Simple ways to live a longer, healthier life

MARY OOMMEN –

Being fit isn’t just about careful eating and exercise, it’s also about having a positive attitude, managing stress, and adopting a healthy lifestyle. A truly healthy lifestyle is one that nurtures not just the body, but the mind too.
Abdullah Hamed Thunaiyan al Hasani is a great example of how one can make the move to a healthier lifestyle. He says, “I used to live an unhealthy life which included eating carelessly and sleeping late at night. Exercise changed my life and I decided to adopt a healthier lifestyle. My body has become stronger, I am able to manage my time better and I’m simply happier. I started exercising in 2016 but even today I push myself to do better every day. I have participated in various races such as the Muscat Marathon Iron Man 70.3 and the Spartan Race in Oman 2019 and am happy with the way my life has improved.”

Like Abdullah did, start with small steps and establish a routine by setting specific times for meals, work, housework, quiet time, and bedtime. It doesn’t take long for routine to develop into habit. Exercise isn’t about suffering and pushing yourself; it’s about being healthy and having fun at the same time. Adding variation in the exercise routine will keep them interesting. Studies have consistently revealed that regular exercise has a positive impact on both emotional and physical health. Fayyadh al Fayyadh, who is a Personal Trainer, says, “the amount of time that one should allocate for exercise differs depending on one’s goal. However, a minimum of half an hour of exercise a day should be sufficient to maintain good health. It is best to start with stretches and brisk walks before moving to more intensive workouts.”
Make healthier food choices and eat a variety of fruits and vegetables instead of opting for calorie-restrictive diets that promise weight loss. When it comes to diet, people tend to be much more concerned about which foods or food groups to eliminate since many are perceived as ‘bad.’ Instead, focus on incorporating more of the foods often missing from the diet, such as fibre-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Studies show that people who eat fresh vegetables and fruits live longer, and have a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and all sorts of diseases.

Remember to include proteins in the diet. Our bodies need 22 amino acids to function optimally, but can only make 14 of these on its own. This means that we need to get the other eight, called essential amino acids, from food. Increasing protein intake early in the day can help reduce sugar cravings in the late afternoon. Make sure to include an excellent source of protein with breakfast such as Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or eggs. Protein in the morning helps stabilise blood sugar and keeps you feeling full for longer.
Never skip meals. If you want to control your diet, then work on portion sizes. Starving yourself can negatively impact health. Ideally, choose several small meals over three large meals as it evens out energy distribution. Take a handful of nuts as a snack between meals as they are loaded with magnesium, vitamin E, fibre and other nutrients. Studies have revealed that nuts can help with weight loss, and may help fight type 2 diabetes and heart disease. According to Fayyadh, “controlling carbohydrate intake depending upon daily physical activity is good and swapping oil with good fat in meals by adding avocado, flax seeds, olive and coconut oils is suggested. It is universally agreed that sugar is a no.”
Minimise your intake of sugar as it is the single worst ingredient in the modern diet. Small amounts are fine, but when people eat large amounts, it can wreak havoc on metabolic health. A high intake of added sugar is linked to numerous diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and many forms of cancer. Remember, when you begin a clean eating programme, you’re most likely going to have hunger pains or food cravings at the beginning. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not getting enough food, just that your body is balancing itself. As your blood sugar adjusts these food cravings will stop. A need for water can also be disguised as hunger so stay hydrate. According to numerous studies, water can boost metabolism by 24-30 per cent over a period of 1-1.5 hours. This can amount to 96 additional calories burned if you drink 2 litres of water per day. One study showed that half a litre of water, 30 minutes before each meal, increased weight loss by 44 per cent.
The importance of getting enough quality sleep cannot be overstated. It may be just as important as diet and exercise, if not more. Poor sleep can increase insulin resistance, throw your hormones out of whack and reduce physical and mental performance. One study showed that lack of sleep was linked to an 89 per cent increased risk of obesity in children, and 55 per cent in adults.
Do yoga, practice meditation and work towards changing your attitude towards stress. According to Shilpa Bhatt, a certified Iyengar Yoga Therapist, “Yoga can be practised by everyone irrespective of one’s age and gender. It helps in balancing the mind and body and creates a calm that helps us to manage stress better. Yoga is not just mastering asanas & difficult contortions of the body but is for purification of one’s consciousness. It brings about an inner transformation. When practicing yogasanas and pranayama one must ensure that one is leading a disciplined life for the body, mind and senses. This control & purification leads the seeker to a deeper understanding about one’s own nature, one’s strengths as well as one’s flaws. Accepting this helps shape character and leads to a healthier body.”
Our lifestyle can have a big impact on how we feel. When we don’t take care of ourselves, we can experience a number of problems, including sleep difficulties, fatigue, low energy, trouble concentrating, and increased tension and stress. These problems can leave us vulnerable to anxiety, depression and a host of other health issues. Making healthy choices will not only make us feel good about ourselves, it will also ensure that we are functioning at our optimal levels and living longer more productive lives.