Creating Healthy Habits: Small Changes, Big Benefits
Losing weight and improving overall health doesn’t require a monumental life overhaul for most people. Small changes you make today can quickly become habits, slowly adding up to lifestyle modifications that give you big benefits. Attempting a complete one-eighty on your diet or exercise habits is unlikely to stick. Think back on every radical change you tried to make, perhaps a New Year’s resolution. Sure, you were fired up in the beginning, but in a matter of days or weeks, that burst of energy and powerful motivation drained away, and the more you didn’t live up to your extreme goals, the more discouraged you got, right?
Forget that approach completely. It works for some people, some times, but you’ll have a much better chance of changing your life and achieving a healthy body if you start small and make alterations you barely notice. This column is dedicated to providing you with tips, motivation and goals to get where you need to go in a fun and manageable way. Slow and steady really does win the race.
Today’s healthy habit tip: Schedule mini workouts into your busy schedule. Doing multiple 10-minute workouts is just as effective as longer workouts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The difference between fitting a 10-minute walk into your morning routine versus finding the time and endurance to get through a long workout every day is significant.
Ten-minute workouts allow you to ease into exercising, which could result in less muscle soreness, a lower risk of injury and better adherence to your workout program. A simple 10-minute walk on your lunch break or a couple of times a day with your dog can go a long way toward losing weight and building a strong cardiorespiratory system. There is one catch: You must maintain a moderate intensity level during the entire 10 minutes. This means you cannot stroll down the street. Brisk walking at a pace of 3 to 4 mph is sufficient.
Start with one 10-minute walk per day and work up to three 10-minute workouts. The ideal amount of physical activity an adult needs is 150 minutes per week, which you can achieve easily with three 10-minute workouts five days a week. This gives you two days off. Try a 10-minute workout DVD or another activity like swimming or inline skating for variety. If you have a free 10 minutes at work, try walking stairs or jogging in place in your office.
Within a month or two, your 10-minute workouts will feel easy and you’ll be so used to them your body will want to exercise. You won’t have to make yourself exercise anymore. Then, you can try longer workouts on days when you have time or just to change it up. You can also increase your intensity to double your results. One minute of vigorous exercise is as effective as two minutes of moderate-intensity exercise. Walking at more than 4 mph or with hills is usually considered vigorous exercise. But if you start out with vigorous exercise, you’ll exhaust yourself and begin to dread exercise. You may even hurt yourself.
If you make small changes, such as going from one short workout on most days of the week to two short workouts, and keep on that way, then you will continually lose weight in a healthy manner without losing your motivation.