Five small tweaks to your everyday patterns can make a difference to your health.
Everybody loves a quick fix, but playing the long game is the real key to making lasting changes. One recent study from the American Journal of Public Healthshowed that when people use strategies like setting goals and making minor adjustments to a routine—rather than attempting overly ambitious life changes—physical activity levels soared. Sneaking a few new behaviors into each day can add up to a whole new you.
1. 6:30 a.m.
Wake up with a stretch
Flexibility work first thing in the morning helps limber up muscles tightened up from the day before and increases blood flow. But don’t jump right into the static stretches—dynamic moves ease you into the stretch and get blood flowing.
Try the Lunge Twist
This will activate your core and legs.
1) Step forward into a lunge with your right leg. Sink as low as you can, balancing yourself by touching your hands to the floor.
2) Now twist your torso to the right, reaching overhead. Keep your lower back flat so you feel the stretch in your hips.
2. 8:30 a.m.
Walk tall to work
When subjects in a 2014 Canadian Institute for Advanced Research study were told to walk with slumped shoulders and less arm movement, they actually reported a worse mood than those who stood up straight. So, to prep mood-wise for the day, push your shoulders back and tuck your tailbone (not your entire pelvis) in slightly.
3. 12:30 p.m.
Eat lunch in the sun
A 2005 study in Psychological Science found that exposing yourself to the sun for just 30–45 minutes a day can make you happier and help your brain process new information. Sun also boosts vitamin D levels, which is important for strong bones and immune function. (Three-quarters of us are deficient in vitamin D.) For the D boost, all it generally takes is 5–30 minutes of direct sun at least twice a week.
4. 4:30 p.m.
Snack smart in the afternoon
Skip the chips and go for nuts and seeds, which contain protein and healthy fatty acids. A large observational study at Harvard University in 2013 suggested that a daily handful of nuts may play a positive role in health and longevity. The pistachio is among the lowest-calorie nuts you can buy. Plus, in a preliminary behavioral study, researchers discovered that snackers who ate unshelled pistachios took in 41% fewer calories than those who ate nuts that had already been shelled. The empty shells may serve as a visual cue about how much has been eaten, thereby potentially encouraging you to eat fewer calories.
5. 10:30 p.m.
Studies show that our body repairs damage done in workouts while we sleep and keeps cells healthy. For the best rest, sleep on a comfortable bed in a cool, dark environment, avoid caffeine, and drop your digital devices 30 minutes before—the blue glow can delay the release of melatonin.