Curious if there are any important healthful practices you might be accidentally ignoring? We asked a few experts to weigh in on some examples of healthy habits that are commonly overlooked, but that no one should ever really neglect. Two health and wellness specialists that we spoke with directly include Sara Jespersen, the owner of and fitness director for Trumi Training and Kristy Del Coro, the Senior Culinary Nutritionist of SPE Certified. Continue reading to find out which healthy practices are most important.
Individual sleep needs vary from person to person, but most experts recommend somewhere between 7 and 8 hours a night. Studies continue to reveal that not getting enough shut-eye on a regular basis can be detrimental to your health in a number of ways, including weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, depression and premature aging. “If you don't sleep you can't repair, rebuild, or refresh,” says Jespersen. “It's our restart button. Lacking in this department means you'll lack in every other department.”
Everyone has to deal with stress, in fact a little bit of stress might even be good for you. But too much can take a serious toll on your health. “Stress raises our cortisol levels,” says Jespersen. “That increase keeps us in a fight or flight way of living. This causes cell damage, fat storage and major fatigue.” She suggests doing one small thing each day to decrease your stress levels. “Whether that is deep breathing, meditating or just plain taking on less each day—don't neglect this need.”
On WebMD Larry Kenney, PhD, a professor of physiology and kinesiology at Penn State, explains that maintaining hydration is essential because so much of the body is made up of water. Many systems depend on proper levels of hydration. Drinking adequate amounts of fluid will ensure that functions such as your body temperature, heart rate and metabolism function optimally.
Yes, exercise is essential to your health, but it’s also important to spend more time moving outside of the gym, too. “We sit around all day,” says Jespersen. “All that sitting makes us tired, grumpy and sick. The small act of moving once an hour for five minutes can literally prevent and even in some cases reverse disease.”
“Eating a healthy breakfast cannot be underestimated,” says Del Coro. “It sets the tone for the entire day. And don’t think that skipping breakfast altogether is any better. Most studies show that skipping breakfast to ‘save your calories’ does just the opposite by causing most people to consume more calories later in the day.” She suggests starting your day off with a balanced meal that includes lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and some healthy fat to give you energy and keep you satisfied until your next meal.
Spending time outside is associated with a long list of health benefits, the most important being production of vitamin D. More time in nature can also help to reduce your stress levels, boost your immune system and increase your serotonin levels, a hormone that affects our feelings of wellbeing and happiness.
Learning to enjoy your meals, instead of eating in a hurry, can help you maintain a healthy weight. Mindful eating, or being aware of your food experience by paying closer attention to tastes, smells, textures, and the feelings you have while eating, can help you learn to better control your portions so that instead of approaching food with a restrictive mindset you can slightly reduce your intake simply by paying more attention to your food and your body’s hunger cues.
According to Mayo Clinic, some studies have revealed that your outlook on life might affect your overall health and wellness and thinking positively is associated with the ability to better manage stress. Other health benefits of a good attitude include a longer lifespan, a decreased risk for depression and cardiovascular disease and a stronger immune system.
Gum health and flossing used to be linked to a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease, however, in recent times new science has found that the two are probably unrelated. That doesn’t mean you should stop flossing, though. Many dentists continue to advocate flossing as an important part of caring for your teeth because it helps to remove plaque, which can cause cavities and eventually lead to gum disease.
Digestive health is an often overlooked component of overall wellness, yet it’s one of the most important factors. Our bodies house an incredible amount of bacteria—both good and bad—and according to Michael Snyder, PhD, the director of Stanford University’s Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine, those bacteria have a large impact in the gut. “Without gut bacteria, we wouldn’t be anything. They are a critical part of us and essential to our health,” he told WebMD. Chris Kresser M.S., L.Ac, a globally recognized functional and integrative medicine expert says that a healthy gut helps to maintain normal gastrointestinal function, provides protection against infections and helps to regulate the metabolism. On the other hand, poor gut health has been linked to depression, autism and even type 1 diabetes.