Here’s our simple solution to making healthier changes – every day, see how many of the nine boxes you can tick off. Maybe some days you’ll get one or two, and maybe on others you’ll get seven or eight! The idea is to become more aware of our daily habits and make small healthy choices every day that build up and benefit us so much in the long-run.
1 WORKOUT SESSION Finding the time, not to mention the inclination, to work out every day is a real challenge. The key is to find a workout that you enjoy, something that makes you look forward to it. For some people, that’s team sports – try searching in your local area for football meet-ups, squash clubs etc. For others, that’s strength training, taking on the challenge every day to lift heavier and squat deeper. For everyone else, it could be something completely different or a combination. Exercise can be a fantastic opportunity to socialise or discover a new passion. Check out your local gym or search online for inspiration, and aim for at least 30 minutes every day.
2 HOURS OF DIGITAL DETOX In an age when our phones are glued to our hands and heads 24/7, 2 hours without may seem like an eternity. Two of the best times of day to keep away from our phones are first thing in the morning and last thing at night. If you rely on your phone to wake you up, consider investing in an alarm clock. If you’re used to reading articles or watching videos late into the night, grab a bedside lamp and go for a book or magazine instead. If you keep the first and last hours of your day phone-free, you may find you like it so much it goes on longer…
3 HEALTHY MEALS Here’s an idea – every time you’re putting together a meal, think to yourself “How can I make this better for me?”. If you’re making a soup, can you add a tin of chickpeas or some grilled chicken for protein? If you’re mixing a salad dressing, can you add a little more vinegar and a little less oil and salt? If you’re planning to fry something, can you bake it instead? Each small change adds up and makes a difference. If you’d like to get more familiar with if your diet is meeting all your nutritional needs, consider using an application like Cronometer to track a few days’ worth of food, and see where you have room to improve. When it comes to healthy eating, the best thing to do is focus on how to add healthier foods to your diet rather than worrying about how to cut out the unhealthier options. If you grab a couple of sweet peaches for dessert, maybe you won’t even have room left for that chocolate log?
4 BREAKS FROM YOUR DESK “Sitting is the new smoking” – truth or exaggeration? Sitting for extended periods has been linked to a number of health issues, including heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, to name a few. Moving throughout the day, rather than exercising only at the beginning or end, can help to lower the risk of all these health problems. Taking time away from your desk has other benefits too, reducing the risk of eye strain and repetitive strain injury. Try setting a timer to go for a short walk at regular intervals, or invest in a fitness tracker that programmes those reminders for you.
5 MINUTES TO CLEAR YOUR MIND Making time to do nothing is harder than it sounds, when doing nothing includes thinking. Most of us find our brains constantly working in overdrive, switching from one task to another without any reprieve. Meditation is an ancient practice of relieving the mind of all disturbance, but it’s far easier said than done. Step away from your laptop, your phone and any other distractions, and try to spend at least five minutes focusing on nothing beyond your breath. You might like to try a guided meditation to get started.
6 MINUTES OF STRETCHING Something to incorporate alongside your exercise, or simply do by itself! The two main types of stretching, dynamic and static, have different purposes. Dynamic stretching is done before a workout and involves movement, such as lunges and twists. Static stretching is for after workouts, when the muscles are extended and held for a while to prevent soreness and stiffness. While both are important, if you want to calm your mind, release tension and relax, make sure you get some static stretching in every day. You might want to set a goal, such as touching your toes, or even doing the splits! There are plenty of guides online.
7 GLASSES OF WATER We’ve all heard time and again how important drinking water is, but the harder part is how to remember! One easy trick to getting more water into your system is to always have it to hand. Keep a full glass on your desk (not too close to the edge!), a bottle in your bag and a jug on your bedside table. Drinking a glass of water 10 minutes before a meal also helps to prevent overeating, and keeping our water consumption up is key for good digestion. If water by itself is too boring, spice things up with a stick of cucumber or grapefruit slices, or get cosy with a steaming cup of herbal tea.
8 HOURS OF SLEEP Most of us don’t get as much sleep as we should, and when we say 8 hours of sleep, we mean *quality* sleep. Light, temperature and sound are key factors. Your bedroom should be on the cooler side, between 15.6°C and 19.4°C ideally. Try to keep your room dark – if you can’t black out your windows from streetlights, consider a comfortable eye mask. Unsurprisingly, irregular noise can also upset our sleep. If you often find yourself falling asleep to a TV show or YouTube video, try to break the habit day by day. A white noise machine or ASMR audio track is a nice alternative, and earplugs are great for blocking out the sounds of noisy housemates.
9 THOUSAND STEPS While 10,000 is the popular figure to hit, it isn’t based in anything scientific. Studies have shown that the minimum you should aim for is around 7,500 per day to reduce mortality risk factors, with the main benefits beyond that being extra calories burned. If you’re looking for ways to get your steps up, try getting off the bus one stop early, or find a quiet half hour in your day to take yourself for a walk around your neighbourhood with some old favourite tunes or a great podcast. The benefits for that little extra effort are numerous – strengthening your bones and muscles, improving your mood and keeping your weight under control, to name a few. A fitness tracker is also a great way to keep track of activity level, and will help you stay motivated. Grab a pair of trainers and get moving!
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