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Boost your health in 5 simple steps

By Trent Lorcher, Contributing writer
Published On: Feb 23 2012 01:44:03 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 30 2012 07:51:14 AM CST
woman with apple, bottle of water after workout

iStock/killerb10

If you've ever made fun of an overweight person while watching a wedding video and later discovered it was you, it may be time to improve your health.

If your spouse left you, citing your enormous backside as the primary reason, it may be time to improve your health.

And, if you've ever been offered a job as the "before" model for some "Lose 59 lbs. of Belly Fat with One Simple Trick" website, it may be time to improve your health.

Even if these things didn't happen to you, you might recognize the need to improve your health. The good news is you already know how: Exercise and eat right. The bad news is you've known how for years but still haven't done anything about it ... until now.

Here are five of the simplest ways to do it ...

Water faucet

No. 5: Drink more fluids

You may have heard the "rule" that everybody should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. Of course, that recommendation seems to vary depending on which study you are reading at the time.

In reality, the Institute of Medicine suggests around 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day for men and 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) for women. Thus, the Mayo Clinic suggests that the old "8 by 8" rule should, at the very least, be reframed as a minimum of eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid per day, since all fluids count toward your daily total.

Don't let the initial annoyance of having to urinate seemingly every 12 minutes deter you from this simple way to improve your health. Being properly hydrated allows your body to absorb nutrients better, meaning more energy and less hunger.

Drinking enough fluids -- especially water -- also removes toxins, regulates body temperature, helps with metabolism and it protects and moisturizes joints.

It also helps you not eat like a pig ...

dieting food journal with fruits and vegetables

No. 4: Keep a food journal

Most people are unhealthy because they eat like pigs -- ironic, considering everybody knows that eating like a pig causes health problems. The problem isn't a lack of knowledge; it's a lack of accountability and discipline.

Writing down everything you eat makes you accountable and helps develop discipline (if your initial reaction to this idea is you couldn't possibly write down everything you eat because it would give you blisters, then you really need to write down what you eat).

According to a study from Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research, keeping a food journal DOUBLES the effectiveness of dieting.

Seeing "I ate 37 ice cream bars, 12 doughnuts, a cheeseburger, Crisco, and a diet Coke for lunch" written down forces one to evaluate his or her eating habits and change them.

Writing it down before you eat it gives you time to change your mind and maybe add some vegetables ...

carrots and celery on cutting board, vegetables

No. 3: Eat vegetables

It seems counterintuitive that adding more food to your plate would improve your health. Of course, it also seems counterintuitive that everybody on the planet understands that eating healthy and exercise leads to improved health, yet obesity remains a major problem.

Eating a serving of vegetables at every meal -- be it a pile of peas next to the side of beef or lettuce and tomato on a bacon sandwich -- will help you not overeat. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out, the water and fiber in vegetables will add volume to your dishes, so you can eat the same amount of food with fewer calories.

In addition to filling your stomach, vegetables contain these things called vitamins. Vitamins support the enzymes that convert proteins, carbohydrates and fats into energy, which means you won't feel sluggish and hungry 14 seconds after lunch.

Eating vegetables for a between-meal snack curbs hunger immediately and gives long-lasting energy. And with all that extra energy, perhaps you'll feel like exercising ...

woman lifting dumbbells, exercise, fitness

No. 2: Exercise

Is there a person alive who doesn't know that exercise promotes good health? But even though it's so simple, not enough of us do it regularly.

According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise improves your mood -- long term and short term (unless you get passed by a one-legged 75-year-old woman during a 5K, that is).

Exercise lessens your risk of chronic disease, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and other diseases common among the obese. That's because exercise helps you maintain weight and, be honest, improved health is nice, but looking good is more important.

Exercise boosts energy levels -- imagine being twice as productive. Exercise also improves sex -- imagine being twice as productive in the bedroom (even if it's not true, it's certainly worth experimenting with).

After improving your sex life, you can sleep peacefully since exercise also promotes better sleep ...

Woman sleep, sleeping

No. 1: Sleep

Nothing can be simpler than sleeping. You turn off the light. You lay down. You close your eyes. Who would have guessed sleeping could be one of the five simple ways to improve your health?

So why do we all get so little of it?

Harvard Medical School reports that sleep helps with metabolism and maintaining proper weight. It improves memory and mood, increases safety, improves cardiovascular health and decreases the likelihood of getting sick.

Before you get too excited and start chugging Nyquil, sleeping too much can be just as harmful as sleeping too little. Maintaining a consistent pattern of sleep -- including the times at and the conditions in which you sleep -- provides maximum sleep benefits.

So what are you waiting for? Grab some water, a pen and paper, some vegetables, a gym membership and a pillow and start improving your health today.