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Getting Healthier Takes Less Time than You Think


If “I’m too busy” is your excuse for not getting healthier, we are here to prove you wrong. Incorporating positive lifestyle changes into your daily routine is easier than you think.

“Health is really an aggregate of the choices you make in daily life,” says Dr. Aditi Nerurkar of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “Every little bit counts.”

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic diseases – such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis – are among the most common, costly and preventable of all health problems in the United States. Responsible for much of the illness, suffering and early death are four factors – lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption.

Obviously, some of these modifiable risk factors boil down to simply “Don’t do it.” Quitting cigarettes, for example, certainly takes effort, but the benefits far outweigh the costs of smoking (meaning both your health and your pocketbook). As far as time goes, you spend less time running to the store for cigarettes and standing outdoors smoking (due to indoor smoking bans), and have a few extra minutes to incorporate other healthful behaviors into your life.

As we mentioned, taking small steps toward better health is better than taking no steps at all. Try adding a few of these healthful habits into your daily routine a little at a time, and the benefits will certainly begin to add up.

Brush Your Teeth and Floss Every Morning (two to three minutes) – a good tooth-brushing session should last about two minutes, says Michael Sesemann DDS, president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Spend 30 seconds on each quadrant of your mouth. Follow that with a minute of flossing and a swish of anti-bacterial mouthwash and you are good to go.

Apply Sunscreen (3-5 minutes) – After your morning shower, before you get dressed, take a few extra minutes to put on sunscreen to lower your risk for sunburn and skin cancer. Even if you work indoors most of the day, you are likely to be exposed at least part of the day (during your commute, at lunch, after work). It’s just a good habit to get into.

Eat Breakfast (5-10 minutes) – Choose a low-sugar, fiber-rich whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk and you start the day off right. If you are often rushed to get out the door in the morning, set up your breakfast bowl the night before, or put the cereal into a cup and eat it once you get to work (or during the commute if you aren’t driving)

Take a Multi-vitamin (30 seconds) – Remember that your multi-vitamin does not replace a healthful diet, but it is a starting point for some. When you are busy and you know you aren’t eating as properly as you should, at least make sure you are getting the RDA for the most essential vitamins and minerals with a general (but quality) multi-vitamin product.

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Buckle Your Seat Belt (30 seconds) – Thankfully, most people comply with this safety law, but if you don’t – it takes a very small amount of time before you crank the car to prevent being seriously injured or killed in the case of an accident. Oh, and while you are at it – put the cell phone away. You really are not saving any time by trying to text or call during your commute.

Get Up and Walk Around at Work (5 minutes every hour) – A little activity here and there really adds up. Five minutes every hour for an eight hour day is 40 minutes of exercise you weren’t getting before! You may think you are too busy to take little breaks, but keep this in mind. Breaking free for just a few minutes improves productivity and inspires creativity. If you use a computer, taking frequent breaks can prevent eye strain and headaches. To keep from feeling guilty, bring a paper to a colleague instead of emailing or walk to your bosses office instead of picking up the phone.

Wash Your Hands (20-30 seconds) – Washing hands lowers the risk of spreading germs and getting sick. Use soap and running water for at least 20 seconds after using the bathroom, before eating, and before preparing food.

Smile and Laugh Every Day (Just a minute or two) – Did you know that laughter benefits your physical health as well as your mood? One study found that laughing daily helped diabetics lower their risk for heart disease by lowering inflammation and raising levels of good cholesterol. It also lowers blood pressure.

Here are some additional positive health habits that may take a little longer, but are certainly worth the effort.

Cook food at home using whole foods. Eating out, especially eating fast food, has taken a toll on our health. In an effort to eat out less, however, many turn to packaged convenience foods – not exactly a better choice. To make more meals at home, without spending hours in the kitchen, try purchasing already portion-cut meats (skinless chicken breasts, pre-pattied low fat hamburger) then add two sides of a steam-in-the-bag vegetable. Use your crock pot so foods cook while you are at work. You can also prepare several days worth of meals in advance and freeze them (you can find several recipes on Pinterest).

Get in that 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise. Above, we suggested moving more during the day, but that doesn’t completely replace the cardiovascular and fat-burning benefits of a good workout. Remember that 30 minutes is just 2% of your entire day.

Stay Connected with Friends. Make the effort to actually call friends and visit once in a while - Not just on Facebook (although it is at least better than being completely isolated). Having regular social contacts with friends and loved once is key to avoiding depression, which can lead to premature death.

Express Gratitude. Take a few minutes each day to note the positives in life. They are there….I promise.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep. Sleep refreshes the body, which uses the “down time” to repair and heal. Hopefully many of these habits that you incorporate into your waking time will actually promote a restful sleep.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
US News