The 11 Easiest Things You Can Do to Get a Little Healthier
Health nuts are called "nuts" for a reason; most normal people don't want to wake up at the crack of dawn to work out or juice rare South American fruits purported to have insanely high antioxidant levels.
Still, there's always some room for improvement, especially for the lazy at heart, the folks who know deep down that nothing good can come of sitting on the couch and housing chips all day -- even though that may be your go-to hangover cure. When you're feeling like a slob and are on the hunt for the easiest ways to get a little healthier, test the waters with these 11 simple tips.
If you sit at a desk for hours on end, you're probably all too familiar with how your hunched-over position leaves you feeling at the end of the day. Besides being uncomfortable and creating aches and pains, sitting in this position happens to look pretty unattractive, too. According to Dr. Charles Wang, COO & co-founder of Lumo Bodytech, standing a little taller will be easier on your neck and back, and will help you feel more confident, since it lowers stress-causing cortisol levels in the brain.
Cut back on the sugar
I love a post-dinner brownie sundae as much as the next girl, but all good things in moderation, right? Marci Clow, dietitian and senior nutritionist at Rainbow Light, says cutting down on sugar is a good way to reduce your risk of all kinds of nasty long-term conditions. "Excess sugar consumption has been linked to many chronic disease conditions besides obesity. If we expect to reduce risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, or any other weight-related illness, the science shows that we need to reduce sugar intake." Try swapping the soda for some lemon water, which segues nicely into...
Get a massage
Treat yo' self to a massage, because science says so! Massage therapist Patrick Smith claims there are actually good health reasons to hit the spa once a month: "Massage calms the body and spirit, breaks up adhesions, and boosts the immune system." Go ahead and treat yourself... in the name of your health, of course.
Sit on the floor each day
This one's for you, couch potato who's binge-watching Mozart in the Jungle because you've burned through every other semi-entertaining series. Whether it’s a day wasted or the result of being wasted the night before, do yourself the simplest of favors and take to the floor. Mind-body natural movement coach and functional movement systems expert Chandler Stevens recommends spending a half-hour sitting on the floor each day. Allowing your body to unravel tight hips and low back, sitting on the floor is one of the easiest ways to increase flexibility -- try opening up your legs, stretching out your back, folding whichever way you can. And, unlike a yoga or group fitness class, the price is right.
Don't take the easy way while moving from point A to point B throughout the day
When you park your car, choose the space in the lot that's furthest away from your end destination. When you have the option of taking the stairs or an elevator, opt for some steps. If you're meeting up with friends in town on a nice day, ditch the subway and walk or ride your bike. Pretty simple, and adds up to some serious physical activity in the long run.
Set an alarm every hour
If you're an office drone, try setting an alarm to go off on your phone every hour (though you should probably make sure it doesn't go off when you're meeting with your boss). "It serves as a subtle reminder to stand up, stretch, get up and walk to the bathroom -- really any kind of movement is fine as long as you move,” Kat Haselkorn, total body-conditioning and spinning instructor, says. "We spend so much time sitting hunched over our desks that a little nudge can make a big difference in daily activity levels."
Don't grocery shop hungry
Hitting the grocery store on an empty stomach is never, ever, ever a good idea. Think those donuts in the bakery case look scrumptious and ready to be eaten? That's because they are. Want to load up on mac 'n cheese, chips, and other crap in the junk-food aisle? Sure, because you're ravenous. List-making can also make a difference, notes lifestyle coach Angelique Millis. "Don’t wander down the aisles aimlessly grabbing whatever you think you will need... Make a list of what you need to reach your health and fitness goals. Do not buy things you know you will not eat; rather, try finding healthy recipes you like."
Eat more seafood
The government says you should be consuming at least 8oz of seafood per week. "Additionally, the USDA states that the omega-3s found in seafood are associated with reduced cardiac deaths caused by heart disease," says dietitian Rima Kleiner of the National Fisheries Institute. "Shrimp, which is low in calories and high in protein, and salmon, which is chock-full of heart-healthy omega-3s, are nutritious and delicious options to incorporate in your diet." An excuse to pig out on shrimp cocktail? Maybe!
Train your feet
You kind of need your feet for a lot of important stuff. According to Rachel Clark, owner of Plank Pilates, "faulty feet = flawed foundation." Dedicating a few minutes each day to strengthening your feet will benefit your body as a whole, and one way to do this, Clark says, is to "drape your toes over a tennis ball and massage the backs of your toes. Then work your way down the sole of your foot, all the way back to your heel. Then roll along the inner and outer arches."
Get more (and better) sleep
If you're someone who isn't immediately whisked away to dreamland as soon as your head hits the pillow, make an effort to ditch the phone and create a dark sanctuary for yourself. "Adults should be getting seven to nine hours of sleep every night, but many of us just aren’t getting that and our phones tend to be the cause,” argues Dr. Jason Olafsson. "We lay in bed scrolling through Facebook or Instagram when we should be sleeping. Before you get in bed, put your phone on sleep mode and place it out of reach." In spite of its name, Instagram can wait.
Take a daily probiotic
Probiotics can be way more beneficial than you may have realized. Registered dietitian Brooke Alpert says, "Probiotics are good bacteria that help to keep the GI system healthy and functioning at its best, which in turn keeps your immune system functioning at its best. Poor GI health can lead to irritable bowel syndrome, food intolerance, gas, bloating, and uncomfortable abdominal cramping." So for the love of God -- and anyone who has to put up with your gas and bloating -- consider incorporating probiotics into your daily routine.
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Julie Peirano is a health & fitness writer who wrote this article while standing at her desk with her laptop propped up on a stack of books, because standing desks are pretty expensive. Follow her: @JuliePeirano.