Establishing a Healthy Nighttime Routine

Establishing a healthy nighttime routine is a great way to improve your sleep. This simple self-care ritual can have a big impact on your health and wellness. According to the CDC, one third of Americans don’t get the seven to nine hours of sleep necessary to operate at their best. Regularly sleeping less than seven hours raises your risk of stroke, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. In fact, poor sleepers live less. Get better at falling and staying asleep, and you will get better at life!

What is a Healthy Nighttime Routine?

A healthy nighttime routine is a series of actions you repeat 30 minutes to two hours before bed. Going through the same steps in the same order nightly helps you to unwind. It also cues your brain to prepare for sleep. This makes it easier to fall into a restful slumber so you can wake up re-energized tomorrow.

Why Is a Healthy Nighttime Routine Important?

A healthy nighttime routine encourages your mind to relax. This prevents nagging worries from ruining your sleep or causing insomnia. It also helps your brain to differentiate night from day so you feel tired when you need to. This makes for better sleep, and a happier, more productive tomorrow.

Top Ten Components of a Healthy Nighttime Routine

  1. Be Consistent. According to the CDC, having a consistent sleep schedule is the best thing you can do to improve your sleep. Choose a time to wind down, to go to sleep and to wake up every day. Don’t stray from that schedule by more than an hour even on the weekends. Research shows that the best time to go to sleep for heart health is between 10:00 and 11:00 pm. When you go to bed at a consistent and appropriate time, you train your brain to get sleepy when you need it to.
  2. Prepare for Tomorrow. The best time to start your morning routine is in the evening. By the same token, the best time to start your nighttime routine is in the morning. Once you have healthy morning and evening rituals, you have taken control of your days. You have nourishing and comforting habits that ensure that your time is spent on your priorities. Prepare your food, clothes and activities for the next day in the evening as much as time allows. A bowl of overnight oats prepared the night before lightens your morning load. Besides the physical prep work, you can also prepare mentally. A written to-do list for the next day works wonders. You are freeing up space in your mind. Spend a few minutes picturing tomorrow, prioritizing your tasks and visualizing positive outcomes.
  3. Calm Your Mind. De-stressing activities include journaling, listening to music, mindfulness meditation, breath work and reading. These put you in a peaceful emotional state. Focusing on taking slow deep breaths for a few minutes cues your mind to prepare for sleep.
  4. Calm Your Body. Activities such as Progressive Muscle Relaxation, stretching, massage and yoga allow you to release tension.
  5. Create Your Own Sleep Sanctuary. Make your room as dark, quiet, cool, clutter-free and comfortable as possible. The ideal temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 71 degrees Fahrenheit. Blackout curtains keep your room very dark. Use a fan or white noise if needed to block out noise. Removing physical clutter unburdens your mind. A scent diffuser or essential oil on your pillow can also elicit peaceful slumber.
  6. Turn off Electronics. The blue light from your computer, tablet and smartphone tricks your brain into thinking that it is daytime. This reduces your melatonin production, which makes you feel awake. Try to avoid these devices in the evening or use a red-light filter if necessary.
  7. Avoid heavy meals. Don’t consume caffeine or excess fat, sugar, alcohol and beverages in the evening hours.
  8. Set the Mood. Use dimmer lights at night. If possible, connect with loved ones or pets. A warm bath, candles and a cup of chamomile or lavender tea an hour before bed will make you feel relaxed and sleepy. This is a great time to ponder what you are grateful for.
  9. Start First Thing in the Morning. Get sunshine as early as possible, ideally during a morning walk. Exercise enough daily and eat nutritious meals at regular times. Hydrate properly throughout the day. Aligning your circadian rhythm with daylight hours will go a long way towards optimizing your sleep and your health.
  10. Make It Your Own. Test out a few strategies to see what works best for you.

The Takeaway

Sleep is a fundamental component of good health, along with exercise and nutrition. Unfortunately, one in three of us does not get enough of it. But there is a lot you can do to change that. Establishing a healthy nighttime routine lowers your health risks and lets you feel your best. Along with a healthy morning routine, it puts you in the driver’s seat of your life. The number one action you should take is to maintain a strict sleep schedule. Creating a standard operating procedure for your evening lets you properly unwind. This allows you to prepare for restful sleep as well as for the next day. Once you have a healthy nighttime routine in place, you will wake up relentlessly ready to tackle tomorrow!

CDC.gov; healthline.com; sleepfoundation.org; casper.com; goodhousekeeping.comand

Establishing a Healthy Morning Routine

establishing a morning routine

Win the Morning, Win the Day!

Establishing a healthy morning routine can be the difference between a good day and a great one. The movers and shakers of the world have morning routines that make each day work in their favor. While you may consider pe-planning a loss of freedom it is actually the exact opposite. Your morning routine lets you focus on what is most important to you. It puts you in the driver’s seat of your day. Rather than letting life happen to you, you are designing the plan. If health and wellness are your top priority, a solid morning routine ensures your intentions become reality.

What Is a Healthy Morning Routine?

Your morning routine can be whatever you want it to be. Ideally it is a self-care routine that aligns with your primary goals in life. You can make your day your own and start on the right foot with a little forethought. A healthy morning routine is a great way to invest in yourself before exchanging your precious energy with the rest of the world.

Why Is a Healthy Morning Routine Important?

A healthy morning routine is important because it sets the tone for your entire day. It is a great foundation for productivity and wellness. If you ease into the day with a sense of purpose you feel more in control, calmer and more productive. A healthy morning routine also helps you create an effective work-life balance. Since your life is just a series of days, it stands to reason that your productive and happy days lead to a productive and happy life.

Top Ten Elements of a Healthy Morning Routine:

  1. Start the night before. Reflect on the day, ponder big picture goals and focus on three tasks you want to accomplish tomorrow. If time allows, prep meals, clothes and activities for the next day. Most importantly, set your intentions. This allows you to start fresh in the morning, free of overwhelming tasks and decision-making.
  2. Find YOUR perfect wake time. For many of us, waking up one hour earlier is ideal. In fact, people who wake up an hour earlier have a twenty three percent lower rate of depression. But keep in mind that getting seven to eight hours of quality sleep takes priority. Experiment to find your most beneficial wake up time –could you go to bed an hour earlier?
  3. Cultivate a sense of gratitude. Start the day by writing down three things you are grateful for. Negative thoughts cannot creep in when you are in a state of gratitude.
  4. Move! There are countless benefits to working out first thing in the morning. Start by getting your blood flowing and your heart rate up.  A full-body workout all, or most, days is ideal. Exercise reduces stress, boosts energy, helps you focus better and makes you more productive. It also puts you in a better mood and improves your confidence. Working out lets you start your day with a sense of accomplishment. People who exercise daily have a more positive outlook and increased energy and concentration. If you are short on time (or energy), start by moving in every direction or stretching. Holding a plank for 30 seconds is a great place to start any healthy morning routine.
  5. Drink water before your morning coffee. You get dehydrated during the night. Rehydrating with a tall glass or two of water will give you an instant and lasting energy boost. A glass of water first thing in the morning can increase your metabolism by 30%. Water also benefits your skin, reduces calorie intake and improves your focus.
  6. Consume a Healthy Protein-Rich Breakfast. Eggs, a smoothie, yogurt or oatmeal with almond butter are all great choices. Adding fruits and vegetables makes these powerhouse meals even more nutritious, filling and satisfying.
  7. Declutter your mind, reduce stress and align your focus with a mindfulness practice. Journal, read, meditate, say positive affirmations, practice deep breathing, listen to motivational music or podcasts, call or channel loved ones, take a bath or plan an act of kindness. Choose an activity that fuels YOUR soul, which puts you in a flow state and recharges you.  Did you know that six minutes of reading reduces anxiety by 68% and also boosts your brain cognition?  The right activity for you can lower your stress and make you more productive and happy. If you do one or more of these activities before checking in with your phone, email and TV, you are controlling the day rather than letting it control you.
  8. Tackle your hardest task first. This makes it more likely it will get done and get done well. It will also give you the confidence and peace of mind to proceed to the next task, and the next.
  9. Get some sunlight and fresh air as early as possible to be in proper alignment with your Circadian Rhythm for optimal energy, mood and sleep.
  10. Make your bed. This simple task can be your first win of the day. It establishes your commitment to your own serenity, making both your days and nights more comfortable and stable.

Starting a Healthy Morning Routine

Most healthy morning routines take anywhere from 30-90 minutes. That being said, the key is to make it your own. You get to decide what is most important to you. Start small and add  (or remove) a component every week or two.

Maintaining a Healthy Morning Routine

Pinpoint what does and doesn’t work and revamp your routine as needed. Try to find the right balance between calming and energizing activities, and productive and nourishing ones.

The Takeaway

We all know life can get crazy. There is no need for a mad scramble to go with your morning eggs. A healthy morning routine allows you to get more done in less time with better results and less drama. Who doesn’t want a calmer, more productive day?

Establish a healthy morning routine to avoid overwhelm and mental fatigue. It’s a great way to kickstart your day and make it your own. Don’t let outside forces dictate the trajectory of YOUR day, mindset and life. You can take control. A healthy morning routine allows you to accomplish your goals, remain calm and carry on no matter what!

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CNN.com; trello.com; myfitnesspal.com; wework.com

You Can Reduce Harmful Belly Fat

What is Belly Fat and Why Is It Harmful?

Visceral fat is fat in your abdominal cavity that wraps around your vital organs. It produces inflammatory substances and hormones which increase your risk of disease. Having too much visceral or belly fat is very harmful to your health. Excess belly fat has been linked to heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, stroke and diabetes. Older adults and people who are inactive are most likely to have this condition.

The good news is that there is a lot you can do to reduce harmful belly fat. Doing so will improve your health, wellness and probably also your longevity.

 

Signs of Excess Belly Fat

The best way to know if you have too much belly fat is an imaging study. Here is a helpful tip. If you are scheduled for a CT Scan or MRI, request that your level of visceral fat also be checked.

Having a big stomach and waist is a sign of excess visceral fat. But did you know you can have a flat belly and still have too much belly fat?

Markers of excess belly fat:

If your waist is larger than half of your height.

If your waist circumference is 35-40 inches or more for men,

or 30-35 inches or more for women.

 

Top 12 Ways to Reduce Harmful Belly Fat

EXERCISE Working out reduces inflammation and improves insulin sensitivity. Doing more aerobic exercise is an excellent way to reduce harmful belly fat. Cardio has been shown to reduce visceral fat even without any changes in diet. Moderate and high intensity aerobic exercise is your best tool. Start with a brisk walk and work up to a run. Shoot to do at least 30 minutes of moderate or high intensity aerobics most days.

Strength training, especially your larger muscle groups, is also extremely beneficial. Think deadlifts and squats.

A NUTRITIOUS LOW-CARB DIET Low-carb diets are more effective than low-fat diets at reducing harmful belly fat. Participants in a study on a low-carb diet lost more visceral fat than those on a low-fat diet, even while eating 300 more calories a day!

EAT MORE SOLUBLE FIBER Fiber-rich foods such as sweet potatoes, flaxseeds, grains and legumes reduce your appetite and help reduce belly fat. Soluble fiber is the part of foods you can’t digest. It makes you feel full longer and absorb less calories from food. It also helps to control glucose. Eat fruits, vegetables, seeds and tree nuts. Raspberries, blackberries and strawberries are fiber- and antioxidant-rich options that help fight inflammation.

CONSUME MORE PROTEIN Protein is a great weight and fat loss tool. It makes you feel full and boosts your metabolism. Try to include protein in every meal. Eggs, fish, meat and legumes are all great choices.

AVOID TRANS FAT Processed baked goods, fried foods, full-fat dairy, fatty meats and potato chips are examples of what you want to avoid. Stay away from “high fructose corn syrup” and “partially hydrogenated oils” when reading food labels. Better yet eat unpackaged whole foods.

GET QUALITY SLEEP Sleep is vital to our energy, immunity, mood and brain function. Focus on getting seven to eight hours of good sleep every night. Lack of sleep often leads to more hunger and excess visceral fat.

MANAGE STRESS Anxiety produces the stress hormone, cortisol which increases belly fat. Stress can also cause overeating. Exercise, meditation and bonding with people and animals all reduce stress.

AVOID ADDED SUGAR The World Health Organization recommends limiting sugar consumption to 10% or less of our daily calories. Most processed foods and beverages contain sugar so be sure to read labels. Eat whole foods instead. Fresh fruit, veggies, fish and meat are all better choices.

LIMIT ALCOHOL Excess alcohol is very harmful for both men and women and increases visceral fat. Even moderate alcohol intake in women is linked to having more harmful belly fat.

INCLUDE PROBIOTICS The live bacteria in foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut and kefir are good for gut health. They can help to reduce the absorption of fat and keep you feeling full..

CALCIUM AND VITAMIN D These nutrients are associated with lower harmful belly fat. Spinach, yogurt and collard greens are nutritious powerhouses.

TRY INTERMITTENT FASTING Alternating periods of eating and fasting can reduce belly fat.

The Takeaway

Excess belly fat leads to chronic disease. You can determine if you are at risk by measuring your waist periodically.

There are many things you can do to reduce your stores of visceral fat. Combining exercise with a nutritious low-carb diet is your best option. You can also limit sugar, trans fats and alcohol, while increasing protein, fiber and probiotics. Cycling periods of eating and fasting is another method for reducing harmful belly fat. Reducing visceral fat requires effort but your health and wellness are totally worth it!

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Healthline.com; healthdirect.gov.au; webmd.com; scitechdaily.com

Improving Your Core Workouts

Are you working on your core but not getting the results you want? Looking for a flat belly but your crunches and planks aren’t helping? One of these three reasons is the likely culprit. One: your diet has too little protein and veggies and too much sugar, alcohol and processed foods (or you’re eating too much). Two: you are not exercising enough to burn the necessary calories for your abs to show. Three: you are not doing your ab exercises correctly. But we are not here to point fingers, we are here to help!

Your core is the foundation of all your movements. While it can make you look good in a swimsuit, it is also a key component of your health and fitness. If you increase your core strength, you improve your athletic ability, balance, posture and mobility. You also decrease your risk of pain and injury.

How you activate your muscles during core workouts makes a huge difference. Or none at all. Feeling the burn is great but doesn’t necessarily mean you are doing the exercises effectively. If you feel pain in your neck, hips or back, tweaking your routine could make a world of difference. It could also get you the results you want. So let’s get to fixing things.

Common Core Workout Mistakes

Not breathing correctly or holding your breath

Focusing on quantity over quality

Not bracing your core

Tilting your hips forwards during sit ups (which turns your abs off and puts strain on your hip flexors)

Using momentum 

Pulling on your neck during crunches

Arching your back, sagging your hips, sticking your butt up or lifting your head during a plank – your body should be in a straight line

Focusing on only one part of your core

Not varying your exercises and workouts

Not doing the right exercises or not doing the right exercises right

How to Improve Your Core Workouts

Do the exercises in a slow controlled manner with proper form

Brace your core throughout the exercises

Focus on your breathing

Activate your glutes

In a plank, keep your head in a neutral position  (looking down at your mat rather than up) 

Make sure your hands are wide enough in a plank so that your shoulders don’t shrug

Place your hands at your ears or crossed in front of your chest for crunches and sit ups (rather than behind your head)

Envision an apple between your chin and chest during crunches (so that your head doesn’t bend too far forward)

How to Brace Your Core

Picture your belly button going to your spine, or a belt tightening around your waist.

Pull your ribs in towards the center of your body.

Draw your shoulders slightly back.

Contract the muscles of your lower back, glutes and waist.

Practice inhaling and exhaling while bracing your core 

Proper Breathing During a Crunch

Inhale.

Exhale and pull your belly button towards your spine as you curl up.

Inhale as you come back down and repeat.

Brace your abs throughout the exercise.

Exercises to Help With Core Activation

Pelvic Tilts

If your crunches and sit ups don’t feel effective, this is a great place to start.

Lie down with your knees bent and your feet on the floor.

Flatten your back to the floor by engaging your abs.

Arch your back by tilting your pelvis, keeping your tailbone on the floor.

Return to the starting position (flattening your back to the floor).

Repeat.

Lying March

Lie down with your knees bent and feet on the floor.

Press your lower back against the floor.

Lift one foot up with control (bringing that knee towards your waist)  and lower it back down.

Then repeat on the other side, continuing for the desired duration.

March and breath in a slow controlled manner.

This exercise can also be done sitting upright with good posture.

Farmer’s Walk

Pick up a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand.

Walk a distance and back, standing upright with proper posture.

Don’t lean to either side or slump forward.

Keep your shoulders proud.

Practice breathing while bracing your core throughout the exercise.

Plank

Squeeze your glutes while holding a plank and feel superior ab activation. If you want even more intensity, focus pressing your forearms into the floor as well.

Crunch Hold

Try holding a crunch with good form for 60 seconds (this is better than doing 60 crunches with bad form).

Recommended Core Exercises

Ball Exchange

Plank

Side Plank

Half Kneeling Hold

Glute Bridge

Dead Bug

Bicycle Crunch

Bird Dog

What Golden Home Fitness Can Do For You

If you would like a Golden Home Fitness Personal Trainer to guide you through an effective core workout click here for your first complimentary workout. Don’t waste time with sloppy form, confusion and procrastination. We can ensure that you get maximum ab activation in each and every set, as well as making sure your workouts happen in the first place.

The Takeaway

A more powerful core will give you a more powerful body. Small changes in your ab routine can have a major impact on your fitness results –and on your life.

You want to make sure you are training your muscles the way you intended. Otherwise, you may train your belly to puff out rather than in, which would be tragic. Learning to brace your entire core, breathe properly and perfect your form are the keys to your success.

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Prevention.com; Bornfitness.com; Womenshealthmag.com; Popsugar.com; Brightside.me

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