Notes from a Naturopathic Physician: The Impact of Simple Lifestyle Choices on Your Health

Starting Slow, Staying Steady

slow-steadyBehavior. Education. Technology. Three powerful words for how we can harness life in a healthier way. Modify your behaviors, educate yourself by seeking out accurate information, and utilize technologies to help you become successful.

Behavior: A few more minutes of anything active

What behavior changes will make the most positive impact? Consider exercise. Most people who don’t exercise say that they either don’t like to exercise or don’t have the time. But simple changes in one’s daily routine can incorporate physical activity for those with busy schedules. Parking a little farther from work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, spending a little extra time walking the dog or cleaning the house, taking a walk on a lunch break, or staying at the park with your kids a little longer are all effective strategies. These all count as “exercise” and the minutes add up quickly. Remember, it is the total that matters; you do not have to commit to a 30-minute block every day. There are many other ways to exercise besides gyms, too. Start by choosing something you love that is active. Gardening, bowling, and cooking count as exercise. Move as much as you can and get up out of that chair every hour

Education: Navigating information

The internet now gives us access to information in a way that was once inconceivable. When it comes to information on health, cyberspace is overloaded. Some information is good, some is unhelpful, and some is even bad. We know that getting educated about our health is important, but how do you navigate the endless information available? My advice is to look for sources that keep it simple, make logical sense and offer real, tangible solutions.

Technology: Empowering motivation

Mobile health technologies are becoming some of the most effective tools in healthcare. They empower individuals to take ownership over their health by providing real-time data and social participation—two powerful motivators.

In 2011, Wired magazine featured an article by Thomas Goetz about the impact of information feedback loops. One example is the “Your Speed” signs we see when driving around our neighborhoods. The premise is not complicated: Provide people with information about their behavior in real time, and give them the opportunity to change their actions. Simple and effective. Most of us do slow down after seeing our speed displayed next to the speed limit. This is the same idea behind many mobile health technologies. When people are more aware of their positive existing behaviors (like a pedometer that shows total number of steps per day), they are more likely to increase those behaviors.

Granted, being healthy can mean hard work, but consider these facts:

  • Being obese can reduce your lifespan by 3-10 years
  • Smoking, up to 10 years
  • Diabetes, up to 8 years
  • … and those figures don’t take into account how the quality of life declines with chronic illness.

You can be conscious of your choices and be motivated to live a healthy life or not but regardless of what you choose, one thing is clear: The future of your health is up to you, and you alone.

Naturopath Notes and Resources

Here are examples of great mobile health technologies to help you make positive lifestyle choices. Each one has a social network component so you can connect with others with similar goals and lifestyles.

Portable devices that keep track of daily activity, nutrition, and sleep. Fitbit
Jawbone UP Band
Nike Fuelband
Free apps that makes it easy to keep track of what you eat and how much you exercise to help you lose weight. My Fitness PAL
Lose It
Calorie Counter PRO by MyNetDiary
Apps that makes it easy to keep track of your exercise activity. Runkeeper
Map my walk

Written by Dan Warren, Adjunct Faculty, Center for Sustainable Health; Physician, Southwest Naturopathic Medical Center