Many people find it difficult to fit everything they need to do in a 24-hour day. Between work, social events, travel and family time, finding time to work out and eat right is tough. It’s much easier to find excuses for skipping the gym and picking up fast food instead.
The good news is, there are simple steps you can take to find the time and motivation to get fit. These 10 tips are designed to ease you into healthier habits:
1. Mix and match.
Your workout routine shouldn’t be routine. If you do the same thing every day, you’ll burn out sooner rather than later.
To make the thought of working out less daunting and more fun, mix it up. Instead of hitting the elliptical at the gym every day, take a walk or go for a jog. Instead of that same weight circuit, change up the order or do push-ups instead of curls and squats instead of the sled. You’ll work out muscle groups you typically don’t while breaking up the monotony.
2. Build up.
When you haven’t been to the gym for a while, you can’t dive straight into 300-pound deadlifts. The same is true of your diet: A salad for every meal isn’t a sustainable plan.
Ease into your new habits. If cycling is just your speed, an electric cruiser bike can help you build up to the hard hills. When your legs get tired, switch on the motor. Each ride, you’ll find yourself needing it less and less.
3. Start small.
There are tons of small things you can change in your daily routine that burn calories and raise your heart rate. On the fitness side:
- Start walking to and from work, restaurants or the grocery store.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Stop watching your kids run around the yard, and run around with them. Take a hike on a weekend instead of watching a movie.
- Need to call you parents? Walk while you’re on the phone instead of sitting in the recliner.
This tip applies to your diet, too. Small steps include:
- Reach for a glass of water rather than a soda.
- Skip dessert after dinner, or grab a piece of fruit instead.
- Swap drive-thru breakfasts for morning smoothies.
- Stick to low-alcohol or nonalcoholic drinks at social events.
4. Work out while you work.
Why not get a little exercise while you’re at work? Instead of sitting at your desk, stand up. Rather than calling your co-worker on another floor, walk there to have a conversation. If you’re networked to a printer down the hall, use it instead of the one on the credenza next to you. And if you need to travel for work, pick a hotel with a fitness center, or pack your bathing suit and swim some laps in the pool.
5. Feel free to abbreviate.
On those days when there’s no way you’ll have time for a normal workout, abbreviate it. Something is better than nothing. Just ramp up the intensity and don’t worry about the duration. Switching it up helps keep you from plateauing.
Also remember what weight loss boils down to: fewer calories in than calories burned. On those days you need to abbreviate your calorie-burning activity, you might think about abbreviating your caloric intake as well.
6. Remember to rest and relax.
Your mental health is as important as your physical health. Although exercise has been shown to fight depression and anxiety, obsessive working out can worsen mental health.
Take some time to relax each day. Meditate, read, journal or watch that Hallmark Christmas movie you’ve been craving. Get enough good-quality sleep. Above all, take a vacation from time to time. Physically getting away is a great way to mentally get away.
No matter what your activity level, hydration keeps you healthy. Drinking enough water keeps your joints lubricated and your organs functioning properly. It prevents infections and spurs nutrition. Hydration even helps keep your skin smooth and taut and improves the quality of your sleep.
If you need the carbs, sugars and electrolytes in sports drinks can improve your athletic performance. But in most cases, the best prescription for hydration is a good old glass of water. Experts say men should drink almost four liters of water per day, while women need nearly three liters.
8. Eat mindfully.
How many times do you gobble down a meal without even thinking about what you’re eating, how much you’re eating or what it tastes like? Eating mindfully will help you make better choices in the first place, as well as enjoy the healthy foods you do choose.
Instead of downing that candy bar when your energy bottoms out in the afternoon, try a handful of almonds. Savor the slightly sweet crunch. If you eat cereal in the morning, add a handful of blueberries. Blueberries pack a megadose of antioxidants, and the slightly tart treat goes perfectly with a sweet meal. Think about what you’re consuming, and making smart choices will become easier.
9. Take shortcuts.
Fresh foods don’t have to take hours to prepare. Establish some go-to meals that use just three or four ingredients. That way, making dinner at the end of a long day isn’t so daunting that you order pizza instead.
Get that slow cooker and instant pot out of the cabinet and onto your counter. Toss in some beans, rice, and diced veggies, and turn it on. Come back in half an hour, and dinner will be done. And if you want to eat fresh without making the trip to the grocery store, grocery delivery services like Home Chef, HelloFresh, or Blue Apron can lend a hand.
10. Plan ahead.
A little planning and organization can make healthy living a lot easier. Schedule your workout time just like a work meeting. Follow a video series so you don’t have to decide what exercises to do.
On the weekend, when you have more time to shop and cook, figure out what you’re going to eat throughout the week. Prepare lunches for work so you can just grab one and go each morning. Write down your schedule of breakfasts and dinners on a calendar so you don’t have to remember them. All you have to do is check them off your list.
The bottom line is that you have to make eating well and getting enough exercise a priority in your life. If you don’t, all sorts of other priorities will crowd them out.
Set realistic goals, and ease into a healthier lifestyle. Every day, move a little more and eat a little healthier until those actions become just part of your daily routine.