10 Easy Ways to Jumpstart Fitness

I recently read an article entitled “Focus is great, but not without zoom,” by author Traci Stanard. In the piece, she compares personal fitness to reading a manual — reading the whole darn thing can be intimidating, so it often sits on the shelf unopened. An easier approach, as she suggests, is to read a few pages at a time. Likewise, a proposition like getting fit can seem overwhelming, and a total overhaul might just squelch any desire or motivation to get started at all. There are thousands of books that hold the magic formula to eating right, losing weight and getting fit. Most are 5-10 easy steps to turn your life around. I find these fix-all books to be easier said than done, especially if you have to turn your life upside down to achieve a stated end-goal. Do these drastic changes provoke lasting healthy habits? The whole premise of Finding Life’s Secret Sauce is doing little things that can make a difference in our health and wellness. Like Stanard, I believe that little tweaks that fit into our schedule and fluctuate with our energy level and mood are more likely to jumpstart healthy habits that stick. Try doing each of these one time during the upcoming week.

1. Walk instead of….

  • Letting your dog out in the back yard for his bathroom break
  • Driving your car to work, the store or the gym
  • Taking the elevator or escalator

2. Eat more meatless meals.

When I interviewed Sonja Overhiser, a contributor to Eat In Not Out and co-author of A Couple Cooks, she made a recommendation that has stuck with me for two years running. She suggested that I reduce meat intake by eating only one meaty meal each day. Though this may not sound like a lofty goal, it’s not easy to break the tuna fish or turkey sandwich habit at lunch. Not only might you be reducing your saturated fat and cholesterol intake, but you might also be positively impacting the environment. If you don’t want to cut meat out altogether, then cut back a little.

3. Don’t say no to exercise, even if you don’t have much time. In fact, I just got an e-newsletter from Jill Bruyere, author of the blog “Run with Jill,” suggesting 5 exercises to do for 30-seconds each. (Rest 1-minute and repeat two more times): Plank hold, squats, pushups, wall sit, jumping jacks. That took less than 10 minutes!

4. Meditate. A five-minute break in the day to breathe deeply, relax and rest your mind can go a long way in reducing stress, not to mention numerous other health benefits. If you have trouble keeping your mind focused like I do, you might try guided meditations like the ones found at headspace.com.

5. Say no to sugar. After all, there continue to be more studies which indicate how harmful sugar can be to our bodies. And, sadly, sugar is in the cereal we eat for breakfast, the jam we spread on our toast, the wine we have with our dinner and the amazing Nutella cheesecake bars I made this weekend. As you might guess, this is my achilles heel, but cutting back may add some energy to your day.

6. Skip the appetizer. Nine times out of ten, appetizers are fillers with few nutrients. What real value do chips and salsa or cheese and crackers have? They fill you up so you skimp on veggies at mealtime! Try to eat dinner earlier in the evening or plan a snacking routine that includes healthy choices to reduce the urge to splurge.

7. Kick the soft drink habit. Like dessert, soft drinks fill the body with calories with no health benefit. If the sugar-free versions are your addiction, studies now show that artificial sweeteners don’t break down in the body.  Try drinking water instead.

8. Eat an apple a day. In a recent interview with Kathy Freston, bestselling author Veganist and Quantum Wellness Cleanse, she was asked about five easy things people can do to get on a healthy path. One of her suggestions was to eat an apple every day. Among their many health benefits, apples help regulate blood sugar levels, are a good source of fiber, and may also lower blood fats. They may also reduce your sweet urge!

9. Plant some veggies. Even if it’s a small container in your back yard, if you grow your own, you and your children will be more likely to eat them. Not to mention, they taste better when they’re homegrown. ‘Tis the season so get out there and plant some seeds!

10. Take baby steps. As Traci suggests, read a few pages of the manual, not the entire book. Every day of your life will not be high energy, low stress and happy-happy. Go with the flow. Do what you can in the time you have. And don’t worry if perfection isn’t a 10-letter word in your vocabulary!

Melinda Hinson