There is a misconception that in order to live a healthy lifestyle you have to be one of those rare people who were born with iron-clad willpower, an endless stream of workout motivation and at least three extra hours a day to devote to planning meals and exercise.
If you follow the latest fitness fads, you might become convinced that if you don’t join a six-day-a-week intense exercise program and jump on the latest extreme diet bandwagon, then you simply don’t want it bad enough. They tell you that you'll only get results if you give up all carbs, fats, alcohol, sugar, gluten and any hint of fun or pleasure in your life. No pain, no gain. Right?
Simply put. Wrong.
The problem with this fitness advice is that it excludes people who prioritize their families, friends and careers over endless chicken and broccoli and long hours in the gym. What about the working mom, the busy professional and the rest of us who have active fulfilling lives outside of our diet and exercise routines?
The truth is that you don’t have to overhaul your whole life in order to make some healthy changes that can yield big results. I’ve put together ten fitness tips (that you can implement right away) to start living a healthier lifestyle today.
LESS IS MORE
When you start a new exercise program, it may seem like a good idea to work out for an hour a day six days a week. While this kind of enthusiasm is to be admired, doing too much too fast can quickly lead to exhaustion, burnout or injuries. A more sustainable action plan would be to ease into your new exercise routine. Start by committing to just 20-30 minutes 2-3 days a week and increase your workout time and intensity as you get stronger. This will allow your body and mind time to adapt to your new program and leave plenty of room for progress well into the future.
Find a way to move your body in a way that you enjoy, and here’s the key...do it consistently. You don’t have to be a gym rat (if that is not your thing). For some people it may be dancing, running, Yoga, skating, organized sports, hiking or brisk walking with their dog. Try some new things to find the fitness activity that is right for you. Boost the fun-factor by finding a workout buddy or joining a group fitness class. If you enjoy it then you will be more inclined to actually do it. Exercise and torture should not be synonymous.
Stay hydrated. The general recommended water intake for men is 16 cups and for women 12 cups a day, fluids from all food and beverage count towards these amounts. Try keeping a refillable water bottle at your desk at work or school. When water is within arms reach you’re more likely to drink it. Besides, all the good office gossip happens around the water cooler.
Be your own lunch lady and pack and carry your lunch from home instead of eating out. Not only will you save money by bringing your lunch to work, you will be able to better control your calorie intake and portions.
PRO TIP - PROTEIN
Snack on protein rich foods. The recommended protein intake for active adults is .5 to .8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight a day. Eating protein won’t magically make your muscles pop out or cause you to lose weight, but adequate protein intake has many benefits including building muscle and helping you feel full and satisfied at each meal.
STEP IT UP
In addition to your regular exercise (that you totally enjoy per tip #2), make an effort to get more active doing the things you do anyway. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther away from the entrance at work and the grocery store, pace while talking on the phone and always return that shopping cart to the cart return. (Wait, you should be a good human and do that last one anyway.) Once you get established in your new healthy habits, work to step it up again by adding one more. Walk one more flight of stairs, one more walking lap around the block or one more workout a week.
Always eat breakfast. Jump-start your metabolism in the morning with a healthy breakfast that includes a healthy mix of protein, carbs and fat. If you don’t have the time or energy to make a big breakfast in morning, try grabbing a portable protein shake and whole wheat toast with peanut butter.
YOU SNOOZE YOU WIN
An often overlooked fitness tip is to make sure you get enough sleep at night. Your body needs the down time to repair and replenish. Shoot for at least seven hours a night.
IT’S EASY BEING GREEN
Eat your greens (or drink them)! Work on adding additional green vegetables to every meal. Chop extra veggies into your morning omelettes, pile on the vegetables in your salads and even sneak some spinach into your blended protein shakes (you won’t even taste the difference).
Don’t try to be perfect, just do the best you can with what you have. We all fall down, have bad days and make poor choices. We’re human after all. If you focus on consistent healthy behaviors then the occasional treat or indulgence will not have any negative impact on your progress. The path to success is rarely a straight line. Learn to enjoy the process.