Time is hard to come by.
If you’re a woman in today’s world, that’s more than likely one of the constants in your life.
Between work, home, school, and family obligations, the days just fill themselves, leaving little extra. And, though that time-crunch is certainly evident to you – and those around you – federal data bear it out as well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Time Use Survey shows that over the course of a typical week, women have five fewer hours to spend in leisure-time activity than men.
In short: you’re busy. Really busy.
But, despite all you have going on, it’s important to take time for yourself and for your health. A healthy lifestyle can give you energy to get through a chock-full day, and some mental armor when stresses build up.
So, for this year’s National Women’s Health Week, here are five quick things you can do for your health that won’t add too much time to your already busy days – and may have big payoffs in the long run.
Try them on for size this week. See which ones work for you, and keep them going through the rest of May and beyond.
1. Try a meatless day
A largely plant-based diet filled with fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains is great for overall health – and can lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers, including breast cancer. In the United States, we base many of our meals on some kind of meat – often red or processed meats, which are the least healthy kinds. Going a whole day without meat is a great way to explore vegetarian options and think about making meatless days a regular part of the week.
2. Stand more
Some say that “sitting is the new smoking,” and while that’s likely a bit of an exaggeration, one large Australian study estimated that sitting too much accounts for around seven percent of all premature deaths. And its negative impact seems to persist even in those who hit the gym or bike paths regularly. Luckily, the fix is pretty straightforward, spend more time standing. Give it a try this week. If you have to sit for long stretches at work or school, stand up and go for a short walk once or twice an hour. Set a timer to remind yourself. If you usually sit while watching TV or being on your computer after work, stand instead, at least for part of the time. It can feel awkward at first but quickly begins to feel normal.
3. Think about alcohol and your health
Alcohol is a complicated topic when it comes to health. While moderate drinking (up to 1 drink a day for women) can lower the risk of heart disease in older adults, it can also increase the risk of certain cancers. And when it comes to breast cancer, having just 3 drinks a week can increase risk. As recently detailed in a popular magazine article, the health benefits of alcohol are often promoted much more than its risks, which on top of a higher cancer risk, can include dependence, injuries, and car crashes. Thinking about your health priorities can help you decide how you may want to approach alcohol. For most women who drink moderate amounts or less, there’s no reason to stop. At the same time, not drinking is a healthy choice, too. Those who drink more heavily, though, should cut down or quit. A doctor or other health care professional can help you work through any questions you have about how alcohol may impact your health.
4. Step on the scale a few times
For many people, this one falls into the “really-easy-but-don’t-want-to-do-it” category. And that’s OK. But research does show that stepping on the scale regularly – however hard it may be – can give feedback that helps people keep weight in check. If getting a handle on your weight is one of your goals, give weighing a try this week. As described in a recent first-hand account here in CNiC, regular weighing can be hard to get started but prove really helpful after you get into the groove.
5. Steer clear of calorie-filled drinks
We tend to not think about it much, but many of us get a lot of calories from beverages – like sugary sodas, energy drinks, and certain coffee drinks. These drinks tend to be a double whammy against health. Not only do they lack nutritional value, but they’re also packed with calories that don’t fill you up, making it more likely that you overeat over the course of a day. Try switching to water or unsweetened tea and black coffee this week and see how easy it can be to keep it going from there.