Healthy Living: Cheater's Guide to Better Health (cont.)

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, if you only have time to do one thing for your skin, applying sunscreen is by far the most important. Using sunscreen daily may prevent premature aging and skin cancer. If you're looking for a shortcut, dermatologist Robin Ashinoff, MD, points out that many moisturizers and makeup contain sunscreen. She adds that moisturizers and makeup are optional, but sunscreen is not.

"Make the most of activities that already help you relax...Find out what it is that helps you and enhance that."

Mental Health

Reading every day can help keep the mind sharp, says Kenneth R. Pelletier, PhD "but it doesn't have to be Tolstoy. Reading the local paper or Reader's Digest will do." If you prefer video games, Pelletier, who is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Arizona School of Medicine, and chairman of the American Health Association, says there's good news. "Playing video games increases reaction time and has a positive effect on short-term memory."

As for a shortcut to stress management, Pelletier suggests making the most of activities that already help you relax. "All of us do something to naturally relax," he tells WebMD. "Some of us breathe, some look out the window, some listen to music, some stretch. Find out what it is that helps you relax and enhance that. If you find stretching helps you, try a yoga class. If breathing helps, try a breathing-orientated meditation."

In his book, Stress Free for Good: Ten Scientifically Proven Life Skills for Health and Happiness, Pelletier explains that techniques like abdominal breathing take just 10 minutes to learn, one minute to practice, and 10 seconds to have a calming effect. "Taking two or three deep breaths into your abdomen will immediately slow you down, refocus you, and center you," he says.

Physical Fitness

You might be able to take a minute out of your busy day to practice deep breathing, but squeezing in 30 minutes of exercise probably sounds impossible. The trick is to take a creative, flexible approach to physical activity. "You don't have to do 30 minutes straight," says Harold Kohl of the CDC's Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity. "You can actually improve your health by accumulating shorter bouts of moderate-intensity physical activity. Take a 10-minute walk at 4 miles per hour in the morning, at lunch and in the evening, and you have done it."

"Everyone has 10 minutes," Kohl tells WebMD. "Get up 10 minutes earlier. Go to bed 10 minutes later. Walk around the field during your child's soccer practice." Look for periods of inactivity -- such as television time -- that you can convert to exercise time.

"You have to make physical fitness a part of your life," says Walter R. Thompson, PhD, author of the ACSM Fitness Book. "You always have time to eat, whether it's sitting at your desk or in your car on the way to work." He tells WebMD a similar multitasking approach can help you sneak in physical activity throughout your day. "Park on the top level of your parking garage at work and walk down. Park in the farthest spot at the grocery store. Push the cart out and unload the groceries yourself. These little lifestyle changes can have a small but noticeable benefit." While 30 minutes of continuous exercise is a surer way to get in shape, minor changes in your daily routine can boost your fitness level without a major time commitment.

Published May 16, 2005.

SOURCES: USDA Dietary Guidelines. American Dietetic Association. American Dental Association. American Academy of Dermatology. American Psychological Association. American College of Sports Medicine. National Sleep Foundation. Dave Grotto, RD, American Dietetic Association spokesman; director of nutrition, Block Center for Integrative Cancer Care, Evanston, Ill. Richard Price, DDS, American Dental Association spokesman. Robin Ashinoff, MD, director of Dermatologic Mohs and Laser Surgery, Hackensack University Medical Center. Kenneth R. Pelletier, PhD, clinical professor of medicine, University of Arizona and University of California, San Francisco; chairman, American Health Association; co-author, Stress Free for Good: Ten Scientifically Proven Life Skills for Health and Happiness. Harold Kohl, PhD, epidemiologist, Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, CDC. Walter R. Thompson, PhD, professor, Georgia State University; author, ACSM Fitness Book.

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Last Editorial Review: 6/2/2005 6:10:03 PM