If You Could Turn Back Time: Making 3 Healthy Habits Standard

By Martha Michael

Woman in Her 50s Checking Time and Pulse

When you turn back the clock -- whether it’s a metaphor for feeling younger or you’re literally ending daylight saving time and grabbing an extra hour of sleep -- it’s a good thing. Turns out, it’s a healthy thing, too.

Did you start the year with some resolutions to get healthy? It’s a good idea to try a new direction once in awhile, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. If your New Year’s resolutions hit the wall by Groundhog Day or the onset of bikini season, it’s time to hit the reset button.

Like changing the batteries on your smoke alarms, use the “fall back” time of year to change your clock and and your mindset; return to some personal health practices that fell off your radar as winter turned into spring turned into summer turned into fall. Make these healthy habits standard in your life to help get through the hurdles that accompany the upcoming holidays. It’s time to move forward by turning back time.

Turn from Relaxation to Physical Activity

Was it last spring you took up Pilates and discovered meditation? You may have found solace from your stress by turning to The Little Book of Mindfulness or tuning in to Oprah’s “Super Soul Sundays.” But if you’re suffering from muscle atrophy as a byproduct of your decision, you may need to return to your former fitness routine.

But before you roll up your yoga mat, there’s some really good news for you. Becoming fit and benefiting your mind are not mutually exclusive -- they’re actually complementary, according to an article on the Purdue University website. Researchers studied men and women at the university who worked out at Purdue’s gym and found that those who were there at least once a week had better grades than those who didn’t spend time at the gym.

"Some might assume time at a gym is a distraction from academics,” says Tricia Zelaya, assistant director for student development and assessment at Purdue’s Division of Recreational Sports. “But it is really part of the learning landscape."

The physical benefits of fitness are widely known -- cardiac health, strength and longevity, among other things. But Zelaya’s study shows its reach is wider. The goal of her work is to teach lifelong healthy habits that go way beyond the scope of a gym, she says, adding that physical activity is useful to cope with stress.

“It’s a lifestyle habit that is never too young to learn,” she says.

Stop Putting Out Fires, Practice Preventative Health

If you’ve been amping up your career trajectory, chances are your phone calendar is blowing up and you march to the beat of your audible reminders. Sure, it can be good for business, but when your everyday margins of time are too narrow, any snafu brings down the whole house of cards. For maximum wellness, you want more action -- not reaction -- but that means taking control of your schedule and including healthier habits.

A regular diet of sitting at a computer, hassling with homework, shouldering responsibilities at your job and spending time on freeways cannot positively affect your posture or the shape and condition of your spine.

How long has it been since you’ve been to the chiropractor?

An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure, because regular visits for chiropractic adjustments to your spine can correct potentially damaging postural positions and avert chronic pain. If appointments are fixed on your calendar, you’re already receiving treatment to naturally improve curvature of your spine and correct joint restrictions that occur from everyday living. The added benefit is more immediate treatment when you experience problems with your neck, back or joints.

If you don’t carve out time to see your chiropractic professional, it’ll likely mean more tyranny of the urgent -- filling your time with sedentary work options and responding to pleas for help from colleagues. It’s a recipe for declining health.

Regulate Bedtimes in Lieu of Stop, Drop and Sleep

Scientists at Oxford University in the United Kingdom studied more than 20,000 men and women who had previously not shown any cardiovascular disease (CVD). According to the university’s website, the study shows that individuals who sleep six hours or less per night have a 15 percent higher risk of CVD and a 23 percent higher chance of contracting coronary heart disease, or CHD. A look at those “short sleepers” revealed that when coupled with poor sleep quality they have a 79 percent higher risk of CHD.

An article on CNN’s website says there are even more health hazards related to your circadian clock. Apparently, we should celebrate the act of turning our clocks back to standard time, not the reverse. A Finnish study of more than 3,000 patients hospitalized in the first week of daylight saving time found that there were 8 percent more strokes just two days after the start of DST. Cancer patients, in particular, have a 25 percent higher chance of suffering from a stroke while the clocks are forward than during standard time. And individuals more than 65 years old are 20 percent more likely to stroke out during daylight saving time.

If you’re like many Americans who take pleasure in turning back the hands of time, you know it’s not as easy as it sounds. To lengthen your days, and improve their quality, the wisdom of yesterday still applies -- healthy habits win the day. And you may as well begin right away, because there’s no time like the present.

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