A few years ago, I decided a friend's house party was the perfect opportunity to show off my dancer's split. Unfortunately, I hadn't done a split, let alone taken a dance class, in years, so I spent the next week limping around with a pulled muscle and crushing awareness of my aging body. Although your reasons for making a difference in your health hopefully involve a little less public embarrassment, the fact remains that as an adult, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be easier said than done. Sure, you know you should go to the gym after work and eat kale more often, but you know what's more fun? Eating tacos and reading about unsolved mysteries on Wikipedia.
Tragically, though, that may not be a sustainable lifestyle. If you want to stick around for decades to come, you have to take care of your body (and if you want to be able to do splits at parties, you have to actually stay flexible). The good news is that there are plenty of little things you can do to improve your overall health without adopting the lifestyle of an athlete trying out for the Olympics. Here are 24 ways to stay healthy.
1. Take a daily 10-minute walk. Research has shown just getting up and moving for a few minutes every day can maintain heart health.
2. Spend a few minutes outside at least once a day; nature boosts your physical and mental health.
3. If it's close enough, bike to work once a week.
4. Drink some water right now.
5. Pack your lunch instead of eating out at work, so you can control portions, added salt, and so on. Restaurant food is delicious, but not necessarily good for you.
6. Carry around a water bottle, so you'll stay hydrated without thinking about it.
7. Find a friend (or make one) who's also trying to stay healthy, so you can hold each other accountable. According to research, this works.
8. Reduce your stress by meditating in the morning or evening.
9. Find a fitness instructor you like on YouTube and do their videos a few times a week.
10. Keep a sleep journal. Tracking your sleep patterns can help you solidify good habits and identify unhelpful ones.
11. Put away anything with a screen at least 30 minutes before bed. The blue light has been shown to suppress melatonin, making it tough to get some shuteye.
12. Keep track of how much caffeine you drink. Up to about four cups of coffee each day is thought to be safe, and a daily coffee habit has numerous health benefits. However, like all drugs, too much caffeine isn't good for you.
13. Next time you're craving dessert, eat some fruit.
14. Eat until you're full, not until you feel like you should stop or the plate is empty.
15. Take the stairs instead of the escalator.
16. Wash your hands frequently.
17. Avoid energy drinks. They're loaded with stimulants and sugar, and they can predispose someone to cardiovascular disease.
18. Wear sunscreen every day, not just when you're headed to the pool.
19. Use a moisturizer with SPF built in.
20. Learn deep breathing techniques for next time you're stressed out.
21. Start or end your day with a series of quick stretches.
22. If you're always rushed in the morning, set your alarm 15 minutes earlier. If you have to go to bed earlier, too, it's not the end of the world.
23. Take breaks at work to get up from your desk and stretch. Some have compared sitting to smoking in terms of the toll it takes on your health.
24. Get a library card. Reading is linked to faster learning, relaxation, and better empathy.
These are just a few ways to improve your health. They aren't going to make you immortal, but if you pick the methods that work for you, chances are you'll quickly notice a difference in how you feel. Best of luck!