When go hard or go home just sounds like too much effort, here’s half a century of simple fixes you can make to improve your health and fitness with minimal fuss.
1. Get off your commute one stop early. Walk the last stretch.
2. Swap sugary drinks for fruit-infused water. Nutrition is as much about what’s coming out of the diet as what is being added. Little swaps like this will help minimise empty calories.
3. Walk up the escalator (*ahem* on the left hand side).
4. Eat until your stomach is 80% full – or, in Japanese, hara hachi bu. This Confucian-inspired adage originates from the Blue Zone of Okinawa, famous for having one of the world’s longest life expectancies and lowest rates of heart disease, cancer and stroke.
5. Take deep breaths into your stomach, rather than shallow breaths into your chest.
6. Get your eyes tested (check if you’re eligible for free eye tests on the NHS here).
7. If you’re able, live by this mantra: “One to three, take the stairs. Four or more, use the lift.”
8. Cycle to work. It can cut your risk of cancer by 45% and heart disease by 46% compared with commuting by car or public transport (the study never mentioned you had to ride fast).
9. Swap out white bread (refined grains lacking in vitamins and minerals) for brown bread (packed with healthier wholegrains and several vitamins and minerals).
10. Take a daily vitamin D3 supplement between October and March to keep your bones, teeth and muscles strong.
11. Pack running shoes for every holiday. Use them to explore your new surroundings.
12. Move more, sit less. Over two fifths (41%) of workers who suffer back and neck pain blame sitting in one place for extended periods.
13. When you do sit, uncross everything – your feet, arms, legs. In his book Stretch, movement coach Roger Frampton says “constant crossing (because it’s always on the same side), will literally twist your body into pain points”. Break the habit to eliminate tightness.
14. To improve your posture, think Goldilocks. “Not too tense, equally not too relaxed, but something in the middle,” says Frampton. “Hold yourself with a constant awareness of the position of your body.”
15. When working from home, switch up your positions every hour. Stand, sit on your chair, sit on the floor, lie on your front. “Variety really is the key,” says Frampton.
16. Finish your regular warm shower with 30 seconds of cold. It may help energy levels, activate fat loss, and boost immunity.
17. Ride off-road. Nine out of 10 mountain bikers surveyed by Cycling UK rated off-road cycling as important for their mental and physical health.
18. Netflix and chill (sex burns five calories per minute, four more than watching TV).
19. Floss every day to keep the heart surgeon away.
20. Squat like a baby. Your back will thank you for it.
21. Drink enough water till your urine is a pale straw colour. That way you know you’re keeping hydrated, which is essential for all aspects of the body such as moderating your body temperature and keeping your joints lubricated.
22. Adopt a dog. It makes you four times more likely to meet the UK’s physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes per week than non-dog owners.
23. Alternatively, offer to walk your friend’s dog. Remember poop bags.
24. Dance (in public or private). High-impact, weight-bearing exercise, such as dancing, helps maintain bone strength and slows the progression of osteoporosis.
25. Better still, join a dance class. “Exposing your brain to new stimuli, like learning a new language, instrument or dance routine improves brain health,” says Kimberley Wilson, author of How to Build a Healthy Brain. “It can also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”
26. Take a bath. “Increasing your core temperature by just 1-2 degrees can help recycle toxic proteins and stimulate new cell growth in the brain,” says Wilson. Twenty minutes in a dry sauna 1-2 times per week is optimal. A warm soak in the tub also works.
27. Learn a sun salutation. Practise it daily.
28. Read before bed (just not on your mobile or tablet). It’ll help you drift off quicker.
29. Don’t take your phone to bed (use a simple alarm clock if you need one).
30. Keep your wake up and lights out times consistent Monday to Sunday. It helps reset your circadian rhythm each morning.
31. Think back to a time when you enjoyed playing sports, even if just for a moment. Then think hard about picking up that sport again.
32. Write down your number one fitness goal for the year. But be SMART about it. Make it specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. If you don’t know where you’re going you won’t know how to start.
33. Work out how much protein you need a day. The macro plays a key role in building the muscle you need to go about your day-to-day.
34. Eat more dark green leafy veg. They’re a great source of iron, which is crucial for oxygen transport, cognitive function and the immune system.
35. Learn to batch cook a few vegetarian staples.
36. Perform random acts of kindness. It can promote physiological changes in the brain linked with happiness, while prompting you to be more active.
37. Volunteer your time. Ideally in running shoes.
38. Buddy up. New data from fitness tracking app Strava found hikers walk further and for longer in groups of three or more than those in pairs or going solo. The same was true for cyclists but less pronounced for runners.
39. Learn how to swing a kettlebell. In his book, The 4-Hour Body, self-help guru Tim Ferriss claims the Russian kettlebell swing is the ultimate all-in-one full-body workout for helping lose fat quickly. He recommends 75 reps, 2-3 times per week, but if you’re new to kettlebells start light and build up gradually.
40. Invest in a basic resistance band. Use it when you feel stiff or to work out with when you can’t get out to the gym.
41. Surround yourself with fit people. Then give in to peer pressure.
42. Clean your house. One hour burns roughly 238 calories – equivalent to half a cheeseburger.
43. Snack on nuts and fruit. Both are packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals, and are great for fuelling workouts.
44. Track them when necessary, but try not to obsess about calories.
45. Enjoy your food.
46. Conduct one of your daily work meetings on the move. When appropriate.
47. Track your daily step count. Simply monitoring your progress with a fitness tracker can promote behaviour changes that increase physical activity. On average, consistently using a wearable or smartphone health app can boost your step count by more than a mile.
48. Think tortoise, not hare. A 2019 study found that completing 7,500 steps each day reduces risk of death. They also found that quantity beats haste. It’s better to take more steps slowly, than fewer faster.
49. Switch off your news app’s notifications and install a good news app instead. Better still, switch off all notifications. Use your apps on your terms.
50. Wear sunscreen (even when it’s cloudy). Use an SPF of 30+ and check its expiry date. Most have a shelf life of two to three years.
Words: Sam Rider
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