Finding healthy habits to stay fit is increasingly difficult in an increasingly busy world. Where’s the time to exercise when there are other “important” things to do? But the truth is having good health comes from forming good habits, which can take a while but it’s worth the effort. But first, what does it even mean to live a healthy lifestyle?
There are many different reasons to exercise and eat healthy, not just because it’s “good for you.” Weight loss or weight management and fitness are the obvious reasons, but exercise can also work wonders to prevent illnesses and improve your mood.
10 Easy Ways to Start Creating Healthy Habits
Everybody knows health is important, but it’s like any major lifestyle choice. It’s hard to know where to begin. How can you develop habits to improve your health? What are the best health habits and which ones deserve the most focus? The truth is, there isn’t just one answer to those questions, but here are some simple guidelines to help you learn how to make healthy habits to stay fit. Some of them might surprise you.
Habit #1: Sleep Well
Most people might think that good health starts with exercise, but it can also begin with sleep. Most adults need about 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Not surprisingly, when you don’t give your body the rest it needs, it can affect your physical health. Experiencing insomnia or a prolonged period without sleep can lead to weight gain, mood changes and an impaired immune system, all of which can increase the risk for health complications (x, x).
In one study, teenage subjects who did not sleep well seemed to face an increased risk for developing cardiovascular problems and risks for heart disease, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and a higher body mass index (x).
Other studies suggest a correlation between sleep and weight gain because sleep restriction may interfere with the chemicals in the body that help regulate appetite and energy. The researchers tested a sample size of 14 healthy subjects and noticed that sleep deprivation seemed to increase hunger and food cravings (x).
If you have trouble sleeping at night, try some easy remedies to improve your sleep naturally.
Habit #2: Plan Your Meals (and Do It Wisely)
If giving your body enough rest is important, then so is giving your body the right fuel. So how can healthy eating improve your lifestyle?
First of all, you can start by prepping your meals in advance. It may sound like an annoying and tedious task, but it can help you learn to manage your eating habits. If all of your meals for the day are already prepped, ready and healthy, you may be less likely to make hasty, unhealthy choices. But that means you also have to know what kind of meals to plan. Luckily we can offer some suggestions that may help.
For starters, you want to have a healthy breakfast high in fiber and protein to give you energy for the day. Studies suggest that high fiber and high protein breakfasts may provide a higher diet quality (x). Keep the pattern going for lunch and dinner and make sure you’re including enough sources of protein, fiber, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables in each meal.
Bring healthy snacks with you for energy if you’re on the go. Pack some nuts, dried fruits, oats, granola, yogurt, fruit and vegetables. Having healthy snacks throughout your day may also help you avoid overeating during meal times. There are plenty of healthy foods to give you natural energy.
Habit #3: Get Moving
While it is important to be able to sit down, focus and get things done, getting up and moving is one of the best habits to stay healthy, especially if you work at a desk job for long hours. Make sure you’re taking breaks to add some gentle exercise to your day. If you have time during your lunch break, take a short walk around your floor or building. If you can’t walk around, there are light stretches or exercises you can do without having to leave your office chair.
It may be our first instinct to take the elevator, but try taking the stairs instead. That may be the easiest way to get some exercise in if you don’t have time to carve out time for a full workout. Taking the stairs gives you a gentle cardio workout and you can walk up and down as many flights as you’d like, as many times as you’d like.
Studies suggest that living a sedentary lifestyle may negatively affect your health. According to research, extended periods of inactivity can interfere with metabolism and the body’s ability to perform basic functions like breaking down fats and controlling blood sugar levels. This may increase the risk for health issues, such as heart disease, obesity or type 2 diabetes (x).
In one study, researchers analyzed data compiled over 15 years and concluded that, regardless of the subjects’ ages, weight or smoking habits, leading a sedentary lifestyle seemed to increase the risk for early death (x).
Habit #4: Stay Hydrated
In general, the guidelines for staying hydrated are easy—make sure you’re consuming enough fluids throughout the day, especially if you exercise. Most of your body and most of your muscles are made of water, so it’s important to make sure the body stays lubricated and avoid health issues as a result of dehydration. This may be one of the most important healthy habits to stay fit.
According to research, water helps regulate your internal body temperature, protect vital organs and support the digestive system (x). Drinking water can also lubricate the joints and protect them from injury, especially with exercise. Experts claim that you should drink water before you start to get thirsty because thirst is a sign that your body has already started to dehydrate. Make sure you drink water before, during and after exercise.
Some people opt for sodas or juices throughout the day over water simply because of a preference for sweeter tastes. But don’t let that be an excuse! Add different fruits to your water to sweeten the taste, give it a little variety and get even more nutrients.
Habit #5: Go Outside
Taking the stairs or walking around your office building are both effective and convenient ways to exercise, but it’s also important to actually get outside whenever you can. Whether you’re exercising or just getting some fresh air, spending time in nature is a healthy habit to stay fit that you should definitely consider. Hiking, distance running or any other type of exercise outside is great for your mental and physical health. The fresh air may help sharpen your focus and boost energy levels, thanks to the natural vitamin D your body receives from sunlight.
The University of Michigan conducted a study and noted that spending 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking outside seemed to significantly reduce the subjects’ stress hormones (x).
Dr. MaryCarol Hunter is an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan and led the project. She claims that “for the great payoff, in terms of efficiently lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, you should spend 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking in a place that provides you with a sense of nature.”
So when you can, try to pull your eyes away from your computer screen, take a break from your cubicle and step outside for some fresh air.
Habit #6: Don’t Forget Your Mental Health
Believe it or not, mental health goes hand-in-hand with your physical health. You want to develop healthy habits to stay fit in regards to both your body and your mind. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), exercise is an important variable in mental health, but it is also one that a lot of people tend to underestimate (x).
Michael Otto, Ph.D., claims that professionals have “much less awareness of mental health outcomes” related to physical exercise. Experts claim that exercise can help boost mood, alleviate stress and improve mental health overall.
However, mental health struggles may also play a role in longevity. The Mental Health Foundation associates some mental health disorders—like depression or schizophrenia—to a shorter life expectancy. The association claims that depression may be linked to a 50% higher risk of death from cancer and 67% higher risk for cardiovascular disease.
Aside from chronic stress, the APA reports that minor stress takes a toll on the body. For example, research states that negative emotions may be associated with heart attacks and other serious health problems (x).
Habit #7: Be Present (and Offline)
It’s more difficult than ever to disconnect from technology and few people realize what kind of strain it can put on the mind and the body. Research states that increased use of technology seems to be associated with “digital eye strain” as well as blurred vision, dry eyes, headaches and neck and shoulder pain (x).
Taking a digital detox for a day or two can help reduce this strain on your body. Even taking a break for just a few minutes or hours may help.
In the same vein,choosing to be present and offline and connect in the present moment with other people can have a positive effect on social interaction and mood. Research makes astounding correlations between media and our thoughts and mood.
Studies suggest that social media may negatively influence people’s self image and that these negative self images may potentially increase the risk for disordered behavior patterns, such as eating disorders (x).
Another recent study analyzed how Facebook influenced subjects’ mood using experience sampling. The results suggest that when the subjects used Facebook more often, they experienced more frequent negative emotions (x).
Taking a break from news outlets or social media can help to clear your mind and allow you to focus on the present and what’s in front of you. Constant connection with the world can be stressful, so take a moment away from it when you can. Plus, generally the less stressed you are, the better you sleep (x).
Habit #8: Take a Vacation
While it may seem crazy in today’s working world to stop hustling for a paycheck, an all-work-and-no-play lifestyle can take a toll on your body. But creating healthy habits to stay fit includes knowing when to take a break.
According to the APA, vacations help separate you from your everyday life and the stress or anxiety that may come with it (x). Taking vacations can help refresh your energy to improve your mood and wellbeing. And then, by the time you return to work or school, you’ll have better focus and productivity.
Not everyone has the luxury of taking regular vacations from work or school whenever they want. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take breaks for yourself. Take any opportunity for a break that you can, even if it’s just a mini “vacation” so you can take a walk around the block. Trust us, any vacation is good for your health (x).
Habit #9: Be Consistent
It’s one thing to say you’re going to exercise, but it’s another thing to actually do it and do it consistently. It won’t be easy and it may not come naturally. That means you’ll have to find ways to fit these healthy habits to stay fit into your schedule. You may have to adjust your lifestyle so that focusing on your health becomes a natural and essential part of your daily routine.
So find ways to adjust your health and fitness goals. There are so many easy ways to practice healthy habits at work, school and even while you travel. It’s okay to indulge every so often, but staying consistent with your healthy habits will help you get closer to your health goals.
Habit #10: Take Your Vitamins
In addition to eating well and exercising, consider taking vitamin and mineral supplements as well. Taking supplements can help you make sure you’re getting all the vitamins you need on a consistent basis, in addition to the ones you get from food. Below you’ll find a list of some of the best supplements to help you reach your health goals:
- Vitamin D – Immune support, bone health, heart health
- Vitamin C – Immune support, antioxidant function, healthy skin, healing wounds
- Magnesium – Immunity, bone health, heart health
- Calcium – Bone strength, blood pressure, balancing hormones
- Zinc – Immune support, heart health, wound healing, mental health
- Folic acid (vitamin B9) – Cell production, cell function, tissue growth
- Vitamin B12 – Nervous system function, heart health, metabolism
Remember, before you start taking any dietary supplement, you should get a doctor’s approval first. Supplements are not designed to completely prevent, cure or treat any health condition on their own. Instead, they may help support the body’s processes and improve health naturally.
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It’s not always easy to stay consistent with your health habits, but taking steps to create the best habits for your health can go a long way. You’ll need a good foundation to get you started. That includes getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, making smart dietary choices and addressing your mental health. It’s also important to take time for yourself to disconnect, de-stress and restore your energy.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.