How to get healthy!
These days, ’modern life’ can mean that we’re a lot less active. With so many opportunities to watch TV or play computer games, and with so much convenience and fast food available, we don’t move about as much, or eat as well as we used to.
9 out of 10 of our kids today could grow up with dangerous amounts of fat in their bodies. This can cause life-threatening diseases like cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
By the time we reach middle age, the majority of us could do with losing at least a bit of weight. Being overweight isn’t just about the way we look. It can lead to more aches and pains, problems sleeping and people report a loss of energy and confidence. It also increases our chances of getting heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Middle age comes to everyone – ‘middle aged spread’ doesn’t have to.
Eating well is an important part of maintaining good health, and can help you feel your best. It can be simple too. Just follow these eight tips to get started.
The two keys to a healthy diet are:
- Eat the right number of calories for how active you are, so that you balance the energy you consume with the energy you use. If you eat too much, you’ll put on weight. If you eat too little you’ll lose weight. The average man needs around 2,500 calories a day and the average woman needs 2,000 calories.
- Eat a wide range of foods to ensure you’re getting a balanced diet and your body gets all the nutrients it needs.
These practical tips cover the basics of healthy eating, and can help you make healthier choices:
- Base your meals on starchy foods.
Starchy foods include potatoes, cereals, pasta, rice and bread. Choose wholegrain varieties when you can because they contain more fibre, and can make you feel full for longer. Starchy foods should make up around one third of the foods you eat.
- Eat lots of fruit and veg.
It’s recommended that we eat at least five portions of different types of fruit and veg a day. It’s easier than it sounds. A glass of 100% unsweetened fruit juice can count as one portion, and vegetables cooked into dishes also count. Why not chop a banana over your breakfast cereal, or swap your usual mid-morning snack for some dried fruit?
- Eat more fish.
Fish is a good source of protein and contains many vitamins and minerals. Aim for at least two portions a week, including at least one portion of oily fish. Oily fish is high in omega-3 fats, which may help prevent heart disease. Oily fish include salmon, herring, fresh tuna, mackerel, sardines and pilchards.
- Cut down on saturated fat.
Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of developing heart disease. Saturated fat is found in many foods such as cakes, pies, biscuits, sausages, cream, butter, lard and hard cheese. Most of us eat too much saturated fat. Try to cut down, and choose foods that contain unsaturated fat such as vegetable oils, oily fish and avocados.
- Cut down on sugar.
Sugary foods and drinks are often high in calories, and could contribute to weight gain. They can also cause tooth decay, especially if eaten between meals. Cut down on fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits and pastries, which contain added sugars. This is the kind of sugar we should try to cut down on, rather than sugars that are found naturally in foods such as fruit and milk. Check food labels to see how much sugar foods contain. More than 15g of sugar per 100g means the food is high in sugar.
- Eat less salt.
Even if you don’t add salt to your food, you may still be eating too much. About three-quarters of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy, such as breakfast cereals, soups, breads and sauces. Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure, and people with high blood pressure are more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke. Use food labels to help you cut down. More than 1.5g of salt per 100g means the food is high in salt. Adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day.
- Drink enough water.
Try to drink about six to eight glasses of water, or other fluids, a day to prevent dehydration. When the weather is warm or when we get active, we may need more. But avoid soft and fizzy drinks that are high in added sugars.
- Don’t skip breakfast.
Some people skip breakfast because they think it will help them lose weight. In fact, research shows that eating breakfast can help people control their weight. A healthy breakfast is an important part of a balanced diet, and provides some of the vitamins and minerals we need for good health. Wholemeal cereal, with fruit sliced over the top is a tasty and nutritious breakfast.
It all adds up!
Physical activity (at least 30 minutes most days for adults and 60 minutes every day for kids) is crucial for good health. Physical activity is especially important for children if they are to grow into healthy adults. Getting active now will benefit them throughout their lives.
This site is for those of us who think our family’s lifestyles could be healthier than they are now. It will help you incorporate enough activity into your everyday lives for better health.
Remember, whatever you can manage to fit in, it all adds up!
It’s all too easy to find excuses for not being more physical active, but when you see all the benefits you and your family can gain from being more active, you’ll see it’s worth making the effort.
I haven’t got time
Many of us have such busy lives, it’s hard to imagine where we could find time to fit in more physical activity. The answer here is to build the activity into the things we have to do anyway.
If you’ve got time to drive or get the bus somewhere locally, you’ve probably got time to walk there. Think about it – you can walk a mile in around 15–20 minutes and if you have a bike, cycling is even quicker.
You can also get a lot of extra physical activity by being a bit more energetic about all those boring things that just have to be done, like vacuuming and shopping. Encourage the kids to be more active when they’re playing, and try to limit the amount of time they spend watching TV or playing computer games.
I’m too tired
Being more active actually gives you more energy – it’s often our sedentary lifestyles that are responsible for leaving us slumped exhausted on the sofa at the end of the day. Physical activity also helps you sleep better so you should feel less tired in the long run. It can also help the kids concentrate more on their school work.
I haven’t got anyone to be active with
Aiming to increase the amount of activity you do is the perfect reason to join a class or a group and meet new people. There are bound to be classes or groups in your local community and if you sign up for something like an organised walk or cycle ride, you’ll automatically have company.
I’m not the sporty type
Physical activity isn’t the same as sport – you don’t have to go near a football pitch or aerobics class if you don’t want to. Walking is an ideal activity, as it doesn’t require any special equipment, just a comfortable pair of shoes – and it gets you out in the fresh air.
I’m too old to start being active now
You’re never too old to feel the benefits of physical activity. In fact, being active is an important factor in staying healthy and keeping your independence as you get older.
I have health problems
If you have a condition that restricts how active you can be then just be as active as your ability or condition allows. Physically activity is known to reduce pain in arthritis and will help conditions such as diabetes and heart disease as well as reducing symptoms of depression.
Remember to take things slowly and gradually build up the intensity as you feel comfortable. If you have any doubts speak to your GP who will be able to give you advice.
It’s too expensive to go to the gym
Being active doesn’t have to cost much. While gym fees can be expensive (although there are probably some good deals to be had out there) you don’t need to go to the gym. Physical activity can be done at home or outside walking the streets or in the park.
For those activities that require special equipment or clothing try borrowing these first or buying second-hand and if you really get into it you’ll probably not mind eventually spending the money on your own equipment.
The weather’s too bad
We all like to moan about the weather and yes, it does rain quite a bit but when you are outside enjoying yourself it’s often not as bad as it looks. They say there’s no such thing as the wrong weather, just the wrong equipment and there’s a lot of truth in this. Get yourself a good breathable rainproof jacket that will last you for years and a decent pair of comfortable walking shoes so you can get out there whatever the weather!
Family commitments stop me from being active
It’s a sad reality that for many people once they have children they have less time to be active. This needn’t be the case, however, especially once the children are a few years old. This is a great opportunity to be active as a family – the trick is to be organised and find activities and places to go that are fun for all the family.
Many people are busy caring for others and this may be preventing them from being active. It’s important to remember that you need to look after yourself as well and being active is a great way of doing this. Keeping yourself fit by getting enough physical activity will help you deal with stress and enable you to have the energy for all your caring duties.
Why do I need to be active?
Everybody, young and old, needs to be active to keep healthy – our bodies are designed to be active and without physical activity they don’t perform to their best capacity.
If you and your family aren’t very active at the moment, increasing your physical activity levels could have an immediate and positive impact on your lives. You’ll find that you:
- feel good about yourself;
- have more energy;
- sleep better;
- cope with stress and anxiety better.
It’s never too late in life to be active and feel better. As well as making you feel and look better in the short term, regular physical activity can help fight overweight and obesity.
So what’s the problem with being inactive?
Approximately three out of five men and women here are overweight or obese, which poses a serious risk to their health. Even more worryingly, more than a third of children in Northern Ireland are overweight or obese, putting their health at risk.
Regular physical activity is essential if you want to lose weight and keep it off in the long term – healthy eating alone is often not enough.
By taking more physical activity you will also reduce your and your family’s risk of a wide range of health conditions, both now and in the future.