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5 Simple Things You Can Do Today for a Healthier You

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5 Simple Things You Can Do Today for a Healthier You

Jan 26, 2022

It’s a new year, and you may be thinking of some resolutions to better your health and wellness. But general, big-picture goals like “get fit” or “eat better” may seem overwhelming. Where do you even start? Why not start small? Dr. Troy Madsen, emergency room physician at University of Utah Health, has five simple, yet specific, things you can do today that will set you on the path to a healthier you.

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: Five things to do to be a healthier you. That's next on The Scope.

You've decided you want to be a healthier version of yourself. We want to find out what are five things that you could focus on that would help you accomplish that goal because obviously, physical health is good but there are other aspects as well. So to help us kind of figure out the five things you can do to be a healthier you, we've got Dr. Troy Madsen. He's an emergency room physician at University of Utah Health Care. So what are five things that I could really focus on just to be healthier and happier this year?

Dr. Madsen: When we think about the New Year we often think kind of big picture things, and you always hear, "Eat better, sleep better, exercise more." We tell ourselves these things every year, like, "I've got to change this, I've got to do better." For me, I like to think specifics, so these are very, very specific things you can do to make a difference. Maybe you have other specific things in mind, but these are something you can do to say, "Okay, what can I do today to make a difference?" Something simple, some simple changes to improve in these areas.

Interviewer: All right. So we're not just talking about eating better, we're talking about something specific that's going to help you eat better?

Dr. Madsen: Exactly.

Interviewer: Oh, this is good. All right.

Dr. Madsen: Very specific here.

Interviewer: Number one, five things you can do to be a healthier you this New Year.

Eat Fruit Every Morning with Your Breakfast

Dr. Madsen: So number one to eat better, eat fruit every morning with your breakfast. Very simple. Eat a banana, eat an apple, whatever it is. It's going to accomplish a couple things. Number one, you're going to actually eat breakfast which, of course, they say is the most important meal of the day. I don't know if that's true but I think it's an important meal. Number two, right there, you've already had a couple servings of fruit. Eat a full banana, that's like two servings. You're good, you're almost halfway there for the day.

Interviewer: So that's it. All right, yeah.

Dr. Madsen: See, you've already improved your eating.

Interviewer: Okay, I like that. Number two on five things you can do to be a healthier you.

Take a Refillable Water Bottle to Work

Dr. Madsen: Number two kind of along the lines of this whole eating thing, is take a water bottle, a refillable water bottle, with you to work. Accomplishes a couple things. Number one, refill that bottle several times during the day, drink lots of water. It's going to get you up out of your seat, get you walking to fill it up. It's also going to get you out of your seat to go use the restroom. You have to use the restroom more.

Interviewer: Yeah, because a lot of us can just sit around at work all day and never get out of that chair.

Dr. Madsen: Yeah, and never get up and walk.

Interviewer: Getting up is super important.

Dr. Madsen: It is.

Interviewer: I mean, it seems so simple but it makes a big difference. It makes a big difference.

Dr. Madsen: It makes a big difference, and a lot of studies show that just sitting all day is a big risk factor for heart disease and problems down the road. So it gets you up, gets you moving around. It also helps you feel more full. It's also going to help you avoid going and getting sodas and high-calorie drinks because you already got water there, you're drinking it. It's going to help on a number of fronts.

Interviewer: Yeah. I know a lot of people that, when they start feeling hungry, they'll just take some water instead. A lot of times, that hunger sensation is actually caused by thirst, I've heard.

Dr. Madsen: Exactly, yeah.

Interviewer: Also, like you said, it fills your stomach. That's great. All right, number three.

Exercise 3x a week, 30 Minutes Each Time

Dr. Madsen: So number three is exercise. Don't just exercise but just tell yourself, "I'm going to something 30 minutes a day, three times a week." That's it. It doesn't matter what you do. If you can't run, walk. If you don't want to ride a bike, just get out, do something just to make yourself do it three times a week, 30 minutes each time. Don't hold yourself to super high standards, saying, "Okay, I'm going to go to the gym six times a week for an hour and workout." If you're doing anything right now, just say, "Okay, well, where can I start?" Three times a week, 30 minutes a day. Doesn't matter what you do, get out, walk, run, jog, ski, bike. Whatever it is, do something.

Interviewer: Just be active.

Dr. Madsen: Just be active.

Interviewer: All right, sounds good. Five things to do to be a healthier you, number four.

Improve Your Sleep Hygiene

Dr. Madsen: So the next thing, of course, we talk about eating, we talk about exercise, and then there's sleep. Sleep makes such a big difference in terms of both our attitude, our general health, our diet. So to improve sleep, this is a challenging theme because sleep affects so many people, but a simple thing you can do is to improve your sleep hygiene.

Step one would be, if you have a TV in your room, take the TV out of your room. That's been something that's been shown again and again, that association of having that TV in your room can just make you sleep not as well. Either you're up late watching TV or you're thinking in the middle of the night, "I can't sleep, I'm going to turn the TV on." You're awake then, you're watching more of the TV. Take the TV out of your room.

Maybe it's something else, like just don't look at your phone an hour before you go to bed. Just don't look at that screen because that blue light coming from the screen can disrupt your sleep. But again, I think the simple thing would be to say, take the TV out of your room. That'd be the first step.

Interviewer: That's a great idea. All right, number five.

Be Grateful for What You Have

Dr. Madsen: Yeah. So the last thing would be to improve your psychological health. Something that's been shown again and again to improve psychological health is gratitude, just being grateful for what you have, looking on the positive side. A very simple thing you can do here is just jot something down every day that you're grateful for. Maybe it's on a little Post-it note, something you can stick on your computer, maybe it's just saying it out loud as you're driving to work. Something like that, just to bring it to the forefront of your mind.

You're grateful for the weather, you're grateful for your job, whatever, your family. Just something to focus on, rather than the negative. Studies again and again show that focusing on gratitude makes a huge difference in our psychological health, our general outlook and our physical health as well.

Interviewer: I've started doing that every morning at the beginning of the last year, and it makes a huge difference.

Dr. Madsen: Yeah.

Interviewer: Not only just gratitude, but also maybe celebrate your little victories.

Dr. Madsen: Right.

Interviewer: So for example, if you tried one of those other things and you did really well at it, like, "Wow, I really watched what I ate the other day and I've avoided the sugary stuff that I normally go to." Write that down, celebrate it.

Dr. Madsen: Exactly. Celebrate it, celebrate that you're eating a banana on the way into work because you're eating your fruit. You got your water bottle there, you didn't have your TV in your room last night. Look what you can be thankful for.

Interviewer: Right? As simple and as silly as that sounds, it really does make a big difference. It does.

Dr. Madsen: Yeah. It's amazing. It sure does.

updated: January 26, 2022
originally published: January 6, 2017