A dozen simple things that you can do to boost your health this year — and they can all be done in 60 seconds or less.
By Jennifer Laskey
There’s no time like the New Year to jump into action and recommit to better health. But leading a healthy lifestyle isn’t just a matter of making big, sweeping resolutions at the beginning of the year to eat better, exercise more, or lose weight. It’s really about the little things we do and the choices we make every day that help us develop healthier habits, and that ultimately lead to better overall health. With that in mind, we asked nutritionists, fitness experts, and other health professionals for some quick and easy tips to help keep us on the right track. The results? Twelve easy health hacks that take just sixty seconds or less:
1. Drink Before You Eat
One-minute trick: Guzzle two glasses of water a half-hour before mealtime. Aside from keeping you hydrated, keeping you “regular,” and keeping other bodily functions running smoothly, simply downing 16 ounces of water 30 minutes before each meal may prevent overeating and help with weight loss. Too easy to be true? Nope — not according to a study published in August 2015 in the journal Obesity. Researchers found that participants who “preloaded” with two glasses of water half an hour before meals lost more weight (nearly 3 pounds in 12 weeks, on average) than participants who didn’t preload with water. Bottoms up!
2. Power Up With Protein
One-minute trick: Scramble an egg. Not only are eggs a classic on the breakfast menu, they’re a source of high-quality protein and nutrients. “Having protein with breakfast helps fill you up and keeps you feeling satisfied for longer,” says Everyday Health nutritionist Kelly Kennedy, RD. She recommends an egg on toast with avocado or another quick, protein-packed breakfast option like a yogurt-based smoothie. Just remember, not all protein is created equal. Skip the fatty bacon, pork sausages, and whole milk, and go for leaner proteins like turkey-based or vegetarian breakfast “meats,” smoked salmon, and low- or fat-free dairy.
3. Get Ready, Set, Stretch!
One-minute trick: Start with a morning stretch, and take stretch breaks. Starting the day off with at least one minute of stretching can help get your blood flowing, ease morning muscle and joint stiffness, and invigorate you before you pour that first cup of coffee. Doing it on a regular basis throughout the day can also help increase your flexibility; improve balance, posture, and range of motion; lower your risk for muscle and joint injuries; and reduce joint and back pain. Warm up with static stretches: Stretch your arms out to the sides and up toward the ceiling, roll your shoulders, or lift up your knees. Then try dynamic stretching in which you hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat 2 to 4 times. Dynamic stretches include seated rotation and standing hamstring stretches as well as yoga poses like downward dog and child’s pose.
4. Practice Good Hand Hygiene
One-minute trick: Wash your hands. An apple a day isn’t the only trick for keeping the doctor away. Frequently washing your hands can help, too. Handwashing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to keep from catching — and spreading — colds, the flu, and other illnesses and infections, say experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If soap and water aren’t readily available, the CDC recommends using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
5. Take Your Grains To-Go
One-minute trick: Get your fiber fix from portable whole grains in cups. Similar to the instant soup concept, whole grain cups, like Q Cups, can be transformed into a snack or side dish in a matter of minutes with a little boiling water. These organic cups of quinoa are high in fiber, protein, and other nutrients. “Q Cups can also be the base of a meal,” says culinary nutrition expert, Jessica Fishman Levinson, RDN. “Add some protein and lunch is done.” She points out that you can do the same in the morning with a cup of instant rolled oats in a to-go cup. “Add berries and nuts and it makes a quick, easy, healthy breakfast to help get you out the door,” she says.
6. Kick Croutons to the Carb Curb
One-minute trick: Add nuts or seeds to salad instead of croutons. Since most croutons are not made with whole grains, swapping out croutons for nuts or seeds is an easy way to cut down on your consumption of simple carbs and boost your nutrient intake. “Healthy fat and a little protein add that crunch you're looking for without the refined carbs,” says Levinson.
7. Go All Out With Exercise (for Just 60 Seconds!)
One-minute trick: Do a really short high-intensity workout. “People are so concerned about making the time to get to the gym for an hour and a half, but if you compare someone who goes to the gym and works out in a steady state for a long time to someone who works out super hard for a short time, intensity will always trump duration,” says Los Angeles-based celebrity fitness coach, Andrea Orbeck. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts are known to yield big results in short periods of time, she says. Additionally, a recent study published in PLOS One in April 2016 found that the same is true for Sprint Interval Training (SIT) — which yields results in even shorter bursts. The study showed that just one minute of intense exercise offered similar benefits as a 45-minute moderate-intensity workout. We’re not saying to ditch your regular exercise routine, but when you have a spare minute here and there (and if your doctor approves high-intensity activity), take 60 seconds and alternate walking or jogging in place with doing short, fast bursts of jumping jacks, squats, lunges, or sit-ups.
8. Pull Your Own Weight — Literally!
One-minute trick: Use your body weight to get in some quick strength training. Goodbye, dumbbells. Hello, extra pounds left over from the holidays! Believe it or not, your own body weight can be an ideal tool for resistance. “Body weight exercise is cheap, adaptable, simple, and doesn’t require much space,” says Avigdor Dori Arad, RD, a certified exercise physiologist at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s hospital in New York City. “Body weight workouts can help you become lean, active, and strong.” In one minute, you can do push-ups, sit-ups, or squats, or combine them into a circuit.
9. Plan Your Snack Attack
One-minute trick: Schedule quick-and-easy snacks between meals. Healthy snacking between meals (and before/after intense workouts) can help you achieve your weight goals in 2017. “It’s a good way to keep from feeling famished when you sit down to your next meal,” says Kennedy. Plus, healthy snacks give a boost to your metabolism, balance your blood sugar, and help prevent overeating. Kennedy suggests boiling some eggs and keeping them in the fridge for a grab-and-go snack; having some hummus and veggie sticks on hand; or slicing up an apple and smearing the pieces with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.
10. Think Outside the Burrito
One-minute trick: Use avocado instead of mayo. While Americans commonly associate avocados with Mexican food, this fruit (that’s right: fruit not vegetable) is quite versatile. We often see it used in salads, sushi rolls, and smoothies, too. Like nuts and olive oil, avocados are considered a healthy fat. High in monounsaturated fat and packed with nutrients, creamy avocado makes a more health-conscious condiment than mayonnaise. Next time you’re dressing up a burger or sandwich, Levinson suggests holding the mayo and spreading on a little avocado instead.
11. Give Yourself a Time-Out
One-minute trick: Do a one-minute meditation. Although we hope you have a stress-free new year, we also know that stress creeps into everyone's lives from time to time. Not all stress is bad. In fact, it can be motivational — and even lifesaving — in certain situations, but some kinds of stress can also wreak havoc on your health. One practical way to regain your sense of calm and balance, manage stress, and help prevent its harmful effects is to meditate. It can be as easy as closing your eyes and breathing deeply, practicing deep breathing on a walk, repeating a mantra, or praying.
12. Keep Happy Hour Happy
One-minute trick: Swap your mixed cocktail for a glass of red wine. Cocktails can be a fun and relaxing way to mark the end of a workday, but many cocktails contain sugary and fatty ingredients so your glass of cheer may also end up being a calorie bomb. Instead, Levinson suggests celebrating with a glass of red wine. “It can help you save 200 or more calories,” she says. “Plus you get the antioxidant benefit from resveratrol.” Resveratrol, one of the polyphenols in red wine, may help prevent damage to blood vessels, lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, and reduce risks of blood clots. Not a fan of red wine? Go for lower calorie cocktails that don’t contain sugary mixers, simple syrup, or full-fat dairy or coconut milk, like champagne with fresh-squeezed juice, a vodka soda, gin and tonic, or a classic martini.