1. As the kids head back to school, help whip their minds into shape by playing board games with them. It’s true: Brain-stimulating memorization games can make you smarter. These activities increase skills such as reasoning and problem-solving. So get out that game of Concentration or Memory (if you can remember where it is).
2. While schedules may be picking up, don’t forget to pencil in some family time around the table. Teens who dine with their families five or more times a week are less likely to use drugs or alcohol and more often earn better grades. The fact is teenagers actually want to eat dinner with their families--even if you’re having leftover meatloaf surprise.
3. Enjoy summer until the very last sun drop. Spending 10 or 15 minutes outside gives you enough vitamin D to lower your chance of developing peripheral arterial disease (PAD). PAD occurs when fatty deposits build up around the lining of the arteries, causing a decrease in the flow of blood and oxygen. While doctors don’t yet know exactly how vitamin D is linked to lower occurrences of PAD, it seems that a daily dose of heavenly sunshine is part of the ideal prescription for artery health.
4. Be sure to schedule some time for yourself too. Meditating for 20 minutes a day can reduce the stress hormone cortisol, as well as increase your energy level and strengthen your immune system. As a bonus to you and your family, meditating can also reduce anxiety, depression, and anger.
5. Recent research shows that drinking 2 cups of beet juice a day may reduce blood pressure. This powerful root veggie contains nitrate, which has also been proven to fight colon cancer and protect against heart disease. Now I just can’t see myself chugging down “straight up” glassfuls of the tangy, purple-red liquid, but maybe I’ll try to find a recipe for a beet smoothie. Yum!
6. Here’s a sunny thought: You may be able to delay biological aging by up to 12 years by doing aerobic exercises (and having healthy habits, of course). Sticking with a workout regimen throughout life helps increase metabolism, which normally slows in middle age. Aerobic exercise also allows you to maintain strength, balance, and coordination, which help deter injuries or illnesses.
"Good Practices" is from the August 2008 issue of Southern Living.