What are the best habits for a healthy mind and body?
I see this question asked ALL the time.
Here’s the thing…With pretty much any “habit” someone is promoting, it doesn’t mean it will benefit you as well. We’re not all the same. What works for some people might not work for you.
So, how can you work out the “healthy habits” that give you the best chance of helping you?
Scientific research, and lots of it!
Research is designed to eliminate factors you can’t control, and also be statistically significant for the majority of participants. And the more positive research there is, the higher chance it will actually benefit you.
So, in this post, I’m going to go over 5 natural habits that science says will probably work. Enjoy!
Humans are built to run. We evolved to run great distances hunting prey and gathering food.
So it’s no surprise that research suggests running could be one of the most effective habits for your health, physically and mentally.
A 2014 study that appeared in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that “running, even 5-10 minutes a day, at slow speeds, even slower than 6 miles per hour [10:00 minute pace], is associated with markedly reduced risks of death from all causes and cardiovascular disease.”….
Adhering to an Exercise Regimen
Working out isn’t always fun for everyone, and adhering to your exercise regimen can be especially hard if you feel unmotivated or lack the discipline to do it. There are a few pieces of advice that can help just about anyone stick to their workout plan longer, and maybe even change your view on exercise.
Assuming that you’re new to working out for the first time – or one of many new starts – you should start off easy and work your way into the advanced exercise plans instead of starting with technical circuits and exercises.
Make a schedule based on how often you can be 100% dedicated to thirty minutes to an hour in your day to exercise instead of doing what most people do and over commit to the gym five to seven days a week.
If you can resistance train two days a week, and do some light to moderate cardio three days a week, this would give you a great starter program to get your momentum going. Three cardio days and two resistance days doesn’t mean you have to train five days a week, because you can combine your cardio portion of the workout with any of your resistance days – either before or after your resistance exercises.
Working out three days a week means that your body has a solid four days to recover, stretch, and de-stress from the workload of lifting. Overtraining is a common issue with beginner exercisers, because just like dieting, they take on too much at one time and can only maintain that lifestyle for a couple of weeks before they cave in and begin yo-yoing back and forth between a healthy and unhealthy lifestyle.
Start slow and ease into more volume, higher intensity, and heavier weights when you begin to feel as though you’re ready to take on more. Aside from getting the proper structure of how many days to work out, you should also make sure you’re enjoying your workout somewhat.
This means you should pick full body exercises that are easy enough for you to comfortably perform, while still making it challenging enough at the same time. If some exercises are causing you pain, you should either stop doing that exercise – because your body uses pain as a message to tell you to quit – or look up how to fix your form, since most people don’t have it.
Deciding to quit an exercise is completely fine if it’s causing too much pain, but try to supplement it with a different exercise that still targets that same muscle. If you can learn to not dread your exercises, give your body plenty of rest, and go at your own pace, you won’t be so quick to ditch your fitness regimen..
Exercising Long Term at Home Vs the Gym
Exercising for the long haul is a great way to improve your health, strength, and mobility as you begin to age, feel as though you want to change, or have medical reasons for improvement.
Deciding where to exercise – whether in the safety and convenience of your home, or at the gym where you have a bigger variety of equipment can be a tough decision to make.
Let’s start with your home, since that’s the most convenient place to work out if you have the room to do it. Just about any exercise can be performed with bodyweight alone, and some can even be done with a chair, couch, or affordable equipment such as a pullup bar and dumbbells.
Instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars on a trainer, you can look to sources such as YouTube and other workout programs on DVDs to show you a variety of workouts that can be done at the house.
Because of convenience, budget friendliness, and privacy, the home workout routines can definitely be a competitor with any gym out there. Speaking of the gym, there are some unique advantages that the gym has as well.
A variety of equipment at your disposal is perhaps the biggest benefit and main reason that everyone gets a gym membership in the first place. Some gyms are very price efficient at only ten to twenty dollars a month and include a variety of machines, weights and tools that would take up too much room at your house.
Other gyms may have more amenities such as saunas, pools, and sport rooms at higher prices from thirty to a hundred dollars per month. It really comes down to what you’re looking for in a gym and what your budget is at the end of the day.
Personal trainers on the floor are also a great perk of having a gym membership because they will be more than happy to assist you with any exercise to make sure you have proper form.
And for an additional fee, they can write your whole program and stick around your workout to make sure you’re always progressing safely. Gyms can be crowded at times however, so make sure that you go when you feel comfortable.
Home workouts – although are great – can be limited in the variety of exercises you can do compared to what’s available at the gym. Try working out at home for a couple of weeks first so that you can get in the routine of working out, then once your body has adapted to the change, try asking for a free one week trial at a gym to see which style works best for you – and don’t be afraid to enjoy both if it helps you adhere to your program for the long haul.
How to Keep an Active Lifestyle Without Working Out
Working out is a great way to stay in shape, but many people don’t want to dedicate time in their life to paying membership to access a building where they can pick up weights and put them back down, or run endlessly on a treadmill facing a wall.
Staying healthy doesn’t mean you need to go purchase the nearest gym membership, but instead aim for a more active lifestyle. A great goal for the average person is to walk about ten thousand steps a day.
That may sound like a lot at first, but if you were to get a step tracker such as a Fitbit, you’ll find that it isn’t quite as hard as it sounds. Fitness trackers such as the Fitbit are affordable, comfortable, and tell you other indicators of health such as sleep, heart rate, calories burned and other really cool features that assist in tracking health.
Getting in extra steps in your day is much more convenient than buying a gym membership or working out, and it can even motivate you to be more productive throughout the day.
If you find yourself having trouble reaching ten thousand steps, try little tricks such as taking the long way around a building, using the stairs instead of the elevator, or even walking the dog more frequently.
You’re walking more now and that’s a great start to a more fit life, but there are other things that you can do besides walking more that will continue to take you down the path of a healthy lifestyle.
Picking up an active hobby such as dance lessons, sports, or whatever has you walk and move more - such as volunteering - is great way to supplement the gym atmosphere with something more tailored to your lifestyle and interests.
If you were having trouble with getting in extra steps, picking up a new hobby will also assist you with that as well. Weight loss is another side effect from a more active lifestyle because you are now burning more calories per hour than you were before, and a better cardiovascular system is great for your metabolism’s ability to burn fat.
You’ll find yourself more flexible, with better cardiovascular health, and stronger if you make the effort to do more with your day and stay away from a sedentary lifestyle. And the best part is that you won’t have to ever walk into a gym if you don’t want to!
Improving Your Workout Over Time
The human body is meant to adapt to certain conditions, which is why the human race is superior, and also why you should keep an eye out on the intensity of your workouts. Progressing your exercise regimen is extremely important to avoid plateaus because as you keep repeating the same exercises with the same weights for the same amount of time, your body will begin to change in order to make the workload easier.
If you’re tracking how much weight you’re lifting, for how many repetitions, and for how long, you’ll be able to better see the changes your body is making in order to compensate for your workouts.
Even with no weight at all, you should be counting elements such as time when exercising, speed, and any other form of progress that you can track. Increasing load and repetitions when it comes to lifting weights is the easiest way to track progress, and you should increase it by five percent once you can fully count twelve repetitions.
Cardio is often tracked by time, speed, and incline for those who are running on a treadmill so that the intensity of the cardio can gradually increase as your cardiovascular system improves.
Bodyweight exercises such as a plank, sit-ups, and pushups can easily be counted by repetitions for strength, or amount of repetitions given in a certain amount of time such as a one-minute interval.
There are other forms of progressions – such as learning how to do a proper pushup. Pushups aren’t easy for a majority of people, and doing a perfect one on your hands and feet can be quite a challenge.
Begin with doing a pushup standing next to the wall, using the wall to push off of instead of the floor. Gradually increase the angle of your feet so that you will perform a harder push at a higher angle.
Eventually, you can move onto the floor using your knees to rest on instead of your feet until you get the hang of that and you’re ready for your first real pushup. This method of assisted progressions from a regressed state to proper form can be used with squats, sit-ups, and just about any exercise.
Keep progressing through your workouts so that you don’t hit plateaus or get bored of your workout and you continue to see improvements in your strength and composition. Don’t try to level up all at once – slow progress helps prevent injuries and burnout.
Long Term Workout Motivation
Unless you’re one of the few who love to workout, unlike the rest of us, it can be challenging to commit to fitness and health long term because eventually, old habits emerge and might be tempting enough for you to leave your healthy progress behind.
Most everyone who begins a workout regimen is motivated for a change in their life, and is ready to start seeing a change in the way they look or feel. The tricky part is to stay motivated when you don’t see any change – when you’re sore or when staying comfortable seems better than doing any hard work.
It’s times like these that are the toughest and it makes a difference between those who simply wish they were better than they currently are, and those know that what they want in life and that they won’t always have it given to them on a silver platter or it may not go the way they expect.
What you should expect are obstacles. Writing down what you think those obstacles might be in the future and writing down two or three ways to overcome those challenges is a great way to mentally prepare yourself for them.
Tracking progress is another great indicator of success. This doesn’t mean stepping on the scale every day. If you have a scale that only calculates weight, only use it weekly because there are many other elements such as water, food, muscle, and fat that all affect your weight.
You could lose body fat, gain muscle and more water, but the scale still wouldn’t budge – making you believe you made no progress that day. Aside from weight, measure your body composition and invest in a tape measurer or even a cheap pair of calipers to track body fat.
These types of measurements, along with tracking the amount of weight, number of repetitions, and time completed are all great ways of tracking progress, and could be used as a huge motivator.
Now that you’re tracking your progress, overcoming obstacles and beginning to feel the momentum pick up each week, try to help a friend or family member. Having a workout buddy can be competitive and encouraging, and it’s a great source of accountability to drive each of you to improve your health.
Arming yourself with resources and tools to adhere to your program long term is something that even the professionals do, and should be included in your workout program before you even begin.
Don’t start by yourself without a game plan, or the day you decide to quit your new healthy lifestyle may come easy for you – and you don’t want to get back on that hamster wheel.
Will Your Fitbit Now Be Able to Monitor Your Blood Sugar?
Making sure that you take care of your diabetes is one of the keys to controlling it. The first step is always with self-monitoring and there are many ways already that you can do that, but new technology is being brought to the marketplace.
If you don’t watch it carefully, you’ll end up with complications. You should check your glucose levels frequently every day throughout the day and make any adjustments that are needed.
With millions of people having diabetes and that number continuing to rise, technology is needed to help promote better management of self-care. Thanks to the technology available today – a new and improved way to keep your glucose levels at a healthy number is at hand.
You can wear this technology right on your wrist and be able to effectively monitor your diabetes. Studies have shown that people who can easily track their diabetes numbers tend to stay in range more often than not.
Fitbit is now working to help those with diabetes to be able to better manage the condition. In conjunction with Dexcom, the company has created a smartwatch that will provide the necessary information and lead the way in diabetes management.
It’s easy to make the watch one of the tools in your self-care routine. All you need is to get one of the Dexcom G5 sensors to go with the Fitbit Iconic and you’ll soon be able to see your readings at a glance using either your smartphone or the watch face.
The new Fitbit will work with a variety of third party apps – including the one that can help you keep your diabetes under control. You’ll have access to immediate information concerning your glucose levels, thanks to the smartwatch, which will be released closer to the end of 2017 and the sensors working with the smartwatch will make an appearance sometime the following year.
The sensor has an approximate $900 price tag for the device that has to be inserted below the skin surface. However, the cost is well worth it as in investment in both your short and long term health.
Because it will have the ability to check your levels rapidly and as often as every five minutes, you’ll be able to stay on top of your diabetes and immediately correct any glucose reading that’s out of range.
The continual monitoring can give you real time information that can help you know when you need to adjust and knowing that can be one of the keys to weight management, which improves diabetes as well.
The smartwatch and sensor combo will allow those who have diabetes to understand the complete overview of their glucose levels. They’ll be able to get a picture of when their numbers were up and when they were down.
This is good information to relay to your doctor at your next visit. This will allow people to make improvements on how they care for their diabetes. These improvements lead to better care than you get from old fashioned meter monitoring.
When it comes to dieting, most people concern themselves most with cutting calories and burning fat. You’re measuring food, walking on the treadmill, and trying to stay away from temptations.
One good way to lose weight and tone up is to focus on gradually improving your metabolism. If you’ve been a yo yo dieter for years, then chances are your metabolism is struggling, which means you have a harder time losing weight. There are six ways you might be able to change that.
#1 – Build muscle to burn fat for you even when you’re just sitting there.
No one has time to exercise all day long, You’re probably lucky if you can squeeze in twenty minutes of it, much less a full hour. But you can still burn calories even while you’re sitting still or resting if you build a little muscle to work for you.
Muscle works almost like a furnace. It helps burn calories at a higher rate than fat. So even if you haven’t shed enough pounds to see those six pack abs yet, don’t quit lifting weights, because each time you do, you’re one step closer to increasing your metabolism and reaching your goals.
#2 – Stay hydrated throughout your day.
You’re probably already drinking water in order to stay fuller and steer clear of snacks. But water also helps you rev up your metabolism. Even a couple of glasses of water can begin boosting your metabolism up to 30%.
It may not sound like a lot, but when you drink that water daily, or even more for bigger benefits, you start to see a long-term weight loss that you can enjoy almost effortlessly over the course of a year.
#3 – Choose interval training when you exercise.
There are all sorts of exercises that will help you lose weight. Lifting weights, doing cardio exercises – they’re all beneficial. But certain programs like HIIT or other interval training programs boost your metabolism even more because your body is getting intense workouts buffered by short resting periods.
#4 – Eat enough (and the right kinds of foods) to fuel up your body throughout the day.
You may have already chosen a diet program to follow in order to lose weight. Maybe you cut carbs or sugar, or switched to a whole foods program. You might even simply be cutting calories or using mindful eating.
Just make sure you’re getting enough food, because it fuels your metabolism and ultimately helps you keep the weight off for good. Of course, not every food will help with this situation. Sugary donuts won’t help as much as lean protein, for example.
#5 – Stop drinking alcohol.
Even if you’re only a weekend drinker, your metabolism might take a hit if you consume wine, beer or other alcoholic beverages. The reason for this is that your body focuses on alcohol digestion first, so it ignores the food calories you have consumed, slowing it down to a crawl and causing some of it to be turned into fat stores.
#6 – Improve your sleep habits.
If you’re running on fumes, it’s hard for your body to have a fast metabolism. Find out why you’re feeling sluggish and tired. It might be that you’re using technology before bed and finding it hard to get or stay asleep.
Or maybe it’s other sleep hygiene issues, such as uncomfortable bedding, a room that’s too warm, or too much noise in the bedroom. Target the problem, make changes and see if your body is able to begin burning fat faster.
Have you ever gone on a diet and set unrealistic fitness goals for yourself? Maybe it was something like, “lose 30 pounds in 2 weeks” or “run a marathon in 10 days” (when you’d never run in your life).
This kind of self sabotage is what typically keeps people fluctuating with their weight over the course of the years. One day you’re fully committed, and the next day you’re fully overwhelmed.
This year, set your goals the right way. Keep long term success in mind when you do it. You’d much rather lose the weight permanently than lose it fast, but gain it all back (and more) a few months down the road, right?
Start with the goal to implement better health habits that contribute to your weight loss, but don’t connect directly to it in an obvious manner. For example, keep stress lower this year.
Stress eating is a major source of diet failure. So learn how to lessen or manage your stress so that you don’t turn to food whenever a situation arises. Another diet failure stems from lack of sleep.
If you’re running on fumes every day, it’s going to lower your metabolism and cause you to reach for sugary, caffeine-laden snacks and drinks that artificially give you energy, only to make you crash a short time later.
This kind of rollercoaster makes you eat to get through your day. So work on your sleep regimen by implementing proper sleep hygiene and sticking to a schedule that gives you plenty of rest to get through your day without help from unhealthy snacks.
Next, focus directly on your nutrition. Make small changes, rather than drastic ones. Pick a new habit to implement each week, such as portion control or less sugar or sodium.
It’s okay if you choose to track calories or other elements, if that works better for you. Set your goals the right way, though. Don’t go from a diet of 3,500 calories a day to 800 calories.
You’ll be miserable! Instead, curb your calorie intake a bit at a time over the course of a few weeks and watch the weight drop off effortlessly. So the same with your exercise goals.
Add a bit of workout time in your day, or set a doable goal of walking a mile, later raising it to 2 miles, then three, and so on. Don’t try to run before you can walk. Not only will you burn out quickly, but you could injure yourself.
Whenever you start trying to pick the best weight loss or fitness program, you’re going to see that they fall on the spectrum from very laid back to extremely stringent. Only you know what will work best for you, and believe it or not, it doesn’t have a lot to do with sheer willpower.
Those who do best working with stringent plans are the people who feel more overwhelmed without specific guidance. They need to know what to eat, and at what time.
They also like knowing exactly what exercise to do, and how many reps and sets to do as well. They’re not big on figuring things out for themselves because they don’t have time or interest in doing that.
Stringent plans might include plans like a sugar detox, or even popular programs like Jenny Craig. It could be a workout program like P90X, for example. But not everyone enjoys being told what to do, when.
If that best describes you, then you may need a more relaxed program that still encourages you to eat right and exercise, but in a way that’s more natural and enjoyable for you.
For example, if you don’t like being told you can never eat sugar again, then you might want to try a program like Weight Watchers or Mindful Eating. Both of those allow you to have whatever foods you enjoy, but in a more mindful manner where it’s not being consumed in huge portions.
With exercise, instead of being ordered to do a specific program, you have the freedom to wake up one day and choose from a list of activities that you actually enjoy doing. Maybe you want to walk, so instead of one hours on a treadmill pre-programmed level, you head to the beautiful zoo or a park in a city nearby and get your exercise in there.
The best way to see long-term success for some people is to stick to something that’s already done for them. No guesswork is involved, and they have confidence in it because a professional created the program.
But for others, it’s the freedom to pick and choose that helps them achieve their goals. They’re never deprived and never bored, which lifts their spirits during their weight loss journey and makes their efforts a little easier. There is no right or wrong way to choose, and in fact, you might even switch it up and do both from time to time!