Getting healthy often includes goals like losing or managing your weight, improving your diet or being more physically active. But for the most long-term benefits, you can aim to take a series of small shifts that eventually make wellness a regular part of your daily routine.
Aside from the fact that a healthy lifestyle could improve your mental and physical well-being and quality of life, staying healthy may also mean reduced medical expenses, fewer trips to the doctor and improved rates on various types of insurance.
Here are a few ways a healthy lifestyle could help reduce your health-related expenses — as well as information on how to make the small daily changes that could result in continual improvements over time.
You'll Be Less Likely to Miss Work
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that lost productivity from missed work costs employees nearly $1,700 a year. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 32 percent of employees who work in the private sector did not have access to paid sick leave. Without that benefit, even a minor illness could mean lost wages.
You can't protect against every illness, but you can proactively manage your exposure to work-related stress — one of the leading workplace health problems, according to the CDC. Basic stress reduction techniques like meditation or mindful breathing could make significant impacts on your emotional and physical reactions to stress. And both are available to you at any time, anywhere — for free!
The next time you're stuck in traffic, waiting in a long checkout line or feeling frustrated by a never-ending meeting, seize the opportunity to be still. Deep, mindful breathing has been shown to clear the mind and lower blood pressure, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Try it out: Simply inhale through your nose for a count of six or seven seconds. Then, hold the breath for about four seconds and exhale for a count of six or seven seconds. Repeat several times until you feel calm.
Once you feel comfortable with this basic breath work, consider moving into a daily meditation practice. Just a few minutes of consistent meditation each day can make lasting changes to your perception and reaction to stressful events and negative thoughts, according to Forbes.
Aches & Pains Come With a High Price Tag
The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) estimates that 80 percent of the population will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain is the second most common reason Americans visit the doctor each year (behind upper respiratory infections). The ACA reports that back-pain treatments cost Americans a sum total of about $50 billion a year.
Small adjustments to your posture each day could help alleviate back pain. Start by making a point to find a neutral spine when you're standing. To find the correct posture, check out your profile in a mirror: Your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles will align to make one straight line when your spine is in neutral. This position could help cushion your spine from undue stress and help the rest of the muscles, ligaments and tendons that support your spine work together for optimum movement with the least amount of effort.
And if you sit at a desk for several hours a day, place your hips and knees at a 90-degree angle, with feet on the floor, hip distance apart. When you rise from your chair, use your leg muscles to facilitate the lift and reduce strain on your lumbar spine.
Chronic Disease Is Costly
"Preventable chronic conditions are a major contributor to the costs of insurance premiums and employee medical claims, which are at an all-time high and continue to rise," according to the CDC. It estimates that just a 1 percent annual reduction in the level of four particular health risks — weight, blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol — could save the average person between $83 and $103 in annual medical costs. Life insurance premiums, in particular, are affected by your level of health.
You can make measurable improvements in each of the four areas noted above with the Kaizen method, which is based on small, measurable changes that add up over time for lasting results.
For example, instead of vowing to lose excess weight to reduce high blood pressure, start small. Set a goal to replace one processed food you'd typically eat each day (like crackers, chips or candy) with a fresh vegetable or fruit. If you've struggled to stick to a fitness plan in the past, start with small, realistic changes. Vow to take the stairs instead of the elevator, or to claim the parking space furthest from the door to encourage more walking and movement throughout the day.
Once these changes become part of your routine, you can continue to set new small goals that contribute to a healthy lifestyle. And a healthy lifestyle can mean more money to spend on the things you truly love.