As we look ahead to the New Year, it’s natural to plan big- like “you’re going to go to the gym every day and never eat a cookie again” kind of big. We’ve all done it, though I doubt most of us have succeeded. Goals are definitely a motivator for getting fit and in shape, however, fitness is all about the choices we make every day- even the ones that seem meaningless. It’s the little things that we do that are the most important in determining our life styles. So before you dive headfirst into your New Year’s resolution list, consider starting a little smaller (and making changes that stick) this year. Factor some of these simple lifestyle changes into your day, and you will already be on your way to a better 2011.
Stretching isn’t just something to do before or after your workout. Immediately when you wake up, reach to the sky, touch your toes, do some quick yoga poses! Even the simplest stretch creates strong, lean muscles. Plus, the movement alone jump starts your metabolism and dramatically increases your fat burning potential for the entire day.
In comparison to other forms of exercise, walking might seem like an easy way out. Not true! In reality, as a low impact activity with lots of health benefits, walking is actually one of the best things you can do for your body- and one of the easiest! Research proves that simply walking for thirty minutes a day leads to weight loss, an improved mood, and a stronger body. So, whether you’re on your way to class or selecting a parking spot at the mall, make a conscious effort to include more walking in your life. Every extra step counts.
Jump, skip, chase, kick, run, frolic, be a child again! Next time you’re hanging out with a group of friends, make your social life and your workout life one in the same- start a pick-up soccer game, play some beach volleyball, badminton, tennis, glow-in-the-dark frisbee; the possibilities are endless. Don’t have any equipment lying around? No problem. Think of all the games you used to play when you were a little kid- tag, chase, hide and seek. Add movement to your favorite drinking games if you have to. When my friends and I have parties, we hide spoons around the house and make everyone run around the house looking for them (i.e. the card game ‘spoons,’ but without the spoons in front of you). Yeah, I know we’re all in college now, but that doesn’t mean we have to completely grow up just yet.
Eat more Fruits and Vegetables
Next time you go to the grocery store, stock up on fruit and veggies. Adding just an apple at breakfast, or a cupful of berries to lunch can make a huge difference. Instead of focusing on what NOT to eat (i.e. what foods to cut from your diet), try focusing on what you should eat more of- then do it.
Take the Stairs
I cannot emphasize enough how much of a difference taking the stairs really makes. It’s probably the easiest way you can throw a workout into your day without having to go “work out.” Don’t let the number of flights hinder you- the more the better. I purposely picked a dorm on a higher floor just so I could get a better workout (a little extreme, I admit, but the point is taking the stairs works). And remember, walking DOWN stairs counts too!
Commit yourself to doing a set of crunches every day- yes every day- either right when you wake up or right before you go to sleep (or even better, both). Start with 15 a night. When that becomes too easy, move up to 25, 50, etc. Not only are you toning a lot of your body’s most visible muscles, but it’s simple and consistent. Trust me, taking 10 minutes every night or morning really does pay off.
If you practice yoga, you’ve already heard about the importance of the breath, but did you know taking time to sit and just breathe actually can enhance your physical wellbeing too? Deep breaths, relaxation, and calm keep oxygen flowing throughout the body, which stimulates your metabolism and connects the mind to the body during physical activity. Research actually shows that such mindful exercise is more beneficial to your overall health and fitness level. In other words, if you can keep yourself calm and in balance, you can get more for working out less.
Say ‘Good-Bye’ to Sugary Drinks
I’ll never forget an experiment that my eighth grade science teacher conducted for my class years ago: he claimed that, only by giving up soda, he could lose 10 lbs in a month. He did it. Consider replacing sugary drinks with water or tea. Contrary to popular belief, drinking lots of tea will NOT dehydrate you; rather, it will hydrate you plus provide essential antioxidants. If you don’t think you’re ready to make a complete switch, try simply drinking more water or tea, without immediately giving up all soda right away.
Get addicted to the fitness drug
Make these little changes a normal part of your routine and, before you know it, you’ll crave the extra movement in your life. I know that I personally cannot function if I’m stationary all day. That’s because my body is used to being active every day of the week- and when I say ‘active,’ I don’t mean that I’m putting hours in at the gym. Even without a stereotypical ‘workout,’ I’ve managed to stay both fit and healthy just by implementing these small changes and making them part of a routine. So start making better choices today, be consistent, and don’t be afraid to start small!
How do you plan to live better in 2011?