This Holiday Season, Give Yourself the Gift of Wellness
The holidays have come and gone, and maybe you received the exact gifts you were hoping for. Then again, maybe you didn’t. Either way, as we embrace the new year, gift cards (and/or store credits from returned items) could be just the key to helping you achieve New Year’s resolution success — especially if your resolution involves wellness.
There is a lot of truth to the adage that “great health is great wealth,” and it is a concept that is becoming popularized more and more each year. According to Statista, the top three New Year’s resolutions made last year were all related to health and wellness. They were to:
- Exercise more (48%)
- Eat healthier (44%)
- Lose weight (41%)
Year after year, first responders sacrifice so much for their communities, agencies and families. New Year’s is the perfect time to invest in your personal wellness and well-being. You truly deserve the very best, and wellness is both critical and foundational to a high-quality career and life.
Below is a convenient shopping guide you can use to find products and services that help improve nutrition, exercise effectiveness, and sleep quality. We wish you all the best as you work to realize your wellness goals in 2023!
The Gift of Fitness
Let’s face it, it’s tempting to sit on the couch instead of committing to a regimen that includes cardio, weight training, yoga and/or other types of physical activity. However, did you know that besides the obvious benefits of heart health and weight control, exercise is proven to reduce depression and anxiety? It elevates a person’s mood while also improving brain function. And who doesn’t need a little of that right after the holidays?
Just 30 minutes of moderate activity three times per week will give you those advantages. As many athletes will tell you, the hardest step in fitness is the first one out the door — whether that means heading to the gym or going out for a run. Making a small investment in equipment, technology and/or services to support your ability and motivation to get up and move can sometimes mean the difference between success or failure in your exercise goals.
Here are some products you might think about purchasing to help you have a healthy 2023:
Smart watch: Whether it’s counting your steps, tracking runs and bike rides, or even tabulating strokes while you golf, a fitness watch can provide both accountability and actionable metrics that will help you stay the course of your fitness journey. The activities you like to participate in can help determine which make and model will work best for you.
Headphones/earbuds: For some people, the perfect playlist is a key ingredient for the perfect workout. Music can help motivate you and also distract you from the temporary discomfort of difficult exertion. If you plan to take your workouts outside of the gym, consider bone conduction headphones or try wearing just one earbud so you can still hear ambient sounds (like approaching vehicles and other potential threats).
Gym membership: While it’s possible to put together a good home gym, many people opt for a commercial gym because of the lower up-front investment, the available classes and coaching, and the other amenities (like child care) that often come with a membership. For some, paying for a service can also help motivate them to use it.
High-quality shoes: If you choose a fitness activity that involves your feet — like walking, running or hiking — you owe it to yourself to invest in a great pair of shoes. But what shoe is best for you? Take a trip to a running specialty store and get a personal gait analysis to narrow down the makes and models that work best for how your body moves. For example, if you over-pronate, you’ll want to choose a stability shoe over a neutral one. You can also select from a wide variety of styles and shock absorption.
Hydration flask/belt/vest: Whatever type of exercise you decide on, it’s important to stay hydrated while you’re doing it. That might mean a well-insulated flask to keep your beverage cold (or hot) throughout a gym workout or a hydration belt/vest to carry water or electrolyte drinks while you’re out on the roads or trails.
Cooling towel: Physical activity can elevate your core temperature as well as your heart rate, and many athletes find that cooling towels help prevent overheating. They use evaporation to reduce body temperatures. Cooling towels are available in many different colors and styles.
Streaming audio/video service: If you don’t already have a good music or movie/TV streaming service, you can justify a new subscription by using it while you exercise. Note that there’s plenty of content out there available for free (including both music and podcasts), but full access that’s not interrupted by commercials generally requires a paid subscription. Be sure to consider the various options and choose the one that most closely fits your own media preferences.
Race registration: There’s a difference between exercise and training; one is open-ended while the other is focused on a specific goal. One great way to give yourself additional motivation to work out is to register for an event such as a 5K, 10K, obstacle course, mud race, color run, or team relay event. Putting a race on the calendar can help you maintain motivation to train consistently, especially if you register with a friend.
Child-care services: If you have little ones at home, having access to safe, reliable child-care services can be the difference between working out and not working out. Many gyms now provide child care, either as part of your membership or for an additional fee. Depending on where you live, you may also have a local child-care center that will tend to your kids while you hit the gym.
The Gift of Nutrition
Giving yourself the gift of nutrition offers innumerable benefits, some of which can literally determine the quality and longevity of your life. For example, according to the CDC, “Adults who eat a healthy diet live longer and have a lower risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Healthy eating can help people with chronic diseases manage these conditions and avoid complications.”
Proper nutrition and “meal prep” might sound difficult and time consuming, but having the right guidance and equipment makes all the difference. Whether you opt for basic, balanced nutrition or a specialty diet (low carb, whole food, paleo, vegan, gluten free), here are some products and services that could help revolutionize the way you cook and eat so that you can achieve and sustain your New Year’s resolutions:
Indoor/outdoor grill: Grilling can help release fat from meat as it cooks, resulting in meals that are healthier for your heart and lower in calories. However, grills aren’t just for burgers and brats! Seasoned grilled vegetables (like asparagus, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, etc.) taste great, too. You can opt for an outdoor gas-powered model that uses charcoal briquettes, an outdoor plug-in grill that uses wood pellets, or an indoor plug-in option.
Electric pressure cooker/crock pot: One common reason first responders opt for fast food is because they feel they don’t have enough time to prepare healthy meals. However, you don’t have to feel stuck if you’re in a time crunch. You can use an electric pressure cooker (like an Instant Pot) to quickly cook healthy meals. Or, if you prefer to enjoy a slow-cooked meal, you could set a crock pot before your shift. That way, your healthy and delicious meal will be ready as soon as you get back.
Air fryer: If you’re trying to reduce your fat intake, an air fryer is a great tool. It provides a healthier alternative to cooking with oil and lowers the amount of saturated fat in your meal. Air fryers also help reduce the amount of acrylamide in the foods you cook, which can lower your risk of heart disease.
Non-stick pans: Another tool you can use to cook with less oil and fat is a high-quality, non-stick pan. When first introduced, most non-stick cookware used Teflon (also known as polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE) to provide the non-stick magic. Today’s cookware offers the same non-stick surface without the toxins associated with Teflon coatings. Be sure to look for products that are both PFOA- and PFOS-free.
Knife set: Let’s face it … food prep is much more fun when you have a great knife set to help you. Sharp knives are actually safer than dull knives, so get a set that can be resharpened with ease. If your knives come with a usage guide, learning when and how to use the specialty blades can really up your game in the kitchen.
Blender: Nothing beats the refreshing taste of a post-workout smoothie. Whether you opt for a full-size blender or a smaller, bullet-shaped version, you can easily find great recipes for concoctions that help you recover from workouts and optimize your body composition. While there isn’t a magic fruit, supplement, or cleanse that could instantly give you perfect health, routinely drinking light smoothies that provide a balanced mix of carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats will have you well on your way to optimal health.
Specialty seasonings: One of the things we often associate with our favorite dining-out foods is the taste. If all your favorite dishes call for specialty seasonings you don’t have at home, find a way to get them! You might have to visit a specialty grocery store or an ethnic food market — or you can simply order them online. Having the right spices on hand means you no longer have an excuse not to prepare that favorite dish.
Tablet: If you like to eat in front of the TV, why not give yourself the option of cooking while enjoying your favorite shows? Tablets can bring your entertainment options into the kitchen and can also display recipes and guidance you can use to whip up healthy meals. A special stand (or a case/cover with an integrated support) helps keep your tablet at just the right angle for hands-free enjoyment.
Lunch box/cooler: One reason first responders don’t always take home-cooked meals to eat while working is because they have no way to keep perishable food cold during a long shift. If you get an insulated lunch box or a cooler that plugs into your vehicle’s 12-volt power source, you can solve that issue.
Meal delivery service: A meal delivery service will allow you to cook tasty, nutritious meals with quicker prep times, less waste, and fewer trips to the grocery store. If you’re following a specific diet/lifestyle (like vegan, paleo, or gluten-free), most meal delivery services offer meals that specifically cater to those requirements. You can usually sign up for a trial period (often with free food!) before agreeing to a longer-term commitment.
The Gift of Sleep
Sleep is probably the most misunderstood part of overall wellness. Even if you exercise regularly and eat healthy meals, you won’t reach peak performance if you don’t get sufficient sleep.
According to the National Institutes of Health, “Sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies. … It affects growth and stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure and cardiovascular health.” In an article in Psychology Today, Dr. John Cline pointed out that both first responders and the public benefit when police and corrections officers, firefighters and emergency medical workers get better sleep. Public safety workers have better mental and physical response times and make better split-second decisions when they are well rested. This leads to better overall outcomes in the field, which is a definite win-win for everyone involved.
Here are some things you might consider buying for yourself to optimize your sleep:
Cooling mattress: If your body tends to run hot, a cooling mattress can help regulate your temperature to foster a better night’s sleep. Cooling mattresses (and other products, like cooling pillows and toppers) can help you fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer.
Weighted blanket: The deep pressure stimulation of a weighted blanket is believed to produce serotonin and cortisol as well as increasing your melatonin levels, allowing you to get longer, more rejuvenating sleep. You can find bed-size blankets or smaller versions (for napping on your couch or recliner).
Heated blanket: In excessively cold winter temperatures, a heated blanket can provide a more consistent and reasonable temperature that fosters relaxation and comfort.
New pillows: We often don’t replace our pillows frequently enough because they degrade so gradually. It’s hard to even notice the flattening, but before you know it, you can find yourself waking up with neck pain. Consider purchasing a new, high-quality pillow each year. You can even buy specialty pillows that are specifically designed to help alleviate musculoskeletal pain and/or other sleep-related issues.
Light dimmer: Studies have shown that dimming your lights before bedtime can help you relax and fall asleep more quickly. You can also purchase smart, programmable dimmers that gradually increase the light in your bedroom at a specific time. That technology allows for more natural sleep and wake cycles.
Blackout shades/curtains: Blackout shades or curtains are an absolute must for public safety professionals who work night shift because sunlight significantly decreases sleep quality. You can hang them yourself or have them professionally installed. The important thing is that they block out as much outside light as possible.
Humidifier: If you live in a dry climate, you may have experienced dry skin, cracked lips or even a bloody nose while you sleep. Sleeping with a humidifier can help alleviate those symptoms while also reducing the impact of seasonal allergies and airborne illnesses.
Air purifier: If you’re waking up with itchy eyes, a runny nose or a sore throat, it might actually be due to dirty the air you’re breathing. Having an air purifier in your bedroom can help filter out particles in the air that cause asthma and other breathing difficulties. If your purifier requires a filter (as most do), be sure to change it as recommended!
White noise app: Many people who sleep with a fan in their room do it more for the noise than the air circulation. White noise helps mask the sounds that can disturb your sleep. That can help lengthen your sleep cycles and provide more rejuvenating sleep. Search for “white noise” on your app store of choice, or pick one of the many white noise options on YouTube.