The top health stories of 2019 point us in the right direction for getting healthy.

From self-care Sundays to sleep, the trending health stories of 2019 definitely weren’t designed for mothers. Very often, being a mom (especially a new mom) is simply survival and not lessons in how to greatly improve health through running marathons, drinking special teas and balancing chakras. Staying ‘balanced’ is an inside joke. 

As parents, we need more realistic (and do-able) options for getting healthy. Here are the five top health stories of 2019, and the health hack that can help you get on trend and improve your own health easily in 2020. 

1. Sleep is the number one health link 

Everyone is talking about sleep, and why sleep is linked to everything from heart health to mood to obesity.

A study came out in 2019 that showed that sleep deprivation can last as long as six years in new parents, with the lowest sleep reported at the three-month mark.  However you can get it, try to aim for 7-9 hours sleep within a 24-hour window. 

Health Hack: Download a sleep app that will give you white noise, or help you go off to sleep.  

2. Any exercise is good enough

Every day, a new piece of research emerges about how much exercise you should be getting. Canadian and U.S. guidelines show that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each week prevents many diseases, like cardiovascular, cancers, obesity and helps improve mental health. 

There were a lot of good news stories in 2019 in exercise – that any amount of running prevents early death, that strength training can lengthen your life and that you can start exercising at any age and the health benefits will kick in immediately. 

Health Hack: Start walking briskly every day, adding body weight moves such as squats, push-ups and HIIT (high intensity interval training), like jumping jacks or tucks.  Do planks daily. 😊

3. Gut health is the key to everything

Our body is ruled by the gut, and inflammation can lead to a host of problems within the body. Inflammation was a buzz word for 2019, and will continue to be in 2020, but a deeper understanding of the concept will widen the discussion. Some inflammation is good for the body and even necessary; however, inflammation brought on by ultra-processed foods, sugar, and alcohol will be the thing to avoid. Acute inflammation periods – when you are eating too much wheat and sugar, drinking too much alcohol and/or coffee and experiencing bloating – can lead to chronic inflammation in the body. 

Health Hack: Take a strong probiotic daily and avoid inflammatory foods. 

4. Get back to nature 

Getting outside has never been so trendy – whether it is the 10-minute power walk at lunch time, or the meditative benefits of walks in the woods, connecting with nature was proven to have extensive health benefits. Research shows that spending 120 minutes in nature was the key to improved mental health and well-being. 

Health Hack: Hit 120 minutes in nature the way you would your servings of fruit and vegetables. Plan hiking dates with friends, go to a park, walk more. 

5. Plant-based eating is on trend and better for you

The plant-based mentality has gone through the roof, making it much easier to cut everything out of your diet but plants and seeds. Research shows that people who eat primarily plant-based diets tend to have a lower body mass index and lower rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease than those who eat meat. 

Health Hack: Shift your family to a days on/days off way of plant-based eating, trying to eat only plant based on (as an example) Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  

As we move into 2020, it’s good to take the lessons from the past and apply them to where we are going. Plan the start of the year on the right foot – sleeping well, eating well and moving more. 

Erin Phelan is a health and fitness professional, personal trainer and writer based out of Toronto. Find her at ErinPhelan.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Erin is launching www.thehealthysix.com in January 2020, a three-week nutrition and exercise reboot. To join The Healthy Six, please reach out via IG (@erinphelanfit) or Facebook (Erin Phelan Fitness).