Many of us recognize the importance of wellness, but our busy lives get in the way, leading us to making excuses for not achieving better health.  Here are five things you can do today that will get you on the road to better health.

The old expression, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” identifies one path toward good health and helps to advance the notion that small steps can lead to a healthier lifestyle.

In today’s complex world, where we are overloaded with health information and a new study seems to be published every day that contradicts the study that came out immediately before, it is hard for consumers to know what steps they should be taking to improve their health and to have confidence in those decisions. 

For example, one might logically think that an apple is surely a healthy snack, but the unknowns about the fertilizers or pesticides used to grow that apple may make it too risky. 

As we approach head into the new year, a time for reflection and fresh starts, it is a good time to reevaluate one’s lifestyle and to look for opportunities to make simple changes in the daily routine that will lead to a more balanced lifestyle.

Many of us recognize the importance of wellness, but our busy lives get in the way, leading us to making excuses for not achieving better health.  Here are five things you can do today that will get you on the road to better health.

Make the effort to get out and exercise every day.  It doesn’t have to be hours spent at the gym. In fact, a simple change, such as foregoing the elevator in favor of the stairs at the office, is a way to introduce additional exercise into your lifestyle. 

Exercise has been shown to improve both physical and mental health, which is particularly valuable in the stressful world in which we live. Exercising builds muscle mass (supporting the joints and easing arthritis) while improving cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Studies show that a sedentary lifestyle is a precursor to chronic disease.

How about taking a walk to the post office during lunch instead of driving? It’s a simple action that can lead to more steps and a healthier lifestyle. Find a buddy in your neighborhood to take a walk with each morning, and don’t let your buddy back out. Having an additional person to keep you accountable for your actions will make the transition to exercise easier.

Clean up your diet. Keeping a healthy diet with three meals and small snacks in between is the key to properly fueling your system. If you make an effort to reduce intake of white flour, white sugar and hydrogenated fats, you will see results immediately and begin feeling better as well. Cutting down or eliminating processed foods will also offer additional energy.

Make an effort to get up early and eat breakfast every day. A bowl of oatmeal with nuts or fruit will allow you to jumpstart the metabolic mechanism that has been resting comfortably for the past 10 to 12 hours.  If you start bringing your lunch to work, you’ll find that it can be healthier and cheaper than going to a restaurant each day. Remember to also drink water and keep yourself hydrated, especially when adding exercise to your daily routine.

Reduce stress. There are times when stress is unavoidable and other times where we have the ability to control stress. For example, if you don’t have time to make your lunch because you’re rushed in the morning, then get into the habit of making lunch the night before. Challenge yourself to work on the things you do have control over, such as eating well and exercising, and you will relieve stress.

Find ways to deal with the stresses you don’t have control over with techniques such as yoga or meditation. There are many natural, non-narcotic supplements that can be used to manage the nerves that help the body relax.  

Keep a positive attitude. It takes a lot of energy to stay angry at someone or something. As a human, we are structured to be stressed or angry for a small period of time, and it’s important to figure out ways to help address long-term anger issues by dealing with them quickly. Don’t spend decades on the same issues over and over again. Being able to say, “I love you, I am sorry, and we should move on,” is imperative to a healthy lifestyle. Keeping all of that anger built up inside can be detrimental to both physical and emotional health.

Use supplements. Using supplements in addition to exercise and diet is a way to maintain a healthy lifestyle without the harsh side effects of conventional medication. A daily multivitamin that includes vitamin D, which is known to be deficient in most people living in cold climates, is increasingly seen as vital to long-term health. A daily probiotic containing healthy bacteria can keep the digestive system working optimally. If you feel yourself coming down with an illness, there are remedies that can shorten or reverse the effects of illness, which can reduce the load on the immune system and break down harmful proteins or toxins in the blood.

You are the only person who can make the decision to improve your lifestyle in 2012. A healthy lifestyle embodies quality nutrition, regular mental and physical exercise, stress-relieving activity, a positive attitude and supplementation. Simple steps in these areas can help to promote the health of the whole body and decrease the risk of many major diseases.

According to an old proverb, “He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything.”  So take a few steps in the coming year to not only fill your life with health, but to also create new hope.

Steve Bernardi is a registered compounding pharmacist and Dr. Gary Kracoff is a naturopathic doctor at Johnson Compounding and Wellness Center in Waltham, Mass. (www.naturalcompounder.com) Readers with questions about natural or homeopathic medicine, compounded medications, or health in general can email steveandgary@naturalcompounder.com or call 781-893-3870.