Habits of Healthy People

We are not big fans of “life hacks” or “tricks”. They tend to imply some secret cheat method no one else has figured out, and tend to be short term. You may have noticed we preach long term here. MovelevATe…make life easier. Life is a long time, with any luck. With that in mind, if you look at people who successfully stay healthy long term, they tend to have a common set of habits that helps them along the way. We would like to cover some of those habits. So these are not hacks or tricks, but a good, solid list to keep in the back of your mind as you go about your day. And the fun part, most of these are not time consuming in any way. We will be posting one habit a day for the next several days.

Plan Breakfast

Breakfast can be different things for different people, but it is important to have a plan. For some, that means slow cooking bacon and eggs, for others it is coffee and pre-made egg muffins or a quiche or ham steak. For others, they may be giving intermittent fasting a try (I highly recommend working with a nutritionist if you want to go that route). Whatever it is, have a plan. “It’s the most important meal” gets overplayed, but it does help provide structure for the rest of the day. People who have a plan for breakfast tend to be more thoughtful about their meals the rest of the day. That is a tad bit anecdotal, but you see it often enough and you don’t need a double blind study. If you think of your nutrition as a race, having a plan to start the day gives you a head start on the field. We have experimented with meal planning entire days and weeks. That works for some, it doesn’t work for some. But, we can all plan that first one. When in doubt, channel your inner Ron Swanson.

Track Your Water

Yes. Sometimes it is the simple things. How much water you need is dependent on size, activity levels and outside temperature. Anywhere from half a gallon to a gallon a day is a good starting point. For me, I try to drink an ounce for every two pounds of body weight. So, at 240 pounds, I aim for 120 ounces of water a day. There are all kinds of ways to track your water on a smartphone. My personal favorite that Sarah and I both use is an app called Plant Nanny. It is literally a plant animation that requires hitting your water goals daily to keep your plants alive. It is a quick and easy way to gamify water consumption. You get just that little bit of endorphin release as your plant grows as well. Water goes a long way toward overall health. Mental fatigue, minor joint pain, skin health–all helped by adequate water. Water is not fun or exciting by any means, but it is a necessary habit. And most of us have no excuse to not hit this goal daily.

Walk

Yeah, another simple one, right? But, do it daily and it makes a big difference. You may have noticed we always include walks in our “off-day” assignments. There is a reason. And they don’t have to be long walks. I do one longer walk a day, but it doesn’t have to be done that way. Three 10-minute walks a day may seem cumbersome, but if you get up in the morning and do one first thing, do one right after lunch and one right after supper, you probably got 1.5 miles in just adding that alone, depending on pace. Walking right after a meal improves digestion as well. Doing just these post-meal walks have been shown to be the difference in 10-15 pound of fat a year. And it is so much easier than scheduling a 30-minute cardio session. Walk breaks anecdotally have been easier to stick with too, more so than concentrated cardio sessions. Have a phone call that doesn’t require being at a computer? Walk. Need a mental break at work. Walk a block or down your driveway and back. It may just be three to five minutes, but you will come back and probably more mentally alert at work. And that is not even going into the hormonal effects of early sunlight, stress relief, mood, etc. 

Recognize Value In The Journey

We all love winning, in whatever form it takes. But truly healthy people understand it is often the growth in the journey that is the true measurement to enjoy. Listen, my life has been dedicated to and built around sports. Winning and competitiveness are a big part of that. But, fall in love with growth. Don’t think of it as win or lose. Think of it as win or learn. Growth-minded people see the wins in the small things and find success in that. An offshoot of this is competing with yourself more than others. This applies to so much more than fitness too. I come from the powerlifting world. Some of my best days were days I didn’t win. Hit every lift, set a personal best, just ran into a stud competitor. Some of my worst days, I missed lifts, had this or that go wrong with my technique or strength…and I brought home a trophy that said “first place”. I’ll take the first scenario every time. I could see the growth within me despite what the competition looked like. Value the journey more than the destination, and you usually get to the destination just fine. 

Unplug From Tech

I know, some of ya’ll just cringed. I. Know. I get it as much if not more than anyone. And we are not saying go full Amish. Just be aware of your screen time and consumption, especially in the evenings. There are apps to set time limits, block certain websites for certain times (I’m looking at you Facebook), etc. You don’t have to go that far. All we ask if to be aware of your usage patterns and then prioritize accordingly. A slight shift in perspective goes a long way. There are physical aspects of screen time that are negative, i.e, eye strain and melatonin release. And this is not even getting into the stress and anger that goes into seeing negativity, and self-esteem issues from seeing everyone else’s highlights and the comparisons that follow with social media. That is a much longer conversation for another day. Just be cognizant of your screen time, especially before bed time. If nothing else, try to stay off your phone before bed. More on that later. 

Prioritize Sleep

I know. Another no-brainer right? Yet, how many of us truly focus on ensuring we get good, consistent sleep. Health has certain pillars–activity, nutrition, social…and sleep. Sleep is often the neglected one. And yet it affects so much of our life. This is a little more in depth than just “get eight hours of sleep a night”. Heck, I only aim for seven. I seem to function better in that range, but I also know that because I pay attention to my sleep habits. What does your pre-bed routine look like? Do you have a pre-bed routine? This is not something that requires a ton of effort either, just practice. There are however some things I do recommend–black out curtains, no phones in bed, no LED lights in the bedroom. And going back to that tech thing, try to limit screen time just before bed due to the hormonal effects of melatonin and cortisol. As a guy who watches a ton of sports and reads a ton of news on my phone, I am often just as guilty as anyone here. This is the one habit I need to work at the most, honestly. There are ways to nerd out on this with screen color apps, blue-light blocker glasses and so on. You don’t have to go straight to that. Start by working on consistent bedtimes and having a routine for winding down. The rest is fine-tuning. 

Get Fresh Air

If you are doing the walks, this one takes care of itself. But even microdosing can go a long way. I have an East-facing front porch. If I’m not staring my day with a walk, I like to step out on the porch first thing in the morning and signal my body the day has started. That helps to kickstart that hormone cycle for the day. Plus, Vitamin D has all kinds of literature about its positive effects that we can dive into, but just think of yourself as solar powered and go from there. 

Maintain Mobility

Practice the things you don’t want your body to forget. Get into the positions you need for life, and do it daily. A deep squat, a criss-cross sit, a deep bend, turn and reach, get upside down if you can. This habit is another one I prefer to microdose over doing dedicated sessions. Step away from the computer once an hour and spend a couple minutes working on something. Reading a book? Do it while squatting. Looking at your phone, put it on the ground and work on a hamstring stretch. Build mobility into your day and it becomes much less cumbersome.

Be Mindful

This can take many forms. Prayer for the religious, meditation, breathing practices, five-minutes or gratitude journaling. Just spend some time, even as little as a minute or two, being aware of your thoughts. I will lay on my gym floor for a few minutes just focusing on my breathing. It is a chance to gather my thoughts and attack the rest of the day. I like the journaling idea and even have a guided journal (superhero related, of course) to help me. Find what works for you. Start simple and go from there, but find a mindfulness practice. You will be surprised how much just a couple minutes of focused silence can help with stress too. Silence may be tough to find in your household, but not impossible. Make an effort and see what good it does for you. 

Don’t Be Afraid To Add Muscle

There is no better form of exercise to combat modern life than resistance training, whatever form that takes for you. Whether it is free weights, odd object or bodyweight training, building muscle has a positive effect on your metabolism. It is also a protective measure against the sedentary lifestyle of the modern world and an excellent balancer of hormone levels once again, like insulin sensitivity. There are a million different ways to approach adding muscle, but we all need to figure out our best, most sustainable way to do that and attack that. Here at MovelevATe, we do a lot of bodyweight stuff due to the logistics of the setup. But, we will also try to challenge you within those parameters in a way that will stimulate muscle growth as well. And no, that doesn’t mean big and bulky. We have to get around the stigma of being stronger and be okay with more muscle. It pays off in the long run. Are there extremes? Yes. But very few people even remotely approach those extremes by accident. Stronger does not have to mean bulkier.

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