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7 small changes that are easy to make
Dec. 29, 2022—It's that time of year again when we start thinking about resolutions. But you don't have to make a lot of big changes in your daily habits to move toward a healthier lifestyle. Even small changes can help to nudge you forward.
For inspiration, check out these seven small ideas. They're based on information from the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Heart Association and other national medical groups. Just choose one habit to change at a time and build from there.
1. Carry a water bottle. Zero-calorie water is a healthy choice, especially if you're trying to maintain a healthy weight. You're likely to drink more water when you have a bottle handy. Tip: Fill your bottle halfway and freeze it overnight so that it's cold and refreshing the next day.
2. Tack a few minutes onto your workouts. For many people, a good long-term exercise goal should include at least 150 minutes of moderate, aerobic activity (like a brisk walk) per week. But you can gradually work up to that amount by adding just 5 to 10 minutes a day to your usual activity routine.
3. Pack a healthy lunch at least once a week. Once this becomes a habit, you might decide to pack a lunch all week. And then you may be less likely to stop by the drive-thru (or the vending machine, if that's a challenge for you, which it is for many of us).
4. Wait 15 minutes before taking a second serving. That's how long it often takes for your stomach to tell your brain you're full.
5. Snooze your devices before bedtime. Having trouble winding down in time to get the seven to nine hours of nightly shut-eye that most adults need? Try to avoid using your smartphone in the hour before bedtime. Devices can overstimulate us at a time when we should be settling in for a relaxing bedtime routine.
6. Try a new fruit or vegetable every month. Fruits and veggies are low in fat and rich in good-for-you fiber, vitamins and minerals. Eating a colorful variety is a great way to get as many of these different nutrients as possible. Plus, variety is the spice of life, as they say. It certainly makes eating well interesting!
7. Buddy up for a work-break walk. Is it challenging to fit physical activity into your busy day? Try taking short walks of 10 to 15 minutes during your lunchtime or other breaks. Short bouts of activity count toward your weekly total. What's more, exercising with someone can be fun. When exercise is fun, you're more likely to keep doing it—and reaping the ongoing health rewards.
Consider getting your doctor's OK
It can be a good idea to talk to your doctor about your plans to change your health habits. Your doctor can help you choose goals that are right for you and help you get started safely. That's especially important if, for instance, you want to start or increase an exercise routine and you have a health issue or you haven't been active in a while.
- American Heart Association. “Upping Your Step Count, Even in Small Amounts, May Increase Life Span.” https://www.heart.org/en/news/2022/11/03/upping-your-step-count-even-in-small-amounts-may-increase-life-span.
- American Heart Association. “Fit Bits.” https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/habits/fit-bits.
- American Heart Association. “Fitness Habits to Make.” https://familydoctor.org/fitness-habits/.
- American Academy of Family Physicians. “Nutrition. How to Make Healthy Choices.” https://familydoctor.org/fitness-habits/.
- American Academy of Family Physicians. “Changing Your Cravings for Bad Foods.” https://familydoctor.org/changing-cravings-bad-foods/.
- American Academy of Family Physicians. “What You Should Know Before You Start a Weight-loss Plan.” https://familydoctor.org/what-you-should-know-before-you-start-a-weight-loss-plan/.
- Sleep Foundation. “Healthy Sleep Habits.” https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-habits.
- National Institutes of Health. "Creating Healthy Habits." https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2018/03/creating-healthy-habits.
- American Heart Association. "Heart-Healthy Essentials for Meal Prep." https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/cooking-skills/meal-planning/heart-healthy-kitchen-essentials-for-meal-prep.