January is a particularly difficult time to remain healthy and active in many parts of the United States. The days are short, the air is harsh, and the skies are grey. Many Americans prefer to sit under a cozy blanket in front of the television with warm comfort foods in front of them at this time of year. Though it may be difficult, keeping active year round is one of the most important ways to reduce one’s risk of cancer. In fact, approximately 20% of all cancer diagnoses in the United States is related to physical inactivity. With efforts to reduce this percentage, Healthy Weight Week is celebrated from January 19th through the 25th. During this week, Americans are encouraged to get moving during one of the most sedentary months of the year to improve health and reduce their risk of cancer. Participating in Healthy Weight Week doesn’t have to be difficult or even time consuming. It is as easy as incorporating some or all of the following tips to live a healthier life.
1. Make exercise fun again!
As children, exercise was as natural as breathing. Racing to the bottom of the hill or climbing trees were seen as fun and games rather than an exercise routine. To get into the habit of movement, find out which kind of exercise is enjoyable. Some people may find a game of basketball to be the motivation needed, while others will find walking outdoors to be a refreshing change of pace. For those who crave a social workout, invite some friends along and make the exercise a social gathering and celebration.
2. Take small steps
Incorporating physical activity doesn’t need to be a massive grand gesture. Running a marathon is great, but not if it comes at the cost of your sanity. Adding any sort of movement to one’s day is an excellent starting point. Try to walk or bike instead of drive when possible, and opt for the staircase instead of the elevator.
3. Drink more water
Thirst is often misinterpreted as hunger, causing many people to overeat. Ensuring that one’s body is getting enough fluid is hugely important to maintaining a healthy body and weight. Keeping hydrated also helps the body regulate temperature, rid itself of waste, and even keeps the brain more focused. Most adults should be drinking approximately 2 liters of water a day.
4. Get plenty of quality sleep
Sleep helps the body prepare for another day ahead as well as recover from the day passed. Ensuring at least 8 hours of sleep each night can even reduce one’s risk of many diseases. It can help lower blood pressure and reduce stress levels.
Speaking of stress, individuals who battle constant stress may find it difficult to lose weight or even maintain a healthy weight. Practicing yoga or mediation can help relieve stress and make it possible to maintain a healthy weight. For those experiencing chronic stress, speaking to a doctor may be necessary.
6. Cut back on alcohol
Alcohol is one of the unhealthiest things people can consume. Not only is it typically full of calories with zero nutritional value, but it also increases one’s risk of cancer. People who drink alcohol should limit their intake to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women. When pouring a drink, it is important to note exactly how much of the beverage is considered one standard drink.
7. Eat more fruits and vegetables
Adults are recommended to eat 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables each day. This ensures that the body is receiving all of the nutrients and vitamins it needs. To meet this recommendation, fruits and vegetables should be had at every meal and snack. In incorporating fruits and vegetables, it is also recommended to have a variety of each. Different colored plants have unique nutrients, meaning that eating only strawberries won’t give the body what it needs. The increase of fruits and vegetables on the plate can help reduce the amount of processed and red meat at mealtime. These foods have been found to increase the risk of heart disease and premature death.
8. Set a goal
Making the mindful decision to incorporate strength training twice a week helps to hold individuals accountable for their activity. Knowing what is expected from oneself can be the greatest motivation in maintaining a healthy weight. Many people find motivation by setting a future goal. This can mean signing up for a 5k run a few months in advance to kickstart training. It doesn’t matter what the goal is, whether it is being able to do a sit-up by the end of the year or if it is to drop 15 pounds. The most important thing is that health is prioritized.
The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) believes that the best way to fight cancer is to prevent it in the first place. By living a healthier lifestyle, we can limit our risk of developing certain cancers. But while NFCR promotes cancer-prevention, we’re also working hard to support our scientists in the lab. NFCR-funded scientists are a collection of the most-renowned cancer researchers in the world, and with the support of NFCR and its donors they are making game-changing discoveries in cancer research. These discoveries are changing the way we treat cancer and are leading to better outcomes for cancer patients. Learn more about NFCR-funded scientists and their current projects here.