The first step on any journey is always the hardest — and if you’re trying to get fit and healthy, that first step can feel like a huge one.
But you can crush that first step by making small changes to your lifestyle, starting with everyday behaviors.
“Being aware of your habits — and rethinking those habits — can help you curb the worst of your behaviors,” explains Susan Blum, M.D., assistant clinical professor of preventive medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai in New York City, and author of “The Immune System Recovery Plan.”
Sometimes, it’s those small — yet consistent — changes that have the biggest bang for your buck.
Here are eight simple lifestyle tweaks that can help boost your health, fitness, and energy.
1. Get More Sleep
“The very first place to start is a good night’s sleep,” says Jarrod Spencer, Psy.D., sports psychologist at Mind of the Athlete in Bethlehem, PA.
But anyone who has spent the night (or nights) counting sheep, staring at the ceiling, or tossing and turning knows that it’s easier said than done.
Before you turn to over-the-counter sleep aids, set yourself up for sleep success by optimizing your bedroom — like using light dimmers so you can adjust the level of lighting, getting the right pillow, and investing in a sound machine.
Getting enough sleep can impact your mood, mental clarity, your ability to lose weight, energy levels, and more, so it’s important to try to get enough sleep under your belt every night.
2. Stand More
Research estimates the average person spends more than half of their waking hours with bum in a chair.
“But I exercise,” you may be thinking. That’s great! But you’re not off the hook.
A report published in Annals of Internal Medicine finds that exercising — even up to an hour a day — does not undo the negative health effects of sitting.
Another study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that for every single hour spent sitting watching TV after age 25, your life expectancy is reduced by 21.8 minutes.
While it might not be realistic to quit your (desk) job, you can do things like getting a standing workstation, and mixing in frequent, short sessions of light physical activity (e.g., walking) throughout the day.
The American Council on Exercise suggests taking breaks every 30 to 60 minutes.
3. Exercise Where You Can
Whether it’s the grocery store or your office building, park on the far side of the entrance and you’ll find yourself fitting in more steps, and more calorie-burning movement into your day.
Even when you’re watching TV at home, you can designate commercials a mental cue to get off your butt and fit in a few minutes (usually just 90–120 seconds) of squats, push-ups, or jumping jacks.
This will not only help add to your total minutes of exercise each day but will also help you make better food choices during your TV watching. It’s harder to eat the rest of that bag of chips when you’re doing push-ups.
4. Down Some Joe
There was a time when coffee had a bad reputation; it was reportedly unhealthy and stunted your growth.
But there’s emerging research pointing to a bevy of health benefits.
According to scientists from Vanderbilt University’s Institute for Coffee Studies, coffee has antioxidant-like properties. (If you’re caffeine-averse, no worries: Studies show benefits extend to decaf, as well.)
One downside to coffee? Adding cream, sugar, and other toppings can rack up the calories fast.
Cut back without giving your taste buds a shock by gradually decreasing the add-ins.
Swap the packets of white sugar with a touch of honey. Instead of cream, try 2% milk or a milk alternative like unsweetened almond milk.
5. Make Your Tea Green
Not a coffee drinker? Tea is also a healthy beverage, containing health-promoting substances such as polyphenols, catechins, and epicatechins, which research suggests have antioxidant-like properties.
If you’re already a tea drinker, focus on green tea.
Why? Although all teas – green, black, white, oolong – have health benefits, green is king.
“Hot or iced, it’s an excellent way to hydrate and boost anti-oxidant intake,” says registered dietitian and exercise physiologist Samantha Heller.
But beware of the pre-sweetened teas, which are very high in sugar content, she warns.
All teas come from leaves of the same plant, Camellia sinensis. The difference is in the way the leaves are processed, which accounts for the difference in health benefits.
In green tea, the leaves are wilted and steamed, processed immediately after picking, which accounts for the difference in the final photochemical balance, and gives green tea its health-boosting catechins.
To boost your tea’s benefits, use water that is near-boiling, and let the leaves steep for about two to three minutes — leaving them longer will release tannins and make the tea bitter.
6. Drink All The Water
Water is a great way to quench your thirst, but it’s also essential to many vital body processes.
You’ve probably read or heard that you need to drink eight glasses of water a day. Turns out there’s no scientific evidence to support that — your daily water requirements vary depending on your age, gender, size, activity level, and other factors.
BODi recommends using your body weight as a general guide to get you started. Drink your body weight, divided by two, in ounces.
So if you weigh 150 pounds — that would be 150 divided by 2, which equals 75. That’s 75 ounces of water you should be drinking every day.
Keep yourself hydrated and on track for your health goals by carrying a water bottle with you and refilling it throughout the day.
7. Time Your Pre-Workout Food Right
Fueling your workout with food can help you get the most out of your workout, and choosing the right food and timing are key.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, you’re better off eating one to three hours before your workout, so that your stomach and muscles don’t compete for energy.
Of course, everyone is different, so you might have to play with the time frame to see what works best for you.
“I recommend eating [at least] an hour before your workout,” says New Jersey-based registered dietitian Amy Gorin. “The snack should have a combo of carbs and protein — the protein provides your body with amino acids [the building blocks of muscle], and the carbs will help you power you through your workout.”
Some good choices include a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole-wheat bread; Greek yogurt with fresh berries; an apple spread with almond or peanut butter; or a handful of nuts and raisins.
Energize is formulated with beta-alanine, caffeine, and quercetin — three key ingredients that have been shown to help boost energy and endurance, enhance exercise performance, and delay exercise-induced muscle fatigue.*
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8. Get to Know Portion Control and Meal Prep
It’s all too easy to shove a burger in your mouth when you’re we’re rushed, tired or stressed.
An easy way to prevent overeating or grabbing not-so-healthy meals is to plan out your meals and snacks for the week or day ahead.
Color-coded portion-control containers can help you easily prep meals with appropriate amounts of veggies, fruits, protein, carbs, and healthy fats.
No weighing out your food. No calorie counting. Just match the container to the food group and you’re done.
Another easy trick — downsize your dishes. “Using smaller plates can cut down on your total caloric consumption,” explains Anderson.
Research has found that larger plates lead people to serve themselves more, eat more, and waste more food.
*Statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.