Improving your health can seem like a tough mountain to climb, but it’s actually a walk in the park — literally.
Many people think it requires costly gym memberships, dieticians, and tons of time — which leads them to put their personal well-being on the back burner. This is likely a big reason why 34 percent of American adults are overweight and obesity contributes to 112,000 preventable deaths each year.
However, by squashing a few misconceptions about healthy living, we can definitely change those numbers.
A healthy lifestyle doesn’t need to involve intimidating visits to the gym, doesn’t require a staff of nutritional experts, and certainly doesn't need to be expensive. There are so many small changes you can make to your day-to-day life that can have a big impact on your health — and some don’t even require you to leave your house.
Here are four ways to live a healthier lifestyle without spending an arm and a leg:
Bring the gym to you. Fitness classes and personal trainers are a great way to get in shape, but they often come with price tags many people can’t afford. Luckily, if you take a look around you, you’ll see that Mother Nature provides a terrific (and free) alternative option.
Go outside and take a walk through your neighborhood, or visit a local park and turn it into your adult playground. But before you head out, be sure to consult with Google or YouTube to get some free ideas for specific workouts.
Research shows that completing 10- to 15-minute workouts a few times per day can give you the fitness level of someone up to 20 years younger than you. Even during the workday, try taking frequent walks around your office, or use part of your lunch break to get outside and move around. According to one study, lunchtime walks improve relaxation in the workplace, making it an exercise for your mind just as much as your body.
Become your own chef. When you live a busy life, it’s so easy to fall back on low-price, high-calorie fast food joints in an effort to save time and money. However, believe it or not, cooking at home can actually be the cheaper option. It really boils down to how smart of a shopper you are.
Begin by eliminating unhealthy vices like alcohol, snacks, sodas, and desserts from your grocery bill, then reallocate those dollars toward fresh veggies and fruits. Also, try shopping at your local farmers market toward the end of the day because prices are usually marked down, meaning more savings on fresh, healthy foods. As a bonus, go ahead and plant a few herbs at your home. These will make your healthy meals taste better, which will help you (and your family) feel more excited about consuming them.
Finally, consider cooking large meals you can freeze and revisit down the road. This will go a long way toward boosting both your cost savings and convenience.
Get more sleep. I know, I know. It’s easier said than done, right? However, it’s worth noting that not getting enough sleep can be highly dangerous. It can affect everything from your blood pressure to your weight to your heart health.
If you’re voluntarily burning the candle at both ends (or, in other words, if you aren’t suffering from a diagnosed sleep disorder), you have the power to improve your health through smarter sleeping habits.
Start by cutting down on caffeine, avoiding big meals before bed, and keeping late-night computer and phone usage to a minimum. Creating a nightly bedtime ritual will help because it encourages you to decompress from the day and transition into sleep mode.
At-home health testing. When it comes to convenience, technology is working to our advantage here. At-home testing is a rapidly growing industry that allows people to monitor things like their cholesterol and hormones without ever stepping foot in a doctor’s office.
All you have to do is purchase a kit, provide a saliva or urine sample, and put it in the mailbox. Then, the same type of lab that your doctor’s office uses will analyze your sample and send you your results.
Conducting these tests at home is so much easier and cost-effective than the alternative. However, once you have your results, it’s always recommended to share them with a medical professional.
With strategic thinking, resourcefulness, and smart shopping, it’s actually quite easy and inexpensive to take charge of your health. Each small action you take is a baby step toward wellness, and eventually, they will add up to make healthy living a walk in the park.
Originally from Turkey, Zeynep Ilgaz and her husband co-founded Confirm Biosciences and TestCountry, where Ilgaz serves as president and CEO. Confirm Biosciences is a national provider of diagnostic products for human wellness, animal health, and environmental testing. Ilgaz received the Most Admired CEO Award in San Diego in 2016, and Confirm Biosciences was recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in 2014 and 2015. Most recently, Ilgaz has been honored as a finalist for EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2016 in San Diego.