Improving your health and fitness can feel like a monumental task. And it’s true that those big goals – running a half-marathon, mastering a new sport, reaching a healthy weight – can take serious time and effort to achieve. But there are plenty of gains to be had from smaller, simpler daily changes. We asked the experts for the low-lift habits and simple switch-ups that delivered the biggest results. Here are their minimum-dosage prescriptions.
Invest Just 7 Minutes in a Workout
When you’re just starting to exercise, you don’t need to slog through a long session. Just seven minutes can improve your heart and lung health, insulin function and muscular strength and endurance. Pick 14 body-weight exercises, some that involve resistance (press-ups, squats, planks), others involving cardio (jumping jacks, step-ups). Do 20 seconds of one, rest for 10 seconds, then move on to the next. The caveats? “A more seasoned trainee will need a higher threshold to see increases in fitness,” says clinical exercise physiologist Dean Somerset, owner of Somerset Fitness in Edmonton, Canada.
Book One Visit
‘Most people only go to the doctor when there’s an ache in their knee or a cough that won’t [go away], but preventive medicine is key,’ says Raj Dasgupta, a doctor at the University of Southern California. ‘Stay on top of any screenings and you’ll be ahead of the game.’ Those aged 40 and over are eligible for an NHS Health Check, which is designed to spot early signs of stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and dementia.
Make Exactly Zero New Year’s Resolutions
The average person is thought to ditch new year’s resolutions around the end of January. Sound like you? ‘Big resolutions can create a lot of anxiety because there are so many opportunities for something to go wrong over the course of a year,’ says Tara McMullin, author of the goal-setting book What Works. Plan in three-month segments instead, she says, so you can see what works for you. This makes you more confident about what you can achieve in a short time, which makes you more likely to meet a goal.
Cut Meditation Obligations
Researchers at New York University found that guided meditation doesn’t even require 15 minutes a day to decrease negative mood, increase attention, improve memory and lower anxiety. Instead, aim for 13. Apps like Ten Percent Happier, Calm, and Liberate are painless ways to get started.
Foam Roll for Just Two Minutes
When you push on a pressure point with a foam roller, your thumb or any device, it can take about 90 to 120 seconds for the tissue to spasm and then fully release tension,’ says Somerset. So there’s no need to spend all morning rolling a few tight spots. Pro tip: ‘Roll into a spot of mild discomfort, breathe and imagine the tissue relaxing under the pressure. Then move on to another spot,’ he says. ‘If it’s too intense, the tissue will contract and not relax.’
Check In with Friends
‘There’s a huge amount of epidemiological research showing that the best predictor of your physical wellness, mental health and even longevity is tied to the number and quality of close friendships you have,’ says Robin Dunbar, author of Friends: Understanding The Power Of Our Most Important Relationships. To shore up your friendships, ask people to do things with you. Men are often better at connecting side by side than sitting across from each other.
Boost Quit-Smoking Success in Two Minutes
A very short conversation with a doctor about smoking was enough to boost the likelihood that people would be smoke-free six months later, according to a research review by the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group. ‘So many patients I meet say they’ve tried everything to quit, but often they’re not aware of all the tools we have in our arsenal to help with smoking cessation,’ says Dr Dasgupta.
A version of this story originally appeared in the March 2023 issue of Men’s Health.
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