Midlife Minute: 5 Quick & Easy Ways to Rev Up Your Healthy Habits

Do you have a favorite trick or secret to staying healthy? I think almost everyone has similar ways: exercise; watch your fat, salt and sugar intake; manage stress; get enough sleep.

These are all good, effective habits, but sometimes we need to mix things up a bit, don’t you think? After all, staying healthy is really like a job in many ways. And if a job gets too boring, what happens next is not so good: you lose interest, call in sick, start making mistakes or even give up completely and ditch it.

If your health life needs an injection of new and different, consider these easy fixes:

Switch out the greens. Instead of the same old salad of mixed greens, try a different variety. There’s enough out there to have something different each night: spinach, Boston or Bibb lettuce, romaine, arugula, endive, chard, dandelion greens … that’s enough for a week’s worth of variety.

Don a pedometer. This is probably one of the most motivating things I do for myself. And I’m sure Sarah H., the winner of the pedometer giveaway, would agree. (Hint: Sarah, I’d love to hear from you; are you logging more miles since you got that cute little green machine?) When I remember to clip my pedometer on in the morning, it pushes me to walk more steps in my quest to get that number up to 10,000 by the end of the day. By the way, I just learned that 10,000 steps are equivalent to about 5 miles. Not too shabby in the exercise department. One new habit I’ve adopted is to store things in my downstairs fridge so I have to walk the stairs to fetch them. And if I forget something, I don’t curse like I used to—I just use it as an excuse to push those steps. My pedometer likes it that way.

Eliminate yogurt with built-in fruit. Those are the yogurts that have fruit on the bottom, in the middle, on top: wherever the manufacturer chooses to stick it. But that fruit is filled with sugar—up to 6 extra teaspoons—and it’s unnecessary. Instead, buy plain or vanilla-flavored yogurt (caution here, though—there’s added sugar, too, but not as much) and pile in your own blueberries, strawberries, bananas, or whatever fresh or frozen fruit you have on hand. It’ll give your fiber intake a boost and eliminate needless sugar and calories at the same time.

Don’t fast-forward through commercials. Instead, use it as an opportunity to get up from the couch and move. Here’s what I read on Wikipedia (you can take it as accurate or not, but I’d bet it’s more truth than fiction): Over the course of 10 hours, American viewers will see approximately three hours of advertisements, twice what they would have seen in the 1960s. Furthermore, if a 1960s show is rerun today, the content may be edited or cut by nine minutes to make room for the extra advertisements. In more recent years, that number has grown by an average of two minutes. Yes, commercials can be an annoyance, but turn the annoyance around and make it work for your health.

Carve out “me” time. Whether it means lying down to take a quick nap or getting up from your desk to stretch, or just sitting and meditating or doing nothing at all, it’s an important and essential way to take back your health and re-energize. Your blood sugar levels, triglycerides and cholesterol will thank you, too.

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