12 Small Changes In A 12 Hour Day For A Healthy Lifestyle

“As I see it, every day you do one of two things: build health or produce disease in yourself.” ~Adelle Davis

Do you live a healthy lifestyle? You don't have to be running marathons, eating tofu and sprouts, or meditating for hours to say yes. A healthy lifestyle is a work in progress, with peaks and valleys, but hopefully always moving forward toward learning more, making better choices, and living mindfully.

A healthy lifestyle doesn't have to begin with big, dramatic, challenging change. Making small changes and incorporating them into your life slowly and incrementally will increase the likelihood that you will stick with the change and want to do more.

If you view any positive change as a small gift you give to yourself, to honor your body, mind and spirit, it will make the change less intimidating and more natural. As modern dancer Martha Graham reminds, “The body is a sacred garment.” We must treat it as such.

In just one day, there are many small changes you can try to facilitate amazing health benefits and perhaps kick-start an new healthy habit for life.

Here are 12 actions that require little time and commitment but provide big rewards, especially if they are repeated every day.

1.  Start your day with stretching. Wake up 10-15 minutes earlier in the morning to begin your day with some stretching. Stretching helps wake you up, gives you more energy, improves flexibility and coordination, helps body circulation, and fosters relaxation. Here are some great morning yoga stretches for you to try.

2. Fuel your body properly for the day. If you eat one really healthy meal a day, make it breakfast. A combination of complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein and a small amount of fat packs big health benefits and can leave you feeling full for hours giving you the energy to start your day. Here are some great breakfast ideas.

3. Make room for tea. Tea contains loads of antioxidants, reduces your risk of heart attack and stroke, bolsters you immune system, protects against cancer, and increases your metabolism. What's not to love? If you can't give up coffee entirely, make your second cup a cup of tea instead. White and green teas are the healthiest, but any kind tea is great for you.

4. Drink ice water. You expend more calories warming up ice water to body temperature than you do drinking cool or tepid water. If you drink 8 pints of ice water a day, you'll burn 123 calories. Plus drinking water keeps you hydrated and flushes toxins from your body.

5. Breathe properly. Proper deep breathing through the abdomen has a myriad of health benefits including improving digestion, the quality of your blood, nervous system function, and the respiratory system. It's easy to learn correct, slow breathing to enjoy big benefits to your health. When you feel yourself breathing shallowly or too rapidly, correct your breathing style.

“The body is a sacred garment.” ~ Martha Graham

6. Manage stress as it happens. Frequent or chronic stress will do a number on your health. When your autonomic nervous system is over-activated, you will see physical symptoms that can lead to long term illness including depression, anxiety, ulcers, headaches, hair loss and heart disease. When you are in a stressful situation, especially one that is chronic, remove yourself as quickly as possible, and treat the stress. Breathe properly (see above), meditate, exercise, talk with someone, take a walk. Calm your nervous system before stress claims your health.

7. Eat small and eat often. Having six smaller meals rather than three large ones a day will help you manage hunger and manage your weight. In fact, use a salad plate rather than a dinner plate for your meals to help control portions.  This method will help you avoid ravenous hunger and binge eating. You will be more mindful of what you are putting on your plate as well.

8. Add two goods and remove two bads. Pick two foods that you know are bad for you and replace them with two superfoods. Here's a great list of best and worst foods. Try this for a day, then challenge yourself to try it again another day this week. Just increasing your vegetable intake and decreasing your white foods (white breads, rice, pasta, cookies, etc.) is a great way to lose weight and add nutrients to your body.

9. Fidget in your chair at work. Foot tapping, rocking, bouncing your legs, and other restless movements can burn somewhere around 120 calories and hour, depending on your weight and age. Instead of sitting perfectly still, move some part of your body (if it's not too disruptive) and lose weight while you work.

10.  A little movement goes a long way. Even if you can't get motivated to start a serious exercise routine, just do several short exercise bursts during the day. Take the stairs, walk the long way, do jumping jacks for five minutes, clean the house at a faster pace, take a short walk, dance to some music. A little exercise is better than no exercise. It will burn some calories and may motivate you to move for longer periods of time.

11. Have sex. Regular sex has surprising health benefits. It relieves stress, boosts immunity, burns 85 or more calories (per 30 minutes), improves cardiovascular health, reduces pain, lowers the risk of prostate cancer, and helps you sleep. It has some other added bonuses too.

12. Go to bed earlier. Adults optimally need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. Most of us are lucky if we get the low end of that range. Proper amounts of sleep help reduce stress, helps keep your heart healthy, reduces inflammation, makes you more alert during the day, bolsters your memory, helps you lose weight, and reduces your risk for depression. You will feel better, think better, and look better with a good night's sleep.

These are easy, doable activities that won't disrupt your routine too much or cause you to run away screaming. If you are able to do them today, can I challenge you to do them tomorrow? How about the next day? Creating a healthy lifestyle does require consistency.

If you do just these activities, you will burn around 500 calories, add several super foods to your diet, remove a couple of bad foods, reduce your stress, improve your overall health, have great sex, and get a good night's sleep. Not bad for a day's work!


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Comments

  1. Ok, Ok, Ok……I’ve been promising myself for the past year or so to get my lazy butt up and out of bed early to do yoga. I set the alarm 15 minutes early for the next morning and as soon as it goes off I…………curse myself royal and hit snooze! Enough!!! I will force myself out of bed tomorrow morning for yoga or my name is Sloth! 😉

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Denise,
      Good for you! I’m glad you were inspired to do some Yoga. Please let us know how it goes.

      • Morning 1: set the alarm 15 minutes early and only stayed in bed for 5 of those. I shivered my way downstairs and began my stretching….it was wonderful! 🙂
        Fingers crossed that I do not punk out on Morning 2.

  2. Hi Barrie,

    I agree with you that a healthy lifestyle is a work in progress. There are good days and bad days, but the important thing is to keep on persevering. With regards to life in general, I have always felt that little changes are more important than dramatic change. This is because it is easier to maintain the little changes compared to the big one. And with regards to a healthy lifestyle, it is even more important. In fact, the easier the changes, the more likely we are to make then a part of our routine. I love the 12 small changes you mentioned and here are some of the thoughts that crossed my mind as I read them.

    2. Fuel your body properly for the day

    Eating my 3 meals a day is very important. I simply cannot miss a single meal because it will leave me feeling lethargic.

    3. Make room for tea

    I love tea, especially green tea. I usually drink tea once a day. Personally, I seldom drink coffee, but I simply cannot get enough of tea.

    4. Drink ice water

    Now this is interesting. I know the body expends more energy to keep it warm, but I never thought of drinking ice water to burn calories. I always drink lots of water each day; before I sleep, after I wake up, during my three meals and maybe a glass or two otherwise. I might just try drinking ice water after reading this.

    12. Go to bed earlier

    Sleep is very important. As I get older, I realize I cannot do without sleep. Sure I can stay awake through willpower alone, but I will not be operating at optimal efficiency and I pay the price later.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article! 🙂

    Irving the Vizier

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Irving,
      I’m so glad you liked it. I love tea as well — but I have to have my one cup of coffee in the morning. The ice water trick is something I’ve had to get used to. I can’t guzzle ice water — but since I know I’m burning calories, it’s worth it to try. 🙂

  3. Stephanie Wetzel says:

    Barrie –

    I love this article! What a great and easy way to start integrating small changes into your lifestyle to boost healthy living. I actually just discovered the tip on ice water yesterday, and have committed to incorporating this into my days…I like easy ways to make the little things count more.

    You are so right about small changes being the ones that last. It is exactly how I am 107 pounds lighter today! 🙂 Every little action counts!

    Steph

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Steph,
      You are a living testament to small changes having big impact. It’s so great to watch you continue to take action. Keep it going!

  4. Great tips on little things we can do each and every day to help make a difference. These would be fairly easy habits to begin, and it is amazing how much a difference each will have.
    I have been getting in bed too late lately and I am going to have to remedy this as it is bringing me down. I heard a speaker say once, “If I get less than 8 hours of sleep, I don’t make good choices”. That describes me as well, lol!
    I have to say that once I started some deep breathing, I realized it can make a huge difference in my stress level and my mood. It works!
    Thanks for the tips Barrie!
    Bernice

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Bernice,
      Sleep is a biggie for me. If I don’t get enough, it really impacts how I feel mentally and physically. Yes, the deep breathing is great. So relaxing. Looking forward to checking out your blog.

  5. Hi Barrie,
    I loved all your tips. I especially loved: Go to bed earlier.
    I’ve been burning the candle at both ends recently and ended compromising my immune system by doing so. To get back on track and healthy part of my strategy aside from less stress and eating more healthily is to get more sleep – and it’s working!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Angela,
      You need to “turn up the volume of your inner voice” and go to bed earlier!! 🙂 In fact, I bet our inner voices speak louder when we are well-rested. Great article by the way!

  6. Tess The Bold Life says:

    Barrie,
    I love how you immediately state a healthy life style is a work in progress. I also feel like it’s a personal path. I don’t like blogs that condemn me for eating dairy, fish etc. I do have a husband and we compromise. If I didn’t I would take the joy out of eating and that time together.

    I would have thought great sex for 30 minutes would burn more than 85 calories!

    • Hi Tess,
      Yes, I love good food. So I have to balance my pleasure in eating with eating foods that are good for me. It’s all a balance.
      Perhaps you do burn more than 85 calories — but the rest of us may not have your stamina! 🙂

  7. Thanks for the great list Barrie,
    The hardest one for me (which seems like it should be the easiest and most natural), is remembering to breathe. Simply breathe, in and out, be aware of my breaths. I find that I concentrate so hard sometimes on the task or activity at hand, and I realize that I’m holding my breath, or not allowing myself to breathe freely. This is one I am going to work on.

    I also love the quote at the top of your post ‘every day you either build health or produce disease in yourself’ – that’s a powerful motivator to do small, healthful things every day.

    • Hi Leah,
      I know — why is it we hold our breath when we concentrate or get nervous? It’s so counter-intuitive. Breathing the right way requires thinking about it, and most of us don’t think about breathing. I think it takes practice.

  8. Great, great tips, Barrie. I’m in the process of peeling off bunches of pounds I put on over the last few years, and I do nearly all of these (my stretching routine is 7 minutes and I just can’t stand ice water so lots of cool water is as good as it gets for me ;)), and they do make a BIG difference. And if mine is any indication, spouses especially love #11. 😉

    You’ve shown here that healthy shifts don’t have to be onerous or hugely time-consuming to make a big impact. As always, you deliver great actionable ideas!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Congratulations Ande on losing the weight! That’s fantastic. I know it is hard work, and I applaud you. My friend and client Stephanie Wetzel is doing the same and has started a great blog called http://www.tradingpounds.com. I’m sure she would be thrilled to have a comment from you sharing some of your tips. 🙂

  9. What an effective and simple plan! Whilst there are so many ways of getting nutrition right, I have become a great fan of juicing fresh fruit and vegetables. My breakfast now consists solely of warm water to cleanse and prepare the digestive system followed by a fresh juice made with pineapples, apples, cucumber, celery, spinach and pureed avocado. Since regularly incorporating this into my diet, I have lost 10lb, feel energized all day and am much more focused. It has only left me wondering why I have taken so long to adopt this healthier regime!

  10. I absolutely love the concept of this post. It’s the small, habitual behaviors that impact our health the most.

    That being said, I don’t agree with how you seem to be equating fewer calories consumed (or more burned) with being healthy. Unless you are overweight, these are most certainly not the same. If you have a healthy weight, there is no need to restrict calories. Instead, the focus should be on consuming calories from nutritious sources, and exercising because of benefits unrelated to weight loss.

    Specifically, you mention fidgeting in your chair at work. I don’t really see the benefit of that. Instead, we should be mindful of maintaining proper posture, which does pay dividends for our health.

    There are a lot of valuable tips in this post, thanks for writing it!

  11. Thank you for sharing this great article. Sleep is a big challenge for me.

  12. Hey!

    Thanks so much for the inspiration. Reading the words here just changed my life. You make it so simply and easy to create a healthy way of living..

    Thanks for a great article!