Maybe we as individuals can’t fix the health care system. But we do have the power to make small changes that add up to big differences, personally and collectively. Need ideas? Read on!
1. Give every day. A month after Cami Walker’s wedding day, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Barely able to walk and desperate, she took a friend’s advice to give 29 gifts in 29 days. After sharing everything from flowers and money to time and food, she says, “My body got stronger and I found myself laughing more.” She started 29gifts.org to inspire others to do the same. “Giving each day keeps your focus on your blessings.”
2. Get outside with your kids. In the past 20 years, time spent playing outdoors has been slashed in half. Research shows that children who spend time in nature have higher levels of academic performance, concentration and self-esteem—not to mention the calorie-burning and fitness benefits. For more, go to greenhour.org
3. Make each Monday “health day.” Think of each Monday as a chance to recommit to improving your family’s health. Pack nutritious snacks in everyone’s lunch, plan a family walk or try a new healthy recipe. For more smart ideas, go to healthymonday.org.
4. Learn CPR. About once every two minutes, someone in the U.S. goes into cardiac arrest—and nearly all die. But they don’t have to: Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) more than doubles the chance of survival. Just ask Debra Beard-Bader, 52, of Medford, Mass. When her husband, Chris, 55, had a heart attack while hiking, she used CPR to keep him alive until paramedics arrived. Find a CPR course near you at RedCross.org.
5. Ditch your car for short drives. About 25 percent of all trips in the U.S. are made within one mile of home. Drive just 10 fewer miles per week and you’ll reduce your carbon imprint by about 2 percent, save about $40 a year and burn more calories than sitting behind the steering wheel—not bad for something so simple.
6. Volunteer one hour a week. Studies show that people who volunteer as few as 40 hours per year (that’s less than an hour a week—we rounded up) live longer and have lower rates of depression than those who don’t give of their time.
7. Eat one meatless dinner a week. New research shows that loading up on red meat can increase your risk of dying from cancer or heart disease by 30 percent. But there’s more than just your heart to think of: An estimated 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide are due to livestock farming. You don’t have to cut out the burgers altogether—just skipping the meat once or twice a week can make a difference.
8. Do your own yard work. The neighborhood kid can find another way to earn a few bucks. Yard work burns about 340 calories an hour (about the same as a very brisk walk) while also working your back, legs, core, arms and shoulders.
9. Shut down your computer at night. Taking just a few seconds to power down can significantly reduce energy waste, curb carbon emissions and save money. Only about a third of us hit the “off” button, but research shows that every 100,000 users who shut down equals the pollution savings of taking 105 cars off the road each day.
10. Click to fight cancer. Go to breastcancer.care2.com; each time you hit the “prevent breast cancer: button, a sponsor will donate $.005 to the Breast Cancer Fund. Up for even more? Join the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Advocate Network and receive monthly newsletter and email action alerts to support cancer research.