There are simple actions you can take to make your life healthier. Here are 5 evidence-based things you can start doing today to look and feel your best.
Detox in one day! Feel healthier in just a few hours! Lose 5 pounds in a week!
There are a lot of health promises out there that may sound great, but most of them just don’t compare.
However, as scientists learn more about how our bodies work, evidence is accumulating to support a few simple things you can do every day to look and feel healthier in a relatively short period of time.
We’re not promising anything extreme here: your body is a complicated and wondrous machine and it’s not going to magically transform like some kind of Hollywood superhero.
But here are 5 things you can start doing today that your body will thank you for in just four weeks or less. Each of these simple acts starts paying measurable dividends within a month, and things get even better after that, with long-term results that scientists have measured in and out of the lab.
Get ready to look and feel good.
The simplest and most effective thing you can do for your health is to get moving. Even one minute of intense, thorough exercise done regularly can improve your fitness level.
Becoming physically active changes your body quickly and can even reduce your risk of death.
“After two to four weeks, your nervous system is much more efficient at contracting your muscles,” Robert Newton, director of the Exercise Medicine Research Institute at Edith Cowan University, recently told Nine News Australia.
Scientists have discovered that it really doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do, just getting regular movement will make your heart, muscles, and mind healthier.
Even a few minutes of effort a week can make a difference. Recent research from McMaster University found that a set of three 20-second bursts of vigorous exercise can improve a person’s fitness by 20% in three months. (After a month, you’ll be well on your way.)
The lead author of the study, Martin Gibala, coined this approach as the “one-minute workout.” But it’s really 10 minutes of exercise, three times a week. The routine includes a two-minute warm-up period, a three-minute cooldown, and three intense 20-second running bursts.
“For athletes who are already very fit, they train this way to stay fit,” Gibala told CBC. “It’s a good way to improve your health very, very quickly.”
When it comes to your plate, consider cutting back on salty and processed foods.
Most Americans consume 50% more than the recommended daily intake of salt, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over time, this can take its toll. When there is too much salt in the blood, the kidneys have a hard time removing waste products, which can increase blood pressure.
Instead of salty snacks, try incorporating more whole foods like bananas and avocados into your diet this month, as they’re loaded with potassium, a natural antidote to sodium’s harmful effects on blood pressure.
There are many other flavor enhancers that you can include in your meals instead of salt, such as lemon juice and herbs. Whichever strategy you choose, avoid processed foods, which not only contain a lot of hidden salt but may also be linked to higher rates of cancer.
Make friends with fiber.
Fibrous foods help keep energy levels more stable than sugary or fast-burning carbohydrate-rich solutions. Fiber also keeps your stomach full and your digestive system running smoothly.
There is a lot of fiber in whole grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Many of the best high-fiber foods are also low on the glycemic index, which can prevent you from experiencing sugar crashes.
Get on a sleep schedule that gives you seven to eight hours of sleep a night.
Lack of sleep can make people more accident-prone, increase your chances of getting sick, and put extra strain on your heart. Increasingly, lack of sleep is also linked to cancer. The World Health Organization warns that disturbing your sleep schedule while working the night shift is probably carcinogenic. Sleepiness is also blamed for cases of colon, breast, and prostate cancer.
Just one week of not getting enough sleep, defined as four hours a night for six nights in a row, can cause blood sugar levels so high that doctors can diagnose you with prediabetes.
Stay hydrated with plenty of water (and maybe even some coffee if you like).
Given that an adult’s body weight is up to 60% water, it’s no surprise that staying hydrated is associated with a number of health benefits. Getting enough fluid ensures that your body can flush out impurities efficiently, stay energized, sweat, and pump blood more easily.
It is also a weight loss strategy.
A 2016 study of more than 18,000 people in the US found that those who drank more water were consistently more satisfied and consumed fewer calories per day. These people also consumed lower amounts of sugar, fat, salt, and cholesterol than the more dehydrated participants.
Another relatively small study in 2015 found that people who stayed well hydrated by drinking water 30 minutes before eating could lose more than 5 pounds in three months.
Drinking coffee can also improve heart health and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer if you drink it in moderation. The idea that a few cups of coffee can dehydrate you has been debunked.
“You don’t want to make promises that you don’t keep with your body and your mind,” he said. “It’s a relationship like any other, and you have to build trust.”