There’s an art to healthy living, and part of that is recognizing our impact on others. Our personal health affects the people and environment around us, so take care of yourself and you’ll help take care of the world. To celebrate Earth Day, the anniversary of the modern environmental awareness movement, we gathered the top five ways to live a healthy, environmentally friendly life!
1. Eat clean
Eating clean means keeping your food as simple and nutritious as possible. In other words, close to the original source! Stick to whole foods, says Dr. Su Fairchild, a specialist in integrative medicine. Avoid or limit simple sugars and processed carbs, including flour products, because they cause your blood sugar to spike, provoking your body’s insulin response and promoting weight gain. You can consume good fats like olive oil and coconut oil in sensible amounts, and don’t forget to eat a rainbow of organic vegetables.
Medical oncologist Dr. Sewa Legha also suggests using the USDA guidelines on ChooseMyPlate.gov. By cutting out processed foods, which are often overly packaged, you reduce your diet’s environmental impact — and you live a healthier life too!
2. Stay hydrated
Hydration is an important part of a balanced lifestyle. Dr. Randy Baker, a specialist in holistic medicine, strongly advises avoiding soft drinks like soda (one of the worst things you can do for your health, he says) and excess juices because of the calories. Water should be your main source of fluids. Internist Dr. Steven Tucker notes that you should also avoid all artificial sweeteners, including beverage mixes, because your body still responds to “fake sugar.” People who drink a soda a day increase their diabetes risk by 50%, and those who drink diet sodas increase their risk by 20%.
Pediatric urologist Dr. George Klauber lists several benefits to drinking water: avoiding unnecessary calorie intake and the effects of caffeine and alcoholism, keeping your kidneys flushed, reducing urinary acidity for people with sensitive bladders, and saving money! Stick to water and you avoid the health risks involved with processed foods.
3. Exercise outside
Take advantage of the great outdoors and go for a run! Besides improving your cardiovascular health, outdoor workouts help your body produce vitamin D. Endocrinologist Dr. Philip Kern says, “During summer, you need about 20 min [of sunlight] at midday, longer at other times of day. In winter, or extreme northern latitudes, it takes longer. This is why there is usually a seasonal winter drop in blood [vitamin D] levels.” To get the full benefit of the sun, make sure you aren’t getting it through window glass!
If running is too aggressive for you, take a walk. It’s an easy, low-impact form of aerobic exercise, and doctors agree: it’s beneficial to your health!
4. Manage your stress
As internist Dr. Lori Wagner says, “Don’t let stress get in the way of taking care of yourself.” Managing your stress can include taking breaks, staying organized, and doing five-minute meditation sessions at your desk. By controlling your stress levels, you control your response to stress: overeating, under-eating, overcaffeinating, skipping the gym, etc. Stress impacts your health and your relationship to your environment, so keep a close eye on it. Take a look at the 13 Habits of Stress-Free People for more help!
5. Practice preventive care
Besides updating your shots/immunization records and seeing your doctor for an annual physical, preventive care that you can practice daily involves sun protection and reducing your risk for obesity. Plastic surgeon Dr. Bryan McIntosh says, “UV light is damaging to skin and undoubtedly a cause of skin cancers, so sun protection is always important.” Don’t forget to wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and protective clothing (like a hat!) if you’ll be out in the sun.
Dr. Dean Giannone, a specialist in internal medicine, says, “Obesity can compromise the heart, the lungs, the liver, the knees, the hips, the ankles, the muscles, and the spine. It can affect your sleep, making you tired and inattentive during the day. And oh yes, it can shorten your life expectancy.”Obesity and its risks are incredibly dangerous to your health: the leading causes of death in the world are related to heart health, which is affected by obesity. By establishing a healthy diet and exercise routine, you can prevent obesity and other cardiovascular risks.