5 health routines to stay fit and happy

Every New Year, many of us promise to be regular on the treadmill and watch what we eat. Yet, those promises are broken soon after. But, health officials claim that if we did stick to our promises then our body will benefit immensely from it.

According to the Harvard Nurses' Health Study, following basic health rules can cut heart disease risk by 80 per cent, diabetes risk by 90 per cent and cancer risk by 50 per cent.  Yet, we fail to keep our promises.

During the smart clinic, organised by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), doctors stressed the need to adopt a routine or healthy habit to stay fit and ailment-free.

The best way is to start establishing habits and routines that will help you achieve your health goals.

Dr Bassem Badr, senior specialist physiatrist at Rashid Hospital, said, “Instead of focusing on how much you want to weigh by the end of 2016, focus on the habits that will get you there. Have weekly and quarterly progress reports, this will help you achieve your resolutions because simply stating resolutions will not work.

“Break your goals into a series of steps, focusing on creating sub-goals, which are concrete, measurable and time-based. For example, people should exercise three times a week for the first three months, then increase that to five.

“Instead of saying I will eat clean, define what ‘clean eating’ means. Does it mean, you will reduce eating fried foods to one meal a week? Does it mean you will limit your sugar intake to two teaspoons per day? Whatever it is, the goals need to define and the habits need to be set.”

Dr Rula Abu Ghazalah, senior clinical dietician at Rashid Hospital, agreed. “Instead of going on crash-diets, focus on simple healthy eating but jot down the goals you have in order to achieve your target weight.  The simplest option is cutting down sugars, processed and fried foods and this can be done slowly with the help of goals.  It is important to keep a food journal at least for the first 21 days, which is the time it takes to form a habit.

“People should also reward themselves whenever they achieve a sub-goal to maintain motivation and a sense of progress.”

While eating smart is key, it’s important to cut back on sugar and caffeine. Dr Shaima Qayed, senior clinical dietician at Nad Al Hammar primary healthcare centre, said, “Decreasing sugar actually increases people's energy, by minimizing the highs and lows that sweet foods triggers.  If you need to eat chocolate, stick to dark chocolate, which is at least 70 per cent dark and you can eat 30gms, approximately the size of a matchbox, every day.

“But other than that, all forms of refined sugar is unnecessary and actually causes several health problems like diabetes if taken in excess. About caffeine, most of us are probably overstimulated already so we don’t need to add a stimulant to our system, limit caffeine intake to two times a day.”

Once the momentum to a healthier lifestyle is achieved, it’s important to sign up for regular health checks. “This helps understand risk factors, and is important for detection. It’s an overall tool to provide you with a one-shot snapshot of your health so that you can take the right action at the right time,” said Dr Aisha Al Abd, Senior Specialist family physician at Abu Hail primary healthcare centre.

She emphasised that women above the age of 40 years and those with a family history of breast cancer, should opt for mammogram screenings.

Doctors stressed how exercise is the miracle feel-good medicine. “We lead busy lives and one of the best ways to beat stress is to take time off  to exercise because that is the simplest and easiest way to feel good and stay healthy,” said Dr Khulood Al Sayegh, family physician at Al Safa Health Centre.

Dr Badr said, “The most recent research about happiness and ways to achieve a healthy mental life puts exercise at the top of the list.  Not only does exercise keep the heart healthy, it also helps deplete stress hormones and releases mood-enhancing chemicals such as endorphins which help us cope with stress better.”

The most important of all is to be kind to yourself. Dr Badr, said, “Give yourself positive thoughts, think of how you will feel when you achieve your goals and expect to revert to your old habits from time-to-time. Treat failure as a temporary setback rather than giving up all together. Reward your progress and just be kind to yourself.”

1. Set routines or habits that help achieve your health goals

2. Take regular health checks

3. Exercise regularly – it’s the miracle feel-good routine

4. Limit intake of sugar and caffeine

5. Be kind to yourself. Reward every minor achievements


(Image via Shutterstock)

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