One of the defining images of my childhood was my dad's heavy bag hanging in the middle of our tiny concrete-block garage. Amidst his notoriously organized tools, he'd pummel that bag every evening after a long day of wrangling rural middle schoolers. As I got older, the heavy bag gave way to a gym bag as my dad took up swimming at the newly built gym the next town over.
I'm eternally grateful to my dad for leading by example and helping instill healthy habits that became a defining factor in my life. Although it's certainly helpful to have that foundation, even newbies can discover new healthy habits that aren't difficult to implement into daily life.
Healthy living made easy
Juice Plus+ wants to make better health part of your daily regimen. One of our core beliefs: a healthier lifestyle doesn’t have to be a chore. Rather than being overwhelmed by making sweeping changes, begin by setting smaller, more manageable goals. When you apply incremental changes and simple everyday health hacks, you'll soon find yourself eating more veggies, incorporating a better balance of macronutrients, and conditioning your body for improved function.
As part of our One Simple Change initiative, Juice Plus+ has defined four key areas that represent aspects of daily life that most affect your overall well-being. While giving attention to all four will reap the greatest rewards, the idea of One Simple Change is to start out slowly so you'll be apt to keep going as you reap the benefits of your newly adopted habits.
Whether you're committed to turning over a new leaf or you're already on that path but could use added inspiration, you can use this article as a guide. I'll reveal the four key areas, with special focus on two, providing benefits, key facts, and tips that will help you build both an understanding of and a plan for healthy living.
As I laid out in a previous blog post, exercise doesn't equal being a gym rat. The measure of good health is not bulging biceps or six-pack abs. Being in good health is a multifaceted endeavor, part of which is moving your body on a regular basis. What that movement looks like depends on what your life looks like.
Below are the three Fs of defining your workout regimen:
Fits into your schedule
From work and school to kids and home, busy is the order of the day. One thing I can tell you from a lifetime of working out: It has to become a normal part of your everyday life. And how do you make that happen? Form a habit. Research over the past decade has shown that the average time to form a habit is 66 days1. So pick a form (or forms) of exercise that works for you and commit to it.
You don't have to spend hours a day, either. Thirty minutes a day, five days a week is standard, but you can get benefits from less, depending on factors like type of exercise, current level of physical fitness, and pre-existing health issues.
Feels (even remotely like) fun
For decades before I had kids, I'd run for an hour 5-6 days a week. Running was a core part of my identity. Then I became a mom. Limp ligaments, cumbersome jogging strollers, and a shrinking daily clock made running too impractical to keep up. I honestly felt lost, and for a couple years I struggled to replace that runner's high. Eventually I discovered yoga (which led to power yoga), cardio dance, high intensity interval training (HIIT), and bodyweight muscle training.
Now I do a combination of all of the above. As a busy freelancer and homeschooling mom of two, I often have to scramble to find the time. My usual is ~30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, all right here in my home via YouTube. However, if I'm having a very Monday kinda Tuesday, I might only fit in a quick 15-minute HIIT session. But make no mistake, fitness instructors can pack a punch into a tiny timeframe.
In summary: It might take some trial and error, but it's crucial to find ways to move that work for you.
Finds room for loved ones
I'm mostly a solitary exerciser. However, lately I'm trying to get my kids more involved, especially as it pertains to the outdoors. Full disclosure: Although I grew up in West Virginia, where outdoors adventures abound, I have never been outdoorsy. Never rafted the New River, never climbed at Seneca Rocks, never hiked at Spruce Knob. For shame, I know.
So I'm now taking baby steps with my boys, like mini-hikes through the urban forest park near our home. While I'm accustomed to high-power workouts, I do enjoy mixing it up with hiking. Plus, it's a great way to move that involves loved ones. If you're like me, I recommend taking along an outdoorsy friend to help navigate and remind you that every pile of leaves isn't harboring a copperhead ready to end you.
This one's a common refrain—and for good reason. You are what you eat. While food can't fix every health problem, it's powerful preventive medicine and can help improve many developing or existing conditions.
What does it mean to eat better, though? Like exercising, eating a healthy diet will look slightly different for each of us, but it goes something like this: a little more of this, a little less of that. In some cases, you'll need to hold your nose and try something new that doesn't sound exactly appetizing or up your alley. The payoff? You'll often find yourself pleasantly surprised.
In line with our One Simple Change initiative, you don't have to do an instant overhaul. Try one thing at a time, decide what you like, and keep adding from there.
Here are a few of my favorite food hacks for common cravings:
- Sweet. Among the many healthier options out there are agave, honey, maple syrup, and apple sugar (a liquid form of concentrated apple juice). While they're better than sugar in various ways, like less processing, lower glycemic index, and the presence of healthful minerals, they still contain calories that can add up. Enter monk fruit, a plant native to China and Thailand that's used to make a sweetener not only calorie free but also with potential antioxidant benefits2.
- Salty. If you haven't tried kale chips, take the leap. I can't tell you they offer the same crunchy satisfaction of a potato chip, but they're actually pretty good in their own right. Plus, you get in a serving of super-healthy greens.
- Carby. If you love a quick wrap for lunch or a side of chips and guac, this one's for you.
Last year I discovered almond-flour tortilla wraps and chips, and it was a game changer.
2 bonus steps to better health
The final two parts of our four core areas are hydration and sleep. Let's tackle the hardest one first.
Sleep can be hard to come by. As we age, a multiplicity of factors—like stress, illness, and parenthood—contribute to the disruption of our sleep. The good news is, two simple changes recommended by the Sleep Foundation can make a big difference in how you sleep at night:
- No screens an hour before bedtime3. Removing TVs and computers from your bedroom entirely is also recommended.
- Same bedtime every night4. A bedtime routine supports your natural sleep-wake cycle, among other benefits.
Staying hydrated is an underrated healthy habit that is perhaps the easiest one out there. Your daily intake of fluids has a major impact on your skin and organs. How much is enough? According to the Mayo Clinic, these are the recommended daily amounts:
- ~15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men
- ~11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women
Before you think no way, keep in mind this covers not only water but also other beverages and food. Fun fact: Food accounts for about 20% of our daily intake of fluid.
The easiest way to make sure you get enough fluids? Carry a water bottle everywhere you go. And make it count: no plastic. Reusable all the way.
Do you have healthy hacks that can make a difference? Share with our readers in the comments!