Living a healthy lifestyle seems like a simple choice to make: You get one body and one mind, so it's best to take very good care of both, right? As anybody who lives in reality knows, it's not quite that simple. But there are some things you can do to help boost your chances of establishing and maintaining healthy habits -- and your home is one often-overlooked area where you might be able to improve your chances of health success significantly.
What does a "healthy" home look like? Here are some ways you can find the perfect healthy home for you.
Seek out opportunities to move more
There's one big advantage that city-dwellers have over people who live in more suburban or rural areas when it comes to exercise: Public transportation is often much better than it is in the outskirts, and if you can combine it with a bicycle or your feet, then you might be able to work in some additional exercise every day or several times a week just by adjusting your commute to work.
Look for a home in a place that's "walkable," with amenities and train or subway stops nearby, so that it's possible for you to walk to the grocery store for quick trips, walk to your favorite local restaurant, or even walk to the gym. While you're walking, look for parks, basketball courts, or other places where you might be able to expand your exercise repertoire.
If there's a local recreational facility, you might see how much it costs to sign up and take advantage of the pool, weight machines, or other workout options there. Many urban areas have lots of different gym choices, too, from yoga studios to climbing gyms to CrossFit boxes, so if that's your scene, find the closest place and start dropping in regularly.
And most urban areas also often opportunities for adults to join sports leagues, so if team sports sounds like fun, convince a friend to join with you.
Consider the air and water quality
One big disadvantage of living in an urban area is that the air quality is often poorer than in rural areas, so it's important to think about how to mitigate that (if necessary).
And tap water in cities is often perfectly fine for drinking -- but not always. So it's wise to read up on water and air quality standards and testing in your area. Then you can decide whether it would be smart to purchase an air purifier for your home, a filter for your water system, or other items that will help you live a (literally) cleaner lifestyle.
Be aware: Walking, running, or hiking outside when air quality is poor might be detrimental to your health even though you're getting exercise, so if you live in an urban area that has smog issues, definitely find an indoor workout facility that you can use.
The Environmental Protection Agency has ZIP-code-level information about air quality, water quality, known contaminants, and other environmental health factors that will be important if you're considering buying a home in that ZIP.
Light it up to shut it down
Getting good sleep is critical to staying healthy, and natural light is closely tied to our ability to get plenty of quality sleep.
So take an inventory of the sunlight that spills into your home-to-be and figures out how you can maximize its effects. Placing mirrors to catch the light will magnify it and bounce it around your apartment, and if you're able to place your bed facing an Eastern window, then you'll get the advantage of some direct light to wake you up in the morning, too.
It's almost never easy to fall asleep in a new environment, but hopefully, you know by now what environments generate your "best" sleep and what wakes you up in the middle of the night. If you can't abide lights flashing and your window faces a busy street, then consider heavy curtains that will block the light at night. If your place is close to a train track, highway, or other thoroughfares where you'll hear traffic through the night -- and you wake up at every little noise -- then invest in some earplugs and a white noise machine to mitigate the sound.
You probably aren't going to be able to avoid unhealthy food options entirely if you live in an urban area, especially a densely populated one. From fast-food restaurants to food carts and stands to food trucks to high-end restaurants, the temptations are many and the grocery stores few (and the kitchens to cook in, small).
But it's very difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle when you eat out for every meal. Portion sizes are growing, and if you're serious about making dietary changes, you might need to seize control of that part of your life.
At the very least, identify some healthy restaurants and healthy, fast meals that you can grab and consume on the fly so that when hunger strikes, you have another option besides the donuts or hot dogs at the stand around the corner. If you can avoid living somewhere with a bakery within a five-minute walk, so much the better!
At best, you can secure a place with a kitchen that will assist you in your efforts to be healthy. Even if you don't have space to whip up gourmet meals, you might be pleasantly surprised by how versatile and useful some modern kitchen appliances can be. There are a lot of cookery options for limited-space kitchens that will generate some amazing meals.
Pests are bad enough (and if you're in a condo, apartment, or duplex situation, then you might have to deal with them despite all your best efforts), but mold can be even worse, and elements like radon and carbon monoxide are also not to be trifled with.
A little bit of mold in a home that you're considering buying is not something to ignore. Make sure to ask any inspectors examining homes on your shortlist about the presence of mold or whether there are any indications of past issues.
Inspectors can also test for radon, which is usually found below the ground, so if part or most of your home extends below ground level, it's probably worth the extra money just to be sure you're safe. Your inspector should also test the smoke alarms in your house, and it's always a good idea to supplement those with carbon monoxide detectors and set regular reminders to change the batteries to keep you and your household safe and protected.
Buy healthier appliances and equipment
If you have washer/dryer hookups in your home, then think about purchasing a washing machine unit with steam and extra-hot-water options -- you'll be able to kill germs and bacteria in your sheets after being up all night sick, and if you have kids, the ability to steam-wash items is a no-brainer.
Your dishwasher should also be in good working order (if you have one), eliminating any lingering germs on your plates and silverware.