This year, World Health Day's focus is on diabetes, which is becoming an increasing problem in the first world despite being quite avoidable. 90% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes, and it is quite often a result of being inactive and over-eating, especially processed foods. It's quite startling to think that something so severe is so easy to avoid, in fact, but the trouble I think comes down to the fact that we live in convenience. Public transport makes getting around with minimal effort easy, and pre-packaged foods and fast food restaurants on every corner makes grabbing a quick bite just as easy, even if you're not hungry, and often means you're eating lots of sugar and hydrogenated fats without even realising it. But just because it's 'easy' doesn't mean it should be the norm.
I'm not about to tell you to go on a 10 mile hike every week, or to ditch your favourite pizza place in favour of lettuce. I don't do that myself, and I certainly never will - I pizza every week, in fact!
Rather, there are a number of ways you can improve your health without breaking a sweat or your bank balance.
1. Get a standing desk at work - this will keep you on your feet as well as improve your posture, and will encourage you to walk around more. If this isn't possible, you can always try to make sure you get up and walk around a bit at work. Try to get up on your feet for a few minutes every half hour.
2. Fill up on protein - this will prevent hunger pangs as protein takes longer to digest than fat or, especially, carbs. But if you do start feeling hungry and your productivity in whatever your activity starts to suffer, keep a healthy snack on hand. Nuts are great as they're high in healthy fats and some in protein, fruit bars like Nakd are delicious and most count as one of your 5 a day, and there are fruit bars with added protein, like Nakd's Protein Crunch, and there's always the option of a bag of jerky or biltong like BEEFit. A breakfast with eggs, or porridge with added protein, are excellent options, as eggs are power houses of protein and vitamins, and oats release their energy slowly and steadily, perfect for the morning.
3. Try exercise - if you're not a normally active person, it can be a very uninviting thought, but with websites like Pinterest and a whole array of fitness DVDs on the market, the industry is booming, and a great deal of it is aimed at beginners. It's not all weights, running and squats. There are so many different kinds of things you can try, like dance - and with so many dance fitness DVDs, you can do it in the comfort of your own home and behind closed doors. If you're new to fitness, I highly recommend buying a 10 Minute Solution DVD - they cost a pittance, are available in the EU and US, consist of 5 10-minute workouts and cover a whole range of different types of exercise, like yoga, Pilates, different styles of dance (you don't need natural rhythm!) and even reach into resistance, kickboxing and HIIT. They also all assume you're new to fitness. This is where I started, and though I've progressed far beyond them myself, I haven't gotten rid of any of them and I still highly recommend them to my friends, family, and you!
4. Go for a 10 minute walk before or after every meal. This will add in 30 minutes of exercise every day, and walking is always a good place to start if you're overweight. It's simple but effective exercise. And if the weather is rotten, flip on the TV and march on the spot for 10 minutes instead. The higher you lift your knees and swing your arms, the bigger the impact. If I don't have time to exercise in the morning, or I have an injury, I will sometimes resort to this in the evening for 20 minutes - you'd be surprised how much of a sweat you can build up.
5. Don't eat less, eat better. Eating fewer refined sugars and processed foods and replacing them instead with whole foods like fruit, nuts and vegetables will make a huge impact. You don't have to starve yourself to lose weight, you just have to trade some of the bad for some of the good. Don't go onto a restrictive diet that cuts out the things you love - these never last, and often end in binge eating. Instead, replace a few things, and gradually you'll find it easier to not eat so many bad things. In fact, once you find healthy snacks you love (I'm partial to Trek flapjacks and BEAR yoyos), you'll find yourself more content to eat them rather than something unhealthy - though that's not to say I'll always turn down caramel biscuits.
Cotopaxi is an incredibly ethical company that produce beautiful and clever outdoor products including outdoor clothing and hiking backpacks that not only encourage you to get out into the world and see what it really is, but also helps to sustain the people that live in the world's more basic conditions. They know what it is to look after themselves and one another, and they've put together this useful infographic with a few simple suggestions for exercise, eating and improving your mood and mental health. They're so simple and really great ways to start, and the tips for eating suggest opening yourself up to a different menu rather than some kind of fad or restrictive diet - and one last point to try to keep in mind for life is that 'diet' just means your eating habits, it doesn't mean 'veg, veg, veg'.
How are you keeping fit and healthy? What kind of exercise do you like best? What's your healthy treat of choice, and your favourite indulgence?