The new year is the perfect time to start developing healthier habits, and our YMCA wellness staff is here to offer simple tweaks to help you grow healthier and feel better. Check out these five habits that can have a big impact on your overall wellness.
Make simple swaps: Drastically changing your diet can be overwhelming and difficult to sustain. Instead, try making small changes like eating almonds instead of salty chips or exchanging your daily sweets for fruit or low-fat Greek yogurt.
YMCA group fitness instructor Jenn Tworek-Komara, a busy mom with two young children, says she makes meals healthier by replacing low-nutrient carbs like white bread and enriched pasta with vegetables. “We often make lettuce wraps, or zucchini noodles, or cauliflower rice. It is a great way to keep the flavors strong, but cut the calories in half.”
Do you love to snack? You can swap those too! Commit to exchanging 2-3 snacks per week with a healthier alternative. Foods that are high in fiber and protein score high on the satiety test, meaning they keep you feeling fuller longer and can lead to consuming few calories throughout the day. Cottage cheese, apples, or carrot sticks with hummus make delicious, satisfying snacks.
Space out exercise: When life is hectic it can be challenging to find a block of time to exercise. Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t complete a 30-60-minute workout. Short bursts of activity like taking the stairs, walking your dog, and stretching during your lunch break can increase your energy and burn calories throughout the day.
Jenn suggests getting the whole family involved! “Play with your kids,” she says. “This is a great way to not only spend some quality time with your children, but it is also a great way to get some exercise in for yourself. We like to make obstacle courses in the living room!” Another option: a living room dance party!
If you want a little kick during your day, try this method from Y fitness instructor Cheri Earnhardt: “Every hour, stand up and do 10 jumping jacks, 10 squats, and 10 push-ups. This will only take 90 seconds or less. Your heart rate will elevate and give you a charge. Set a timer to remind you. It’s only 90 seconds but you will end up doing 100 of each in a day. That’s a big accomplishment!”
Take time away: Setting aside a few minutes each day to meditate, practice deep breathing, or stretch your legs can help relieve stress and reset your mind. “Meditation does not have to be long. Just five minutes is a great way to start a routine," Jenn says. "Mindful meditation gives the brain an opportunity to shut down for a few minutes, which is very helpful for establishing a calm, clear mindset." If you’re not sure where to start, explore these holistic health online resources.
Keep water close by: Y program coordinator Pam Judd, recommends carrying your water bottle with you wherever you go. She says drinking plenty of water helps curb the urge to snack. “Being hydrated also helps to get rid of that ‘fake hunger’ when really it’s thirst rather than hunger that I’m feeling,” she says.
Jenn advises healthy adults to drink at least half their body weight in water each day. “It is also really important to drink water first thing in the morning. The body has been resting for 7-8 hours while sleeping, so when we wake up, we are partially dehydrated.” Try the 30-day water challenge.
Vary your routine: Mixing up your workouts can reduce injury risk and challenge your body by using different muscles!
Cheri says the variety will only make you stronger. “Changing up your workouts will help to fight boredom and shock the body. Anytime you change up a workout, you hope to get a little sore, which means you worked a specific muscle differently.”
And when it comes to your fitness, Pam says to make it easier on yourself by planning ahead. “I would encourage people to have things set up and ready to go, so it’s easy to follow through at the end (or beginning) of a long day."