When it comes to building healthy habits, small decisions add up over time. We talked to exercise physiologist Christopher Travers, MS, and dietitian Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD for diet, nutrition and fitness ideas that you can incorporate into your life. Below, find their ideas for ways to be healthier every day:
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1. Don’t just take the stairs — use them
If you have stairs at your home or office, take them every chance you get. But don’t stop there. For a strong cardio workout, walk up and down the stairs repeatedly. Start with a limited number of repetitions, then increase them as you feel stronger.
2. Drink 1 extra glass of water
There are health benefits to drinking more water. It helps keep your temperature normal, lubricates and cushions joints, protects your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues, and gets rid of wastes through urination, sweat, and bowel movements. You can also add flavor to your water to help up your intake.
3. Take a 10-minute walk
Walk during your lunch hour or to a store that is a block away to buy a gallon of milk — it’s all good for you. Even if it’s cold outside, you can often walk comfortably by dressing right: Start with a sweat-wicking layer next to your body, add insulating layers for warmth, and top them off with a waterproof shell.
4. Focus on sitting up straight
Having good posture can prevent aches and pain and it can also reduce stress on your ligaments. You can try to leave yourself a note to sit up straight, until it becomes an unconscious habit.Walking with your shoulders back and head held high can also make you feel good about yourself.
5. Go to bed ½ hour earlier
Do you sleep a solid seven or eight hours most nights? Many of us don’t but experts say this is a marker of good heart health. Solid sleep doesn’t just give you more energy, it can also help with healthy eating goals. When you’re short on sleep, it reduces your body’s production of hormones that suppress appetite, which can contribute to weight gain.
6. Replace 1 can of diet soda with carbonated water
If you drink diet soda each day, use carbonated mineral water to help wean yourself off of it. Research suggests the brain reacts to artificial sweeteners much like it does to sugary sweets. Ingesting them frequently can increase your desire for high-calorie foods and put you at risk for weight gain.
7. Balance on one leg for 10 seconds at a time, then switch to the other leg
This simple exercise is something you can do while brushing your teeth or standing in a line. It’s a part of neuromotor training, which helps you improve your balance, agility and mobility — all things you need in everyday movement and in other forms of exercise.
8. Weigh yourself every week
To keep your weight from creeping up on you, set a weekly maintenance or loss goal for yourself, write it down, and check yourself against that goal. Weigh yourself each week on the same day and at the same time – and wearing the same amount of clothing for consistency.
9. Eat a healthy breakfast every day
Eat something high in fiber that includes protein to keep you full and energized. If you start the day out right, you tend to eat better overall. Tired of the same bowl of oatmeal? Add different toppings to make it more exciting.
10. Include greens and lettuce in your meals
Incorporate lettuce into your meals to add nutrients and water to your diet. The fiber in lettuce helps to fill you up, and it does so at just 20 calories per serving. Lettuces that are dark green and reddish in color are the most nutritious and the most flavorful. But even the popular, pale iceberg lettuce provides water, fiber and folate.
11. Find creative substitutions for unhealthy foods
Work to eliminate foods and snacks that you buy regularly that are high in calories but low on their health benefit. Eat them less often, as an occasional treat. Try using low-fat dairy, whole-grains, healthy oils (avocado and olive oil) and natural sweeteners (fruit) instead of high-fat or sugary alternatives.
Remember that building new healthy habits can take some time. Stay focused on your goal, and if you slip along the way, just start again.