9 Free Ways To Improve Your Health

1. Sleep

Committing to adequate sleep might be the best health investment you can make. Insufficient sleep has been linked to chronic conditions, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. One study found that people who averaged less than seven hours of sleep a night were about three times more likely to develop cold symptoms than those who slept at least eight hours.

Integrative physician Frank ­Lipman, MD, author of How to Be Well, puts it bluntly: “Lack of sleep can make you fatter, biologically older, and more at risk for heart disease and diabetes.” It can also leave you wired for stress, with a nervous system primed for fight-or-flight reactions to everyday challenges.

It’s not just quantity of sleep that counts: Quality rest with phases of deep sleep allows the brain to protect itself from toxic proteins that accumulate throughout the day. Syncing your natural body clock by establishing a regular sleep and wake schedule, finishing your last meal two to three hours before bedtime, avoiding alcohol before bed, and being mindful of evening light exposure can all help.

2. Move

We are made to move. “A hundred years ago, humans were up and moving around more than eight hours a day,” says Parker. “Now it’s reversed, and we’re spending that much time sitting.” One recent study found that a quarter of Americans sit for more than eight hours daily.

Sitting and rarely rising is hard on our health, she explains, noting that movement keeps blood and lymph flowing and delivers oxygen and nutrients to our cells.

Incorporate movement into your daily routine by getting out of your chair regularly or using a standing desk or a fitness ball that activates your core while you sit. Park farther from your destination when driving. Choose the stairs over the elevator.

“Design and embed movement into the routine operations of your life,” advises Jonas, who uses a walking desk for his daily work. “Don’t just rely on willpower, or it won’t happen.”

3. Meditate

Although long bouts of sitting is bad for your health, intentionally sitting still and focusing on your breath can be a powerful tool for improving your well-being, counteracting stress, stimulating the vagus nerve (which affects everything from digestion to heart rate), and inspiring clearer thinking and better decision-making. Meditating for as little as 10 minutes a day can also yield profound cognitive benefits, according to Lipman: It improves memory,…

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