Last weekend I was at Ridgedale Mall in Minnetonka with one of my health fitness friends. Some brightly colored parking spaces located far from the entrance to the mall caught our eye. Large words called out “Today is the day we burn calories by parking here.” We pulled right in.
Today, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that the parking spaces are sponsored by Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Minnesota. Their hope is that making small changes to increase physical activity will have a positive impact on the health of Minnesotans.
This is a great start! Oftentimes, people can become defeated by the idea of major lifestyle changes and simply starting can seem too overwhelming. This parking space initiative is a nice reminder that a few extra steps a day add up.
Unfortunately, people in our country believe they have to run marathons or do regular century rides on a bike to be fit and healthy. Or they see an episode of the Biggest Loser and think that pain, suffering, and misery play a major role on the path to better health.
Nothing could be further from the truth. And with that in mind, here are 5 small things you can do to start a manageable journey to better health:
1. Walk 30 minutes a day. What is your favorite time of day? If you love to watch the sun rise, get up early and walk. If you love the evenings, ask a neighbor if you can walk their dog. If you are a busy student, walk on a treadmill while you study. A relaxing 30-minute walk is far less daunting than the thought of running a 10k or marathon and is something that most schedules can manage.
2. Stop drinking soda. This is non-negotiable. Sipping soda all day long at your desk is doing nothing but adding empty calories and chemicals to your body; chemicals your body shouldn’t be ingesting. No, you can’t drink diet soda, either. Treat yourself and your body to a glasss of water with a slice of lemon in it instead.
3. Find a form of exercise that you truly enjoy. Perhaps you can join a walking club, take paddle boarding lessons, or try aerial yoga classes. There are all kinds of enjoyable ways to move and they don’t have to be agonizingly difficult.
4. Find time to breathe and de-stress. Engaging in mindfulness techniques, taking a meditation class or trying relaxation yoga can dramatically improve your health. Decreasing the amount of stress in your life has been proven to change your hormonal profile and thereby lead to less weight gain.
5. Stick to the perimeter of the grocery store where the produce is located and try a new vegetable this week. Have fun with the vegetables and try something new. Have you ever grilled portabella mushrooms and dusted them with parmesan cheese and olive oil? How about trying a recipe with eggplant? Or experiment with a new marinade on some vegetable kabobs for dinner this week. I recently tried baby bok choy and it is fast becoming a staple in my kitchen.
As Lao-tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” Make a decision to take a small step today!
Learn more about the Health Fitness Specialist Degree at Globe University/Minnesota School of Business.