10 tips to improve your health today

Improving your health should be a lifetime goal – but what can you do – today, right now – to improve your health? There’s no secret formula for happiness, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that your overall health can influence how you feel. In fact, our Real Joys report looked at how our lives changed after the pandemic – for the better – and 53% of families surveyed by Real stated that getting more movement and exercise into their day helped them to feel closer to optimal health.

It's true, a healthy lifestyle can often lead to a healthy and happier mind. A study on exercise and mental health commissioned by the Better Health Channel found that people who exercise regularly often have greater mental health and emotional wellbeing than those who do not, and also report lower rates of mental illness.

So, how much will better health cost you? Do you need fancy equipment, the latest tech and an expensive gym membership? No! In fact, you don’t need to invest in all the latest technology or supplements to achieve these small health wins. Here are 10 easy ways to improve your health right now.

1. Drink water and keep hydrated for better health

A mature woman in a pink sports top holds a water bottle.

Did you know that even minor dehydration can affect physical and mental performance, so hydration is essential for better health. But, with the busyness of general life, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water. One helpful way is to keep a refillable water bottle with you throughout the day. The amount of water that someone should drink varies greatly from person to person but generally the recommended amount is 2 litres for women and 2.6 litres for men. By having a water bottle close to you at all times, you’ll know exactly how much you’ve had and how much more you need to drink 

How do you know how much to drink? To stay hydrated, experts say that it is vital to drink before you feel thirsty. If you find plain water too boring, add lemon juice, fresh herbs or infuse your water with fresh fruit such as berries, or even cucumber to keep things interesting.

2. Create a sleep schedule – and stick to it!

Much like getting enough water every day, life and stress can stop you from getting the right amount of sleep to perform at your optimal levels. Fixing your sleep schedule takes a bit of practice, and it’s not just about how many hours you clock up each night. Going to bed and waking up around the same time every day, even on weekends, can teach your body to fall into the right sleeping rhythm and improve your overall mental health.

3. Exercise with a friend to keep you accountable 

Two women in sportswear high five in the park

It’s 6am, your alarm goes off, and it’s cold and foggy outside – are you going to miss that walk you had planned? Maybe not if you exercise with a friend!

An ’accountability buddy’ can help to keep your exercise (and other health) goals on track. Have more fun, build or strengthen relationships, and work just that little bit harder – all because you have a friend in tow. Exercising with a friend could be your secret weapon to success!

If you struggle with motivation, ask a friend or family member to be your ‘accountability buddy’. They can send you messages asking how your workout went, or even better you can both work out together. If you don’t really have anyone to call on – you could also use community resources such as community group pages on social media, your local sports, health or swimming club, or apps like Meet Up to find like-minded individuals. 

4. Reduce your salt and sugar intake

A woman hold a healthy salad bowl

Whether you’re big on processed foods or simply going a little heavy on the salt, it’s easy to lose track and blow your daily intake way over the limit. Hypertension (high blood pressure) affects about one in three Australians, while excessive sugar intake can lead to all kinds of health problems, from weight gain to fatty liver disease and even diabetes.

But your long-term health isn’t the only concern when it comes to your diet. Sugary snacks or other ‘comfort’ foods tend to give you a small mood boost, but the effects can quickly wear down and leave you feeling even worse than before.

5. Take time every day to de-stress

Do you find yourself overly stressed with worries about work, money and family? Distress and mental health issues affect many Australians. You’re definitely not alone. While you may not be able to fix all your problems immediately, you can get into a better headspace by setting aside a pocket of time every day to de-stress. Maybe that means going for a long walk outside, or reading a book while curled up in bed. Whatever makes you happy, make time for it!

And it’s worth paying attention to your stress levels. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics one in five (20%) Australians aged 16-34 years claim to have high or very high levels of psychological distress. An interesting fact is that this affects us more as we are younger. Out of those aged 65-85 years, only half as much (9%) reported high or very high levels of distress. 

6. Play brain games

Your overall health isn’t just about your physical wellbeing, your brain also needs to stay active! Things like crosswords, sudoku and brain-game apps on your phone can help stimulate your mind. Even video games have been scientifically linked with improving mental health.

7. Find new ways to walk more

Getting active doesn’t necessarily mean purchasing a gym membership. You can increase your daily step count in lots of different ways. Instead of taking the elevator at work, why not use the stairs instead? Or maybe you could get off your train/bus stop one station early and walk the rest of the way? It’s also helpful to set daily step goals on your phone or watch and make it a fun game to hit them every day.

Walking for 30 minutes a day or more on most days of the week is a great way to improve or maintain your overall health. Walk with others for support and motivation and you might achieve even more, and have even more fun.

8. Practise mindfulness

Woman pictured meditating

Mindfulness has been shown to help you feel better while reducing stress – and it’s a simple way to make your inner self healthier. There are lots of different outlets to practise mindfulness. Maybe you are interested in yoga, or perhaps you can just take 10 minutes to reflect on your day and unwind. If you’re unsure where to begin, there are plenty of free mindfulness apps you can download.

As you’re reflecting on things in your daily life, this could also be a good time to review any insurances such as your life insurance policy to ensure it still matches your current needs. Health insurance is another great option so you can start to enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having health cover.

9. Stretch it out

Particularly if you’re taking up exercise again, it’s important to regularly stretch out your muscles. This helps you avoid injuries and stay limber – which is very important as you age! Even a few minutes of stretching before bed can relieve those tight muscles and help you get a better night’s sleep.

Static stretching has fallen out of fashion in some fitness communities, however, there are still many actual and potential benefits from it. 

10. Make some simple dietary substitutes

You are in total control of what you put into your body, so if you are adamant about making a healthy change to your diet then why not start by switching out some of your common foods and drinks for something healthier? Make sure you familiarise yourself with the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. 

Here are some ways you can eat healthier:

  • Swap out the white versions of bread, rice and pasta for whole grain varieties
  • Choose leaner cuts of beef and pork, and use chicken without the skin
  • Add an extra serving of vegetables to your dinner
  • Replace sugary drinks (including juice) with water, or dilute them with water to reduce how much sugar you get with each serving
  • Cut out unhealthy snacks and instead munch on healthy nuts, fruits and vegetables when you’re hungry.

Health and wellbeing affect both your inside and out, so it’s important to focus on your mind as well as your body. And don’t forget to be kind to yourself! If you fall off the wagon – it’s not the end of the world. Just make a commitment to yourself to be healthier and keep pushing towards your goal.

Consider looking out for you and your family

While looking out for your health, why not take a step towards looking after the rest of your family too? Real Health Insurance offers cover options for singles, couples, families or single parent families with a range of features and benefits so you can find a cover to suit your needs and budget.