People always think losing weight or improving their health is all about overhauling their entire lives, with grand gestures to become more active or highly restrictive diets.
These attempts are however more often than not short lived at best and what is regularly disregarded is that small changes can not only dramatically influence your overall wellbeing, but also most importantly be maintainable long term.
So that is the purpose of this post, to give you 5 ‘quick fix’ health hacks you can easily apply and fit into your routine, regardless of how hectic it may be and they are all factors every one of us could benefit from incorporating more of into our lives.
Health hack 1: Eat more vegetables or fruit
By now you are no doubt sick of hearing about how you should be eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables everyday, but there is a good reason why I have added this to the top of this list.
Your body needs a range of vitamins and minerals to perform everyday tasks, from growth to repair or fighting off disease and failing to consume adequate amounts can lead to a whole host of health problems.
With the Western Diet of highly refined and processed foods, it is common place for a vast amount of people to be deficient in at least one nutrient and this has played a huge role in creating the obesity and chronic disease epidemic we are currently facing.
Deficiencies can negatively impact everything from how much energy you have to your mood, focus, sleep, ability to perform exercise and even general mind set and outlook on life.
Getting enough of these micronutrients can however easily be done through diet, without having to overthink it and the easiest way to do so is to eat a range of different coloured vegetables and fruits, aiming for at least 2 to be of the green leafy variety, such as broccoli or spinach.
5 portions may sound like a lot. But if you look at it properly it is not difficult to find a way to fit them into your diet.
For instance, have a piece of fruit with breakfast and as a snack, add some spinach to your lunch and a couple of servings of other vegetables to dinner and you are there.
From a health perspective I genuinely cannot stress enough how important this truly is, which is why the first change I look to make with the majority of new clients is to eliminate deficiencies from their diets before focusing on other changes.
Health hack 2: Find ways to walk more
Walking is often overlooked as an activity due to the perception that it is not sufficient enough to achieve anything.
However, it has a whole host of health benefits, from reducing the risks associated with developing diabetes, stroke, heart disease, improving cardiovascular health, as well as acting as on outlet to release stress.
The best place to start when becoming more active is to get yourself to walk at least 30 minutes a day, which may sound like a lot, but it does not have to be done continuously, meaning that you can easily break it up throughout the day and fit it in wherever works best for you.
It may not seem like it, but regardless of how busy you are there are always ways to add more walking into your day-to-day schedule, for instance going out to get lunch, taking a 10 minute walk around the block before meals, having a 5-minute walking break every couple of hours to stretch your legs, walking to the shops or even parking in the furthest space away.
There is even a whole host of apps you can use to track your steps, so that you can see your daily average and how you are doing.
You can find out more about walking more and the health benefits of doing so in a article I recently wrote here
Health hack 3: Drink more water
Our bodies are made up of around 60% water, so it is no surprise that it is required for the majority of everyday functions and insufficient intake can have a huge impact on your health.
In fact, while you can survive for up to a month without food, you would only last a week without water.
Most people do not consume anywhere near enough and dehydration can be linked to a whole host of side effects, from headaches to exhaustion, dizziness, irritability and even nausea.
On top of that it is also common place for people to confuse feelings of thirst with hunger, which can lead to unnecessary snacking and in turn be linked to continual weight gain due to the food choices often made when trying to fulfil these cravings.
That is why it is essential you drink at least 2 to 2.5 litres a day, with the amount required varying from person to person depending on their body composition, activity levels and even location.
Personally I have found the easiest way to keep track of water intake is to fill a water bottle in the morning, keep it with you at all times and ensure it is finished by the end of the day.
On top of that also drink 1-2 glasses of water first thing when you get up. Not only will this help you wake up, but it will also kick start your body’s functions due to it becoming dehydrated throughout the night.
If you are prone to fizzy drinks or hot beverages aim to swap out every other one with a glass of water to keep on top of your intake.
Also if during periods of hunger when you are tempted to snack, instead drink a glass of water, wait 15 minutes and see if the feelings have passed.
That is the best way to determine whether you are actually hungry, or merely just thirsty.
Don’t like water?
Then make it more interesting by drinking flavoured or green teas, adding some lemon, lime, orange or cucumber slices, or you could even add ginger, mint or a variety of other herbs and flavourings.
Whatever you do though, just try to avoid cordials or anything with high amounts of sugar, artificial sweeteners or empty calories.
Health hack 4: Get at least 6-8 hours sleep a night
We are constantly told we should be getting 8 hours of sleep a night, but with how hectic our lives have become sleep is often the first thing we sacrifice in order to cram more into our days.
Whether that is replying to some last minute emails, playing video games or squeezing in another episode of our favourite shows, I think it is fair to say we are all guilty of regularly acting without any regard for the consequences of what we are giving up.
Sleep is when our body is able to rest and recover, meaning that insufficient amounts can be extremely detrimental to our health, with a lack of sleep causing everything from low energy to lack of concentration, not recovering properly from exercise or even development of hormone imbalances such as elevated cortisol levels.
While I get that at times it simply is not feasible to get 8 hours a night, the bare minimum you should be aiming for is 6 and whenever you can try and take a night off to catch up on some rest.
Health hack 5: Take 30 minutes to unwind every night
This ties in heavily to getting sufficient sleep, but it is so important and overlooked that it deserves its own section.
With how our modern world has evolved we are continually burning the candle at both ends, causing our bodies to be put under severe mental, physical, as well as emotional strain.
We are always trying to do more and never taking a step back to relax, take some time for ourselves and think about what is truly important.
That is why you should look to take at least 30 minutes a night down time to just relax.
Whether that is taking a bath, reading a book, going for a walk or even meditating, it is vital you find an activity that is all about you and your mental health.
I understand that for some people who work long hours, have family commitments or other obligations this simply may not be feasible and if that is the case then ensure you set aside 30 minutes at least twice a week to focus on yourself.
I used to have huge issues with insomnia and troubles switching off at night. I found what worked best for me was implementing a no electronics policy 30 minutes before bed every night.
That allowed me time to unwind, as it forced me to take a break from starring at a screen and thinking about anything to do with work or what needed to be done the following day.
After all, how many times have you gone on social media or checked emails before bed, only for your mind to suddenly switch on again and go straight back into work mode? Followed by the next few hours spent tossing and turning, as you are unable to settle?
We really need to become more aware of our actions, as that email will still be there in the morning, that Facebook status will not have changed, but you will notice a substantial difference from that improved nights sleep.
So to recap
1) Eat more vegetables and fruit
2) Find ways to fit more walking into your everyday routine
3) Drink enough water
4) Get 6-8 hours sleep a night
5) Take 30 minutes every evening to unwind and relax
On their own they may not seem like much, but they will make a profound impact on how you feel and lay a solid foundation to improving your health.
The reality is nothing here is new information and you’ve probably heard it before.
But the reason why it is constantly repeated is these factors really are that important for your health.
It really is no overstatement that implementing them into your daily routine will have a huge impact on both how you look and feel.
With that being said, the truth is that these really are only the start to developing healthier habits and if you truly want to improve your health it is essential you take a holistic approach that focuses on all aspects of your wellbeing.
Factors we will be looking at in far more detail in future posts.
So what do you think?
How else could you include this ‘hacks’ into your routine and what other small changes would you add too the list that can make a huge difference?
Post your thoughts in the comments section below.