Healthy Lifestyle

As important as it is to be mindful about the food you put in your body, it is equally important to pay attention to how other aspects of your lifestyle might be impacting your health. You can think of a healthy diet as the foundation, and stress management, exercise and sleep as building blocks for optimal health. Spending time in nature, being with loved ones and laughing can also have a significant impact. Take the time to cultivate these activities in your life and you’ll be amazed at how powerful they are and just how good you can really feel.

 

STRESS

Stress is perhaps the most underappreciated factor affecting our overall health, especially when you consider that most American adults and teens report regularly experiencing stress they consider to be higher than is healthy. Young children are also reporting higher stress levels than in the past. Of course there are the obvious stressors, such as work troubles, financial problems, a death in the family, etc., but there are also many hidden stressors like chronic illness, poor diet, food allergies, over-exercising, watching the news and just plain old busyness contributing to the problem. When the body perceives stress of any kind, it triggers the release of a family of stress hormones called glucocorticoids. These hormones put the body on alert and prepare it to fight or flee, while simultaneously slowing down bodily processes that are not essential to immediate survival, like reproduction, immune function and digestion. This is an excellent adaptation in a life-threatening circumstance, but when glucocorticoids linger in the blood stream, as they do when we experience chronic stress, the trouble begins. Although chronic stress alone does not cause any one disease, it does contribute to and exacerbate almost all modern diseases because it affects the entire body, including the cardiovascular system, blood sugar regulation, thyroid function, digestion, and immunity. Taking steps to first minimize the stress in your life and then to mitigate the effects of any remaining stress is critical in moving your health goals forward and reaching optimal health. For more information about stress and its effects on the body, as well as how to deal with it, check out the following resources:

 

EXERCISE

The human body is meant to move. For most of human existence, humans were physically active: active acquiring food, active building shelter, and active protecting themselves. There was no such thing as exercise, life was just active. Nowadays we have sedentary jobs, we rely on our cars, we entertain ourselves with television, and rarely, if ever, are any of us out chasing or gathering our food. In fact, activity level is one of the biggest differences between modern humans and our ancestors. And all of this down time has a huge impact on our health. Sitting too much can take its toll in the form of decreased fat-burning capability, decreased bone strength, increased blood pressure, and even premature death. On the flip side, regular movement has numerous benefits, including a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, improved memory and cognitive function, improved mood, better sleep, healthy metabolism, decreased inflammation and an increased life span. If the thought of getting more exercise seems intimidating, don’t worry–just moving more in general should be the goal. As a matter of fact, intense “workouts” generally aren’t as beneficial in the long run as regular daily movement and can even be counterproductive for some people. Simple ways to increase your daily movement may include walking or biking to work, taking the stairs, mowing the lawn, walking the dog, or playing with the kids. For more information on exercise and moving more check out the following resources:

  • Nutrition Articles (printed versions are available in all store locations as “Customer Literature Files”)
  • Books
    • The Genius of Flexibility by Bob Cooley
    • Chi Running by Danny Dreyer and Katherine Dreyer
    • Revive: Stop Feeling Spent by Frank Lipman
    • Primal Blueprint by Marc Sisson
  • DVDs – Natural Grocers carries a variety of workout and movement DVDs. Check with your store for more information.

 

SLEEP

As anyone who has ever gone a few nights without much sleep will attest—sleep is absolutely essential to our health. Not only do we need it to feel and function our best, but chronic sleep deprivation has long-term consequences on our physical and mental health. During sleep, much of the basic maintenance of our bodies occurs, including the removal of metabolic wastes (like amyloid beta, the proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease) from the brain. Chronic sleep deprivation, defined as less than 6 hours of sleep a night, is associated with decreased immune function and an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, premature aging and cancer. While the optimal amount of sleep for each person varies, most people do best with seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If you’re not hitting this optimal sleep goal, or if you feel like you’re not getting good quality sleep, check out the following resources for tips and tricks to improve your sleep.


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