drag yourself to work in a train packed full with people. You regret staying up late to re-watch your favourite drama as you chow down your ham sandwich and wash it down with your first cup of kopi of the day. You sit at your desk all-day unless it’s lunchtime or when you heed the call of nature. After work, you head to the hawker centre for your favourite char kway teow.
If this is how you spend your usual day, it might be time to work on some changes because no matter how hectic and stressful lifestyles we Singaporeans lead, the adage health is wealth never gets old. If the question “what can I do to keep myself healthy?” is on your mind, consider these seven ways to ensure your body’s health and fitness.
1. Have adequate sleep
Having adequate sleep is one of the most difficult things to achieve in our stressful society, but the importance of having sufficient rest can never be overstated.
For adults, the recommended number of hours is seven to nine hours. However, it’s not just the quantity, but the quality of sleep crucial for optimal functioning. Here’s how to keep yourself healthy with better sleep:
- Mind your diet: Avoid heavy or large meals, caffeine, and nicotine a few hours before bedtime. Alcoholic drinks before bed may disrupt your sleep patterns and lead to unrestful sleep.
- Manage stress: Incorporate stress reduction techniques into your daily routine. Meditation, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness can decrease the cortisol levels in your body, making it easier to fall asleep.
- Establish a routine: Try to go to bed and wake up simultaneously every day, even on weekends. This can help regulate your body's internal clock and help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
- Create a restful environment: Make your sleep environment ideal for rest. This often means a cool, dark, and quiet space. Consider using room-darkening shades, earplugs, or a white noise app or machine to create an environment that suits your needs.
- Wind down: Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. Keep away from electronic devices as the blue light emitted can interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
However, suppose you still have trouble sleeping or getting rested. In that case, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional who can provide guidance and, if necessary, explore treatment options for sleep disorders or other underlying conditions.
2. Exercise more
For many, exercise often takes a backseat due to the constraints of a 9-5 job. Yet, physical activity is a crucial component of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It's not just about enhancing physical fitness; it's about uplifting your mental well-being. Exercise can significantly improve your mood, combat health conditions and diseases, and improve sleep quality.
So, how do you keep your body healthy with regular exercise amidst a hectic schedule? Start with simple, achievable goals:
- Walk more: Aim for a brisk 20 to 30-minute walk at least thrice weekly. Consider walking during your lunch break or taking a stroll after dinner.
- Use what you have: Engage in body-weight exercises, like squats, push-ups, and lunges, in the comfort of your home.
- Make it social: Involve friends or family in your exercise routine. Whether it's a weekend hike or a casual bike ride, integrating a social aspect can make exercising more enjoyable.
- Mix it up: Keep your routine exciting by trying different activities like swimming, yoga, or dance classes.
- Schedule it: Treat your exercise time like any other important appointment. Schedule specific times throughout the week and make them non-negotiable.
To ensure you’re getting the right amount of activity, check out our guide on how much exercise to do per day to learn more.
3. Avoid smoking
When considering ways of keeping yourself healthy, one of the most impactful choices you can make for your health is to avoid smoking. Tobacco smoke is incredibly harmful to your body, containing over 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic and can cause cancer. Here's how steering clear of smoking can lead to a healthier, more fulfilling life:
- Enhanced cardiovascular health: Smoking is a leading cause of coronary heart disease. By avoiding tobacco, you're reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
- Improved lung capacity: Smoking can severely impair lung function. By choosing not to smoke, you allow your lungs to heal and operate more efficiently, reducing the likelihood of coughing, shortness of breath, and severe lung conditions, including lung cancer and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
- Stronger physical well-being: Smoking undermines your body’s ability to transport oxygen, essential for physical endurance and strength. Non-smokers benefit from better oxygen circulation, significantly enhancing stamina and performance in physical activities.
- Protection for loved ones: Secondhand smoke is no joke and can be just as detrimental to the people around you. By not smoking, you are safeguarding your family and friends from the perils of secondhand smoke, contributing to their health and wellness.
If you're currently a smoker, it's never too late to quit. Several resources are available for those seeking to quit smoking, including the Health Promotion Board’s Quit Smoking helpline at 1-800-438-2000. Using pharmacological aids like nicotine replacement therapy, which is available in patches, gum, or lozenges, can also support your journey.
4. Cut down processed foods
Processed foods are convenient, but they usually pack a whole punch of badness. High in sodium, sugar, nitrates, refined carbohydrates, artificial ingredients, the list goes on. Too much processed foods could result in fibre and magnesium deficiency. Instead of ham sandwiches or sausages for breakfast, you can try healthier options prepared the night before such as overnight oats. If overnight oats are not your thing, you can explore other healthy breakfast ideas like avocado toast with egg or berry and yoghurt smoothie for those busy mornings.
5. Increase your fibre intake
Eating out most of the time usually means probably not getting enough fibre in your diet. Singaporeans on average get only about 13g a day but the recommended amount by HealthHub is 20g for women and 26g for men. Adequate amounts of dietary fibre promote healthy bowel function and control cholesterol and blood sugar levels. If your fibre intake is typically low, increase your intake of fibre gradually over 2-3 weeks. Sudden ‘bulking up’ may cause bloating and flatulence warns Ms Chong Ai Heong, Dietitian from the Department of Dietetics at Singapore General Hospital.
According to HealthXchange, Singapore’s first interactive health portal, some of the best dietary sources of fibre are oats, legumes, fruits such as apple, pear and orange, and many types of vegetables including green leafy vegetables, cabbage and tomato. To easily integrate fruit into your diet, you could eat fruit as a healthy mid-day snack or add fruit to your whole grain cereal or oats. There are also numerous commercial fibre supplements available to supplement your diet. Don’t forget to stay hydrated when increasing your fibre intake. Fibre works best when it absorbs water, making your stool soft and bulky. Without adequate hydration, fibre can be constipating. So, as you're boosting your fibre, also aim to increase your fluid intake.
6. Maintain a balanced diet
Yet, achieving a balanced diet goes beyond cutting down on processed foods or increasing your fibre intake; it's about providing your body with a variety of nutrients from various food sources essential for maintaining health and fitness. Take, for instance, the B vitamins, known to decrease stress levels, increase work productivity and in general improve health. These vitamins are present in an assortment of foods including whole grains, bananas, beans and meats.
With this in mind, here's how to maintain a balanced diet to keep yourself healthy and fit:
- Know your food groups: Understand the essential food groups: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. Ensure your meals are a mix of these groups, prioritising fresh and whole foods.
- Diversify your plate: Aim to include a variety of foods in your diet from all the food groups: fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and dairy or its alternatives. This ensures your body receives all the essential nutrients it requires to function optimally.
- Portion control: Be mindful of the portion sizes of your meals, especially when dining out. Avoid supersizing and choose smaller portions to prevent overeating and excessive calorie intake.
- Read labels: When shopping, get into the habit of reading food labels. This can help you make healthier choices, understanding what's in your food, especially concerning calories, fats, proteins, and sugars.
- Listen to your body: Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Learning to listen to your body’s cues can help you maintain a healthy weight and relationship with food.
7. Prioritise preventive care
While understanding how to keep your body healthy and fit often starts with nutrition and exercise, a critical aspect often overlooked is the value of preventive care. From basic measurements like blood pressure and cholesterol levels to more comprehensive health screenings depending on your age, gender, and family history, these routine visits can prevent minor issues from becoming major ones.
Through regular health check-ups, you can take a more proactive approach to your well-being and maintain your health. According to HealthHub SG, here's how you can take charge with these screening tests:
From 18 years onward: Annual screenings for obesity using Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference measurements are essential. Regular checks help identify subtle changes that might escape your notice. Additionally, get your blood pressure measured at least once every two years to monitor hypertension risks, a silent threat to your health.
At 40 years: It’s time to introduce regular diabetes screenings into your health routine. Get your fasting blood glucose and HbA1c levels checked every three years, or as recommended by your healthcare provider. Don’t overlook cholesterol; regular lipid panels, both fasting and non-fasting, are crucial to catch hyperlipidaemia early.
At 50 years and beyond: Colorectal cancer screenings become a priority. Choose between an annual Faecal Immunochemical Test or a colonoscopy every five to ten years. Early detection is key in successfully managing health risks.
For women: For sexually active women aged 25 and above, regular cervical cancer screenings are vital. Opt for a Pap test every three years or an HPV test every five years, depending on your age group. Additionally, women between 50-69 should schedule a mammogram every two years to screen for breast cancer.
Bonus: Maintain mental wellness and health
The various ways of keeping yourself healthy, whether through quality sleep, physical activity, or preventive care, can not only ward off physical illnesses but also play a vital role in supporting your mental health. Mental health is integral at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
It impacts our ability to handle stress, relate to others, and make decisions. Conditions often categorised under “mental health” such as depression and schizophrenia may affect one's thinking, mood, and behaviour. If overlooked, these conditions can contribute to various health complications and decrease the overall quality of life. As such, the above tips can foster a comprehensive approach to health.
Overall, good health is a blessing we should never take for granted. Whatever we do and put into our bodies have an impact on our physical and mental health. The key is balance and moderation. A sensible diet – through natural foods or supplements – complemented with a suitable amount of exercise and a healthy lifestyle can ensure that we stay in tiptop condition!