Developing healthy habits when you're young can help you live a longer life and reduce your risk for many illnesses like heart disease and some cancers. The choices you make during your teens, such as choosing to spend time in a tanning bed or taking an interest in long-distance running, can establish patterns and begin habits -- both good and bad -- that will impact your body through adulthood. Youth is a preparation for old age in more than education and learning life lessons. The human body, through use or neglect, learns lessons, too. Adopting positive habits and avoiding destructive ones is a way to start on the path to a more active and happier life.
Protect Your Skin from Ultra Violet Light
Sunscreen will help to protect your skin from ultraviolet radiation damage that can cause skin cancers and premature aging. It isn't the only solution, though. Think of skin protection as a top priority, and avoid prolonged sun exposure whenever possible. To shield your skin:
- Avoid sunbathing, using tanning booths or sun lamps.
- Use sunscreen daily. Choose an SPF15 or higher, and reapply it every couple of hours if you're outdoors, even on overcast days.
- During hot, bright days, stay out of the sun, particularly between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
- Wear protective clothing in the sun, like hats, sunglasses and long-sleeved shirts.
Smoking isn't cool. Take a close look at a long-term smoker, and you're probably looking at someone who has tried to quit repeatedly and failed. Once it becomes a habit, which can happen quickly, smoking can easily turn into a lifelong addiction. If this doesn't sound terrifying, it should. According to the American Cancer Society, one in every five people who die in the United States dies as a result of smoking. If you don't smoke now, don't start. If you do smoke, quit today.
If the idea of lingering illness and premature death doesn't turn you off of smoking, consider the fact that smoking causes yellowing of the teeth and gums, bad breath, skin discoloration and wrinkles around the mouth and nose. Tobacco smoke permeates hair, clothing, carpeting and upholstery, and kissing a smoker is like kissing the inside of a dirty ashtray [source: American Cancer Society].
Eating right gives your body the proper fuel and materials it needs to build and sustain itself. Thinking of food as fuel and not recreation is a good beginning, but breaking bad habits and developing good ones is important, too.
Many of the fast foods and packaged food preparations available on the market have little nutritional value and are filled with artificial ingredients and a dastardly mixture of sugars, fats and sodium that make them poor but tasty choices. The best way to develop good food habits is to start exploring food labels to understand the ingredients in the foods you eat. Armed with the right information, you can begin to make better nutritional choices. Eating right can be a challenge, but your body is worth it.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep is an important part of good health, and getting enough sleep, about nine hours for teens, should be a priority. Well-rested teenagers perform better in school, maintain a healthier outlook, have better reaction times and are less irritable. Adequate sleep, although not yet completely understood, is clearly important for both children and adults. In a fast-paced world, getting a good night's sleep can be tricky. These sleep strategies can help:
- Eliminate distractions. Turn off electronic devices and turn out the lights. A dark, quiet environment will be more conducive to sleep.
- Don't drink caffeinated beverages, especially after noon.
- Go to bed a half-hour earlier than your regular bedtime. This doesn't seem like much, but it will net you two and a half hours of extra sleep during the school week.
- Take a warm relaxing bath before bedtime.
- Drink a glass of milk or eat a banana a couple of hours before going to bed.
Pursue a Physical Activity
Having a physical pastime that you enjoy is an effective way to incorporate exercise into your routine. Regular exercise is an important key to whole body health, but one big problem with many exercise regimens is that they're joyless pursuits that are hard to stick with. One big way you can help incorporate regular physical exercise into your life is by participating a physical activity that appeals to you. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, teens should get 60 minutes of exercise on most days. Whether it's swimming, biking, walking or another sport, get involved in a physical hobby and stay with it for life [source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services].
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- CDC. "Five Minutes or Less for Health Weekly Tip: Teach Kids Healthy Habits." 10/5/09. 11/22/09.http://www.cdc.gov/family/minutes/tips/kidshealthyhabits/index.htm
- Dickson, Amy. "Smoke Screen." 3/20/2000. 11/22/09.http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,996385,00.html
- FCS. "Healthy Habits Build Healthy Kids." 9/04. 11/22/09.http://msue.stclaircounty.org/Family/forms/HealthyHabitsBuild-FINAL.pdf
- Help Guide. "Tips for Getting Better Sleep." Undated. 22/2/09.http://helpguide.org/life/sleep_tips.htm
- Skin Cancer Foundation. "Guidelines." Undated. 11/22/09.http://www.skincancer.org/prevention-guidelines.html
- Sohn, Emily. "Getting Enough Sleep." 9/13/06. 11/20/09.http://www.sciencenewsforkids.org/articles/20060913/Feature1.asp
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Get Active." Undated. 11/20/09.http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/wecan/get-active/index.htm