Eat Right, Work Out, Sleep Better
The Three Components of a Healthy Lifestyle
(ARA) - In today's fast-paced world, moving at full speed isn't an option, it's a way of life. Finding the energy to keep up has led many Americans to improve their diets and increase their activity and exercise. Yet many people are missing the third vital component to a healthy lifestyle -- a good night's sleep.
"Committing to improving overall health requires ambition, focus and knowledge," says women's health researcher Joan Shaver, Ph.D., RN, professor and dean of the College of Nursing at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "We should think of a healthy lifestyle as a triangle, with the three points of proper nutrition, exercise and sleep. If we fail to fulfill any one of these points, we are missing the potential for optimum health."
Good nutrition and exercise
The requirements of eating a balanced diet will vary from individual to individual, but it is vital that all major food groups are included. Many of today's diets may help improve weight loss, but often leave the body begging for vitamins and other essential nutrients. Eating a diet full of fruits, vegetables, breads, and fibers will help to give the body more energy for exercise and taking on the events of a busy day.
"Getting in shape" means exercising at least three days a week for 30 minutes or more -- not necessarily all at once. Exercise doesn't have to be boring or rigorous -- it can be as simple and fun as a morning walk or an evening bike ride. In fact, yard work is considered a great workout and long summer days allow for plenty of time outside. Since exercise will raise the body's temperature and heart rate, be sure to complete exercise at least three hours before bedtime to allow the mind and body to wind down.
According to Dr. Shaver, several lifestyle factors must be considered to benefit from a better night's sleep. First, evaluate the sleep environment -- ensure that your room is cool, dim and quiet. Reserve the bedroom for sleep -- avoid bringing work to bed or watching television in the bedroom.
Next, allow enough time for sleep -- on average, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends eight hours for adults. But, in the 2002 NSF "Sleep in America" poll, 39 percent of respondents said they were sleeping less than seven hours at night on weekdays. And most only slept 7.5 hours on the weekends.