Kids’ exercise is built into daily life at school. Running around at recess and playing outside after school are fun activities that also happen to be healthy. But as we age, those experiences become few and far between. We’re no longer hitting the playground midday or participating in sports on weekends. Most of us don’t have a health game plan, nor a health improvement plan.

Instead, we’re managing work and household chores, balancing busy social calendars, and planning for the future. It’s no wonder health and wellness fall to the wayside in favor of other priorities. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

While doing the work to become healthier is no easy feat, it pays dividends. Creating an actionable health improvement plan to improve your health that works for you helps ensure you stick with it. That way, the changes made aren’t just for the next season but for life itself. These are a few ways to get started.

1. Know Your Why

Many people start health improvement journeys with the best intentions. They’re going to lose weight, lower their cholesterol, or do any number of other things to be healthier. But wanting to do it and actually doing it are two entirely separate things.

Before you can embark on a path to becoming healthier, you have to know why you’re doing it. Are you wanting to be around for your loved ones as long as you can? Are you tired of feeling tired? Do you just need to reset and get back to healthy ways? All of those reasons are valid and can fuel your fire to enact change.

You also want to remember where you’re starting from. Take a few minutes and write down how you feel daily. Pay attention to things that bother you — the back pain you get from sitting or lack of energy, for example. Those negative side effects of bad habits then become the focus of your health improvement plan.

Combining why you’re creating this health improvement plan with the specifics of what you want to improve makes it that much stronger. You’re putting action to the goals you’ve set with strategies on how to get there. And that is vital to making changes that will truly transform your health.

2. Tackle Nutrition

Food is the fuel our bodies need to perform daily functions and ensure things run smoothly. Everything from digestion to how you feel completing daily tasks is greatly impacted by nutrition or lack thereof. So much so that eating to fuel your brain can help with focus and productivity. As such, it’s only natural that taking a look at what’s on your plate is a crucial step in improving health.

Think of a typical day of eating in your life and write it out. From your morning coffee to your late-night snacks, account for everything. Then, look at nutrition labels to see what nutrients you’re getting enough of and where you may be falling short. Pay special attention to your protein, fiber, and sugar intake to see if there’s an imbalance.

From there, you can identify choices that are potentially hindering your health journey and could be scaled back. This doesn’t have to be drastic, either. Instead of two sodas a day, try to cut back to one and a half. Then, get down to one. You can even consider making a healthier swap — like sparkling water — to break the habit entirely.

These seemingly small adjustments can make a big difference. But remember that no one’s diet is perfect because there’s no such thing. Incorporate a mixture of foods you eat for fuel and for fun to make your health improvement long-lasting.

3. Incorporate Movement

While a well-balanced diet can make a world of difference in a person’s health, physical exercise can’t be overlooked. Finding the time isn’t always the easiest, though, especially if you have to pencil it into an already packed schedule. Luckily, there are simple changes you can make to get more movement that doesn’t require hours in the gym.

One example is walking. Simply taking a walk at a moderate pace once or twice a day can do great things for your health. Steady-state cardio can be easier on joints than something more aggressive, like jumping or running, but it still gets the blood flowing.

Daily tendencies can make a difference, too. Opt for the stairs instead of the elevator when both are available. Take the long way back to your couch when you’re having a lazy day at home. While they may seem insignificant, creating habits that move your body will always be a good thing for your health.

For those looking for more than just a little additional movement, invest in a gym membership or some at-home equipment. There are many free online tutorials of workouts to follow. You’d be surprised at what can be done with some dumbbells and a few minutes.

4. Manage Stress

The impact of stress on the body can’t be overstated. From heart problems to exhaustion, there are serious consequences for raised cortisol — the main stress hormone — in the body. But you may be wondering what to do about it. You’re not alone. In fact, 55 percent of Americans report feeling stressed throughout the day.

First, take a deep breath. Managing stress, like anything, takes time. There’s no magical cure to ease all tension and make everyday stressors evaporate into thin air. However, identifying the main sources of stress in your life and trying to mitigate them is a great first step.

Maybe your workload is substantial, and burnout feels inevitable. Consider taking a day off with no work at all. Or dedicate time away from it all to break the monotony and make the workday more manageable. Sometimes simple changes like this can be the perfect solution.

And when they’re not, it may be time to pursue other options. Setting boundaries and prioritizing your health while still producing good work is a great goal. Look at reducing your workload (and the stress that accompanies it). Decline meetings after a certain time of day and pencil in a required sit-down lunch for a 30-minute break. Ultimately, figuring out what reduces stress in daily life can drastically improve your health and quality of life.

5. Go to Health Appointments

Skipping your kid’s doctor visit? You would never do that! Pushing a needed vet appointment for your pet? Wouldn’t dream of it. So, why isn’t the same true for you?

There’s a lot that can be done from the comfort of your home to improve your health. However, there’s nothing quite like enlisting the help and qualifications of professionals to really drive it home. That’s what makes going to your annual appointments a vital piece of anyone’s health improvement plan.

While the frequency may vary depending on where you live, most people would benefit from annual visits to their:

  • Primary Care Physician
  • Dermatologist
  • Dentist
  • Optometrist

Of course, some people may choose to seek out specialists to help with specific goals, too. The point is simple: Go to the doctor. You deserve to be in the know about your health, and medical professionals are well-equipped to help you do just that.

Keep It Up

Change is hard, but it’s necessary to get where you want to go. While your health improvement journey may not be linear, it will create a happier, healthier you. And that will always be worthwhile.

[Related: Calendar Help for Loved Ones During Medical Treatment and Recovery]

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Jermaine Ulinwa; Pexels; Thank you!