Spring into Action

 

The flowers are blooming, and the birds are singing. And suddenly, you feel more energetic than you have in months. It’s official: Spring has sprung.

For many of us, the warmer weather comes with a burst of motivation to get healthier and tackle projects at home. So take advantage! Here are six simple, yet effective, ways to spring into action this season.

1. Plant an edible garden.

Gardening is an easy (and inexpensive) way for everyone in your family to fill up on fresh produce. Veggies are at their most delicious when picked and eaten at the peak of ripeness. And you might find that you appreciate the flavor even more when you grow them yourself.

You may reap some important health benefits too. Gardening is a fun way to be more active and spend less time sitting. And it delivers a nutrition boost: Fresh fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals. Eating more of them can help you maintain a healthy weight, as well as lower your risk for diseases like heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

Get started: Don’t have tons of outdoor space? Don’t worry. Many vegetables—like leafy greens, hot peppers and herbs—are easy to grow in pots or small gardens.

2. Get some outdoor exercise.

Let the backyard or local park be your gym. An outdoor sweat session can lift your mood, while the sunshine serves up a welcome dose of vitamin D. And a change of scenery is always nice, right?

It can be as simple as taking a brisk walk through your neighborhood. But don’t be afraid to mix it up. How about playing basketball or tennis with friends, trying an outdoor yoga class, or taking a post-dinner bike ride? Another idea: Use your surroundings as fitness props. Do push-ups or dips on a park bench, or wrap a resistance band around a tree.

Get started: Do a mix of aerobic exercise (like walking or bicycling), stretches, and strength exercises that work your muscles. And if you haven’t been active in a while, get your doctor’s OK before lacing up your sneakers.

3. Take stock of your kitchen.

Out with the old and in with the nutritious. Clear your kitchen of any less-than-healthy foods and replace them with better-for-you ones. For healthy meals and snacks, stock up on these staples.

For your pantry:

• Whole grains like brown rice and rolled oats, whole wheat pasta, and whole-grain cereal.

• Healthy and quick dinner builders like low-salt canned beans, salmon, tuna, tomatoes and marinara sauce.

• Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts or sunflower seeds.

• Canned fruits and veggies like peas, tomatoes, pumpkin and pineapple. (Choose low-sodium and low-sugar options.)

• Flavor boosters like balsamic vinegar, low-sodium soy sauce, and dried herbs and spices.

• Healthy cooking oils like olive or canola oil and nonstick cooking spray.

For your fridge or freezer:

• Frozen vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, leafy greens and squash. (Choose those without salty or cheesy sauces.)

• Frozen fruits like berries or peaches. (Choose those without added sugar.)

• Low-fat dairy products like milk, yogurt or cheese.

• Frozen meat like fish fillets, skinless chicken breasts and lean ground beef.

Get started: You don’t need to buy all of these items at once. Just add a few new ones to your shopping cart each week.

4. Weigh in on your weight.

Gaining a few pounds over the winter might not seem like a big deal.

But even a little bit of extra weight can increase your chances for high blood pressure and high blood sugar. And those things can put you at risk for heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Talk with your doctor if your body mass index (BMI) has crept into the overweight range (25 or greater). Should you decide that you need to lose weight, eating better and being more active can help you reach a healthy weight.

Get started: Don’t discount the power of a good night’s sleep to help you shed any extra pounds. Being well-rested may make it easier to avoid mindless snacking, research suggests.

5. Give your house a checkup.

Spring cleaning is also prime time for some important home safety checks. Be sure to:

Test for radon. Radon gas is a leading cause of lung cancer. You can’t see or smell it—but a simple DIY test kit (available online or at home improvement stores) can reveal if the level of radon in your home is too high. If it is, a qualified radon professional can remove the excess gas.

Inspect smoke detectors. Replace them every 10 years—even if they still work. Find the date of manufacture on the back of the alarm.

Clear tripping hazards. Tuck away loose wires or cords, replace throw rugs that slide or bunch, and fix any uneven flooring.

Move furniture away from windows. If you have any kiddos at home, this will keep the climbers from accidentally falling out a window.

Get started: Make a safety to-do list and cross off completed items so nothing gets missed.

6. Be alert to allergies.

Unpleasant sneezing and stuffiness are common this time of year. And seasonal allergies are often to blame.

It might be tempting to Google your symptoms—but you’re better off seeing an allergist. They can identify your specific allergens and offer lifestyle changes and medications that can help you feel better.

Making a doctor’s appointment is especially important if you have asthma. There’s a good chance that you also have an undiagnosed allergy, which could be making you even more uncomfortable this time of year.

Get started: A deep spring cleaning won’t just make your house sparkle—it’ll also help clear away irritating allergens like mold, dust and pet dander.

Sources: American Cancer Society; American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology; American Heart Association; National Institutes of Health; Safe Kids Worldwide; Coffey Communications

Do you have a primary care provider? If not, add “Make an appointment” to your spring to-do list. We can help you with that task. Call 830.401.7401 to reach our physician referral line.