By Derrick Johnson
We’re all leading busier lives in the 21st century that are more stressful than ever. The nine to five, Monday to Friday work-week seems to be a thing of the past for many. But while it’s becoming harder to fit more into an already tight schedule, the effects of a sedentary lifestyle are becoming more evident to scientists.
If you have a busy schedule, it can be easy to think that fitness and good nutrition are only for those with lots of time or money. But it’s easy, fast, and cheap to improve the way you live and eat in ways that could add years to your life.
While the tips below aren’t the Fountain of Youth, over time, you can shed pounds, gain stamina, and improve your mood. Out of the 24 hours your body has to work (yes, it even works while you sleep), take just one to take good care of it, and you’ll see the results in the other 23.
1. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator: –15 minutes
That’s right, the first tip will save you fifteen whole minutes.
According to a 2011 study by the University of Saskatchewan, “Taking the stairs rather than the elevator saved about 15 minutes each workday.” This time is saved largely by not having to wait for the elevator.
Start taking the stairs, and not only will you save time, but you will strengthen the muscles of your legs and torso. Raising your knees requires help from your abdominal muscles that don’t get the same workout when you are walking on a relatively flat surface. So while it won’t give you six-pack abs, it will strengthen your core and reduce strain on your back muscles. Building muscle tissue will help you stay independently active into your golden years.
Total time spent: -15 minutes
2. Preparing meals at home instead of fast food: 20 minutes a day or less
You can prepare much healthier and often better-tasting meals at home than anything that comes out of a bag or is placed in front of you by a waiter. You’ll reduce the amount of fat, sugar, and salt you consume when your meals are cooked from scratch since you can choose seasonings or sauces carefully.
It’s easier than you think to create balanced meals with lean protein, fruit, vegetables and whole grains.
Check out “Ainsley Harriott’s All New Meals in Minutes”, ”Complete Idiot’s Guide to 20-Minute Meals”, or ”The 150 Healthiest 15-Minute Recipes on Earth” for recipes and ideas.
And while those frozen dinners often aren’t healthy, the microwave can be your friend. Steam veggies or rice in the microwave to cut cooking time down to a bare minimum.
Total time spent: 5 minutes.
3. Meditate on a better you: 10 minutes
Charging into your work day or collapsing in bed at night can lead to higher stress and poor sleeping patterns, both of which can leave you prone to illness or injury. If you have trouble sleeping, take ten minutes to quietly focus on deep breathing and gentle stretching before bed.
If you aren’t taking yoga classes, keep the stretches simple. You can also meditate first thing in the morning, before heading off to work or having breakfast. This will help you achieve the calm focus you need to be efficient at work.
If you’re religiously inclined, you can spend some of this time praying or chanting- religious practices have been known to relieve stress and those who regularly engage in worship do see some mental and physical health benefits. But it can also just be a time to unwind.
Total time spent: 15 minutes.
4. Drink enough water: 8 minutes
There’s some debate as to exactly how much water a person needs to drink, but most people should be drinking more. Drinking more water keeps your body functioning to optimal levels, and prevents you from reaching for sugary drinks when thirst and fatigue hit.
Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge front and center, or wherever you automatically reach when you’re thirsty. Your muscle memory will have you grabbing the water instead of the soda or juice. If your local water is hard to swallow because of the way it tastes, use a filter or get a bottled water service to install a cooler and keep it stocked.
Total time spent: 23 minutes.
5. Move it: 30 minutes
If exercise came in pill form, everyone would be taking it. The immediate and long-term benefits of exercise are numerous. Yet it seems like only grim determination gets us into sweats and sneakers. But if you are short on time and motivation, how about incorporating physical activity into your commute?
Consider walking at least part of the way to work, or biking if your work dress code and local weather permit. That’s a form of exercise with a built-in commitment device: you need to complete the exercise to get to work. But if your daily commute can’t accommodate walking or biking, try a 15 minute jog before and after work. You’ll start the day off refreshed and sleep better as well.
Total time spent: 53 minutes.
So there you have it, under promise and over deliver! I said I’d show you how to transform your health in 60 minutes but we actually managed to shave it down to 53 minutes. The power of these techniques is that the they’re simple to do and easy to commit to and you can incorporate them easily you’re your regular routine.