Sunday, 5 May 2013

Fit and Healthy

It's day 5 of the Blog Every Day in May challenge and today's subject is Fit and Healthy - What do you do to stay fit or be a healthy individual?

This is a good topic for me as being fit and healthy is never very far from my mind. I have a few health issues including Asthma and Psoriasis, which tend to get worse if I don't eat a healthy diet, and I'm Hypermotile, which amongst other things, means my joints become very painful if I allow my weight to creep up too high. I'm not a fitness freak or a health nut by any means but I do try and look after myself wherever I can. I do this in three main ways:

1. I'm vegetarian. Actually I'm very close to vegan, as dairy products trigger my asthma and I have to limit my consumption of milk based foods. It just so happens that I'm vegetarian primarily because I don't like the taste of meat, but to be honest I am glad I turned out this way. Vegetarians, on average, have a lower rate of heart disease, fewer cholesterol problems and lower blood pressure than people who eat meat. They also have a much lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and various different types of cancer, and they're much less likely to be obese. Of course it is possible (and easy) to be vegetarian or vegan and still have a terrible diet - just like it's absolutely possible to eat meat and have a very healthy diet indeed. The two things are not mutually exclusive. However I have made a point of educating myself about proper nutrition and how to achieve it, and I try to keep an eye on what I'm eating and make sure it's high in the good stuff, with the right proportions - and low in junk food. I eat a lot of vegetables, fruit, pasta, potatoes, rice, lentils, beans and so on. My meals are usually low fat and I try to cook from scratch rather than living off processed food. Yes, I still eat cake, cookies, chocolate, veggie burgers and the like. I just eat them in moderation and if the scales are creeping up a bit higher than I'd like, I put the doughnut down and walk away!

2. I keep active wherever possible. I do find it hard sometimes, especially on weekdays when I've been at work all day and I'm tired. But at least a couple of times a week I will try and get on the treadmill and walk for a while. I also try to find ways of adding 'hidden' exercise to my daily routine. I deliberately park ten minutes' walk away from work, so that's 20 minutes of walking a day just going to and from my car. When I'm in the lab, I try to work standing up as much as possible. When I'm home, I get involved with my son's activities. It's amazing how much it adds up when you join in with kicking a ball, walking around the park, flying a kite, building a snowman, playing a bit of tennis etc. Kids have so much energy that just keeping up with them is exercise in its' own right. They are nature's way of keeping us mums fit and healthy!
3. I rarely drink alcohol. No, I'm not a righteous teetotaller, frowning in disapproval at anyone who likes the occasional glass of wine... if you like to drink, then more power to you. It just isn't for me. Once upon a time, I had the worst immune system ever. I kid you not, I used to catch a cold literally every two weeks, all year long. Most of the time, the colds would last a minimum of a week, if not longer, and as soon as I got over it, I'd catch another one within days. I'd have THE WORST symptoms, too. I've never been one to just curl up and die the instant I get sick, but honest to goodness I have lost count of the times I've had to phone in sick at work because my cold was just that bad that I couldn't even drive (or see, or talk). It got to the point when my doctor  began getting worried, and decided maybe he needed to send me for tests to see what could be wrong. At the time, I used to drink - not super heavy, but I'd have a glass of wine with dinner most evenings, occasionally a little more. But one day I read an article that said one unit of alcohol reduces your immune system by HALF, for a minimum of 8 hours. Plus, my dad had just been diagnosed with cancer of the rectum and the doctor had point blank told him, this type of cancer is almost always caused by consumption of too much alcohol over a long period of time. I was so desperate to stop being sick all the time, and so horrified by what happened to Dad, that I decided to quit, for six months, to see if it made a difference. By the end of the 6 months I couldn't believe the difference. I had almost completely stopped catching colds. The ones I did catch, were only mild, and only lasted a maximum of two days before disappearing as if by magic! Nowadays I only drink once in a blue moon, for special occasions. And I still hardly ever catch colds. I even managed to avoid catching the flu when everyone else in my house had it over Christmas last year. I have to say that giving up alcohol is probably the best thing I ever did for my health and I'm so glad I decided to give it a try!

So what else could I be doing to stay fit and healthy? Well, I could be sleeping more. I used to stay up until the early hours most nights... I lost count of the number of times I'd wake up on the couch having fallen asleep at my laptop at 3am. It just isn't good to do that sort of thing all the time, you know? In more recent times I have cut back on the late nights, but I still rarely crash before midnight, and since my husband gets up at 5.30am, in reality I get less than 6 hours sleep most nights. Not enough. I would like to start going to bed earlier on weekdays at least, so that's my next target. And although I am fairly active, I would like to build on that too. I have noticed that the more I exercise, the more energy I have - so that, combined with more sleep, can only be a good thing.

How about you? How do you stay fit and healthy? What sort of things do you do, or what are you planning to do in the future?

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