There are also many smaller steps you can take that will help improve your overall health and quality of life, and because they’re things you can easily incorporate into your routine, they’ll be easy to maintain for the long haul. Even if you have only a few minutes to spare, you can use that time to improve your well-being.
Try incorporating the following activities and strategies into your day. When these simple steps become habits, they can have a big positive effect on your overall health.
1. Enjoy de-stressing.
Experts recommend regular exercise, meditation, and breathing techniques to reduce stress. But even something as simple and enjoyable as listening to soothing music, reading a good book, soaking in a hot tub, or playing with your pet can help you relax.
That’s advice you should take to heart because prolonged stress can cause or exacerbate a number of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, depression, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, and obesity.
2. Put away the salt.
A salt shaker on the dining table makes it all too easy to consume excess salt, which can lead to high blood pressure. So put the shaker in a cabinet or pantry and bring it out only when you’re cooking.
3. Get to bed earlier.
Most of us don’t get the seven or more hours of sleep adults need.
Over time, a lack of shut-eye can raise your risk of a heart attack or stroke, regardless of your age, weight, or exercise habits.
If you’re consistently sleep-deprived, going to bed even 15 minutes earlier every night could help. Also, set a regular sleep and wake schedule, and stick to it — even on days off.
4. Have a glass of red wine.
Studies have shown that the powerful antioxidants found in red wine protect against heart disease, colon cancer, anxiety, and depression. So unless there is a medical reason why you shouldn’t imbibe, go ahead and enjoy that glass of merlot with your nightly meal — you can even toast to your good health.
But drink in moderation. Just as a small amount of red wine has health benefits, too much alcohol — even red wine — can cause a variety of health problems, including liver and kidney disease and cancer.
5. Check your posture and ergonomics.
Next time you’re at your desk or on the phone, take a moment to think about your posture. Then straighten up your back, tuck in your stomach, and put your feet flat on the floor with your legs uncrossed. You’ll feel more relaxed right away.
The few seconds this takes can help you avoid back pain, one of the most common health problems in the United States and a leading cause of disability.
6. Do a crossword puzzle.
Researchers at Rush have found that mentally challenging activities, such as reading, doing crossword puzzles or Sudoku, and playing chess, may have a protective effect on your brain.
According to research studies, regularly engaging your mind may help lower your risk for the dementia associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
7. Weigh in.
Maintaining a healthy weight can lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. But for women, there’s another reason to keep pounds from piling on: It will decrease the risk for future pelvic floor disorders.
8. Make a few dietary substitutions.
Swap white bread, rice, crackers, and pasta for healthier whole grain versions.
Use skinless chicken and turkey in your recipes instead of skin-on, and leaner cuts of other meats such as beef or pork.
9. Take the stairs.
The next time you’re going to a higher floor, bypass the elevator and climb the stairs instead. You’ll get your blood pumping, exercise your lungs, and work the muscles in your lower body.
All of these small steps can add up to a healthier you.
10. Stretch it out.
Regularly stretching your muscles helps you avoid injuries, stay limber, and move freely as you age.
Take a few minutes to stretch out before and after you exercise. If you aren’t working out that day, take a few stretch breaks. Find a quiet space in the office where you won’t be disturbed. On the go? Look for natural opportunities in your daily routine to stretch, such as getting out of your car or reaching for items on a high shelf at the store.
Stretching right before bed can also help you relieve tension and get to sleep.
And balance exercises, like Tai Chi, can dramatically reduce your risk of dangerous falls.