Things You Can Do Daily To Improve Long-Term Health

At first glance, long-term health may seem like a topic for “old people,” not parents with young kids. But take it from this busy mama: building healthy routines for good health over the long haul should be a top priority for ALL adults. As in, starting before you even become a parent.

Don’t believe me?

Then check out

  • All your peers who are starting to have to manage “aging” parents (some of whom are in their 80s, some barely into their 60s). I can’t tell you how many of our young-parent neighbors have added in-law apartments to their homes in recent years. Or how many friends we know with “older” parents, who struggle to convince said parents that they can’t live alone anymore, drive, whatever.
  • Or all your peers whose college sports injuries and/or bad habits since then are starting to catch up with them. Could be an early knee replacement (I’ve been waiting for my first since I was 25, I kid you not, and one of my college best buds has already had one).
  • Or could be you’ve developed acid reflux, high blood pressure, pre-diabetes/type-2 diabetes, or anxiety/depression. (Sound familiar?)

The issue of long-term health has been forefront on my mind for longer than most parents of young kids. My girls never got to meet my father, who lost his battle with cancer when I was in my 20s. Likewise, 3/4 of my grandparents died before I was born (cancer, heart attack, and stroke).

All three of my grandparents-I-never-met would have lived much longer today, if they’d known what we know now about healthy living and preventing the particular ailments that killed each of them (two when barely 50, one in his 60s).

Call me crazy,

but I want to live long enough to meet my own grandkids.

So ever since I turned 30, I’ve done everything I can to build healthy living into my daily routine.

Want to give this a try for yourself? Then here are three simple routines you can add to your day-to-day living that will help you build the foundation for long-term health.

Living long (and well) enough to play with your grandkids begins with small, simple daily steps. Start with these 3 healthy routines for good health.

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Healthy Routines for Good Health Long-term:

1. Eat real (i.e., whole) foods

Pop quiz: How many times a week do you

  • eat out?
  • and/or eat fast food?
  • eat processed food?
  • skip meals?

Now how many times a day do you

  • prepare foods from scratch?
  • eat fruits and vegetables?
  • choose fresh foods and unprocessed foods (whole grains, fresh fruits/veggies, etc.) over processed options?

Taking steps to include more whole foods in your diet is a great place to start. In a world full of processed food options, whole foods are a healthier and more natural option.

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are all perfect examples. This doesn’t mean you should eat nothing but grapefruit, or take on some other fad diet that severely restricts your food choices or leads to unbalanced eating!

A healthy diet should be balanced and nutritional. Whole foods are packed full of the vitamins and nutrients our bodies need to stay healthy. It may be an adjustment, especially if you’re not used to cooking/food prep/eating this way. But it’s a change that will benefit your kids’ long-term health as well as your own, as they’ll grow up thinking this healthy eating pattern is “normal.”

2. Stay active

I get it; you’re busy. Join the club – I don’t know a parent who isn’t.

If you think you don’t have time to exercise, then maybe you need to rethink what it means to stay active.

Honestly, I’m more active as a parent than I ever was before. Before parenthood, I spent way too many hours a day at a desk. Now, just chasing around after my kids, lugging laundry up and down the stairs, prepping dinner, trying to get them to bed, etc. is a workout and a half!

Exercise doesn’t have to be a time-consuming part of your day. Even adding an extra 15 minutes of physical activity to your day could make a huge difference in your long-term overall health.

Need ideas on squeezing in physical activity?

  • Do some sit-ups and push-ups while you wait for your bread to toast in the morning.
  • Go for a light jog (or walk laps indoors) with colleagues during your lunch break at work, before you eat.
  • Lift hand weights for 10 minutes or so while you’re binge-watching on the couch.
  • If your community layout and climate permit, see if you can ditch the car at least one day each week, in favor of walking or biking. Dear Husband bikes to work most days. And when my car died last fall unexpectedly, I got to my volunteer shift at the girls’ school the next morning on foot – and realized that what takes 2 miles by car is just over a mile of walking each way!
  • If you’re really stuck, give this workout for busy moms a try.

3. Take some “me” time daily

Modern mamas have an easier time with this then our own mamas did. Which doesn’t mean we won’t have to explain this strange tendency to our own mamas when they see us doing what sometimes seems “selfish” to older generations.

You know how on planes they say you should put on your own oxygen mask first?

Or as the old saying goes, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”? (Or my brother Evan’s variation on this theme: “Happy wife, happy life”?)

Do whatever it is to make sure you get this precious time to yourself. Ideally, take 30-60 minutes per day – even if it’s broken up into smaller chunks. It could be meditating, praying, or studying sacred texts. It could be pleasure-reading. Or maybe it’s catching a class at the gym (which accomplishes two healthy-routine goals at once!).

Need some inspiration?

  • Set aside the first half-hour to hour of the day for “me time.” I learned this from Dear Husband, who does NOTHING til he’s caught up on the news on his laptop while sipping that first cup of coffee.
  • Get up a little earlier so you can catch that early-morning spin, yoga, flow, or barre class at the gym before work. (Or whatever floats your boat; those are my personal faves.) Get your S.O. to arrange to be on kid duty as needed.
  • Set aside some time first thing (or last thing) to write. Julia Cameron fans are devotees of their Morning Pages, as was I for several years. Or meditate or read.
  • Develop your own bedtime-unwind routine. Maybe it’s journaling, or reading. For me, it’s a glass of wine while streaming video with my husband.

If you can’t squeeze in an hour a day, take a day off for yourself every week. For me, Saturday is Daddy’s day “on duty” and my day to do whatever I like – a long bike ride in season, or else the gym, shopping, house projects or crafts that tickle my fancy, whatever.

Your turn:

What about you? What small changes will you make to your daily routine to ensure you’re building good habits for long-term health? Which healthy routines for good health do you already practice each day? Let us know in the comments!

This post is dedicated to my late father, who would have celebrated a birthday today. Happy Birthday, Dad; I miss you.

 

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Living long (and well) enough to play with your grandkids begins with small, simple daily steps. Start with these 3 healthy routines for good health.

 

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