From exercising regularly to eating right – what you do with and put into your body as long been the focus when it comes to wellbeing. While we’ve moved to a more holistic approach (covering mental, emotional and spiritual needs, to name a few) the basics of moving more and consuming a balanced diet will always be essential. On day one of Women's Health Week, we’re covering how to improve your physical health.
But where to start? Well, you can make moves to improve your health from the second your alarm goes off in the morning. In fact, your AM habits can be incredibly influential when it comes to wellbeing. Here's how.
1. Set an early alarm
Sorry everyone, it might be time to ditch the sleep in – research has shown that being a "morning person" has major benefits for your health. Studies have shown that waking up earlier makes you feel happier and healthier, boosts your immune system, improves productivity and helps you maintain a healthy weight. So what time should you be aiming for? According to a University of London study, those who wake up by 7:00 am have a lower chance of being stressed, depressed, and obese.
2. Don’t hit snooze
It’s official – when you snooze, you loose. While hitting repeat on your AM alarm is so dang satisfying, it’s far worse for you in the long run as it results in a little something called ‘sleep inertia’.
“By dozing off for those extra minutes, we’re preparing our bodies for another sleep cycle, which is then quickly interrupted – causing us to feel fatigued for the rest of the day that lies ahead,” sleep expert Neil Robinson explains to The Independent.
So start your day the right way by flying (or at least falling) out of bed as soon as the buzzer goes.
3. Drink a big glass of water
You wouldn’t go a day without a drop of water so imagine how thirsty your body is after eight hours of snoozing. Not only will drinking water help you rehydrate, a small study has found that drinking 500 ml of the stuff can boost your metabolism by 30 percent.
Plus, water makes up 50 to 80 percent of our body weight and every single cell, tissue and organ we’re composed of requires it to function. Consuming the right amount of water per day can boost energy, maintain brain function, regulate digestion and assist weight loss and maintenance.
Use that snooze time you skipped and spend at least 10 minutes meditating in the morning. Research has found that practising meditation is basically the holy grail for health, helping to reduce stress, manage anxiety, increase productivity, help weight loss, motivate you to exercise and make you a nicer person. So why not kick start those incredible benefits ASAP with an early morning sesh.
5. If you choose to eat breakfast, try this combo
A hearty, healthy breakfast has long been seen as essential for fuelling us throughout the day. But thanks to the growing trend of intermittent fasting and time-restricted eating, skipping the meal is seemingly in vogue with some significant studies to back it up. Still, science also shows (and experts agree) that starting your day a combination of protein, fibre and healthy fats has some major perks.
Loading up on protein, for example, can help weight loss (and keep it off in the long run), reduce belly fat, boost your metabolism, and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Nutritionist Melissa Brunetti, also recently revealed the ideal breakfast combination for boosting mental health: eggs on grain toast with avocado. This meal contains amino acids, omega-3, fibre, vitamin D, protein and, most importantly, fatty acids.
“Our brain is about 60% fat and we need to get our fat from a dietary source," Melissa says. "Avocado is rich in tryptophan, which is a pre-cursor to serotonin, which is our feel-good chemical. It also has folate and Omega 3 in it.”
6. Start moving
Exercise is a no-brainer when it comes to physical health, but the timing of your sweat sesh could also have additional benefits with research showing that working out in the morning can help you stay more active throughout the day. Plus, how many of us have "committed" to exercising after work and by the time the clock ticks over to 5:01pm we've pulled out every excuse in the book to bail. A recent study has found that the most consistent exercisers are those who make it a habit and putting exercise at the top of your to-do list by scheduling it early in the day ensures that you're more likely to actually do it.
Need another reason? Elle Woods had it right: “Exercise gives you endorphins; endorphins make you happy and happy people just don’t shoot their husbands!” Aside from avoiding a murderous rampage, these endorphins will have you rocking up to work in a way better mood.
7. Get some sunlight
Bust open those blinds and get into the great outdoors. Our body relies on natural sunlight and darkness to set its circadian rhythm or "body clock", which influences a number of important bodily functions like sleep-wake cycles, hormone release and digestion.
Research out of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine shows that those who are exposed to natural light earlier in the morning have lower BMIs regardless of diet, exercise, and other lifestyle factors.
"If a person doesn't get sufficient light at the appropriate time of day, it could de-synchronise your internal body clock, which is known to alter metabolism and can lead to weight gain," said study senior author Dr Phyllis Zee.
"The message is that you should get more bright light between 8 a.m. and noon."