There are so many known ways to improve your overall health, from lifting weights to perhaps cutting down on junk food. We should all be doing them by now and I still highly encourage everyone to start as soon as possible. However, there are some smaller habits we could take up that can improve our daily lives tremendously. These are conscious, yet simple and easy to do, things we could do every day that will assist us in other facets of life.
My favorite thing about these habits is that they require almost no motivation. To start lifting weights or making a goal of losing weight will require plenty of discipline and patience. Integrating these straightforward routines in your life has the potential to make an impact right away, thus pushing you further toward your longer-term goals without having to summon mountains worth of courage to get started.
Stretching is one of those activities that people know they should be doing, but for whatever reason don’t. There are many benefits to doing so, especially on a daily basis. For instance, if you stretch every morning right when you wake up, it makes it easier for your brain and body to activate. It is also considerably relaxing. If you prefer to stretch before bed, that works well too, since doing so can be relieving after a stressful day and allow you to sleep with relaxed muscles. Another pro of stretching is overall flexibility, which then translates to helping you in other areas such as weight-lifting or sports. Your joints have more range of motion and specific movements performed during intense activities won’t result in injury
It doesn’t take a lot of time, either, which I assume is one of the leading concerns people have. With roughly 5 minutes every day, you would be able to target every main muscle in your body and improve daily functions significantly. Below are some of the essential stretches I recommend, but of course there are many more that serve special purposes.
The cat stretch, or cat pose, is an easily achievable position. You must get on your hands and knees and arch your back either toward the ceiling or toward the ground. Hold your pose for at least 20 seconds and really try to feel your back and abdominal muscles stretching. You may also do the same pose on your hands and feet for an alternation, though that is a harder position to maintain.
I love this pose particularly because of how many muscles it activates when done properly. It is a little more complex to achieve, but it still should be manageable for most people. Start with both legs placed more than shoulder-width apart. Slowly bend to the ground and support yourself with your arms. The last step to complete the pose is to tilt your head forward and cautiously try to expand the relevant muscles.
If done correctly, you should feel a good stretch in your hamstrings, calves, lower and upper back, shoulders, forearms, and neck. Hold the position for at least 20 seconds and try to incorporate some alternate movements such as rolling your neck or lowering/raising your hips to add variety.
With today’s multitude of tools, it is incredibly easy to start tracking most of your activities. From tracking sleep to tracking food, the act of logging down what you do will help you monitor your other main habits and help move you in the right direction toward your goal.
I recommend Sleep as Android for Android users and Sleep Cycle for those with iPhone devices. The two apps aim to analyze your sleeping patterns: light sleep, deep sleep, and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. It uses your movements to figure out which stage of sleep you are in and works to wake you up when you are in your lightest stage.
This boosts your overall mood when you wake up, as you are much less groggy and take less time to go from being asleep to being alert.
Food and exercise tracking
For food tracking, I use MyFitnessPal, perhaps the most popular nutritional app on all platforms. By taking a few minutes out of your day to log what you eat, you can figure out how many calories you consume and what your diet may be lacking in. It seems rather stressful to do, but I can assure its helpfulness in either weight loss or healthy weight gain. After a couple months of doing so, I have increased awareness of what and how much food I should consume in one day.
Exercise tracking is another big habit to have, and because of devices like the Fitbit or features in our smartphones, it is impressively easy to do. All it takes is to sync the device to your phone or set up step tracking on your phone, and you will have valuable data at your disposal. Fitness trackers are also useful for measuring heart rate accurately, which you could use to understand if your body is working hard enough in cardio sessions.
Both tea and coffee have their own benefits that can enhance your mental and physical state. Tea has important natural herbs that your body loves. Coffee is a delicious, low-calorie (as long as you don’t stuff it with extras!) drink that wakes you up in the morning.
However, despite the numerous uses of both tea and coffee, one of the most convenient characteristics they share are their abilities to suppress hunger. This is perfect for those that tend to eat when bored or when they aren’t hungry. I find that it minimizes “false” hunger, or the desire for food without actually needing it, otherwise known as snack time. It helps a lot for intermittent fasting as well, where you are restricted to eating for a small part of the day and fast for the rest. You still need to keep your entire diet in check, but adding either coffee or tea can help in the process.
Interested in reading more of Gary’s content? Check out his blog at Active Authorities, where many well-being and fitness posts are published. He even provides product analyses for the equipment he uses, such as his new Callaway Supersoft review.