So it’s basically the end of January and I realized just how crazy these “new year new me” challenges have gotten…is it just me or is everyone trying to slim down a dress size or have ‘gains’ for spring break? While hitting the gym five or six days a week is a great goal, sometimes it isn’t obtainable, so don’t feel bad if you miss your Zumba sesh or only run a mile one morning. As a college student I often find myself studying until late at night and having a hard time getting up at 6 or 7 for a run, so when you skip a workout you’re definitely not alone! Instead of focusing on how often you’re working out during the school year try a different approach – small steps to health that take up almost zero time throughout your day!
1. Drink a glass of water before having a “regular” drink at a meal
This is something I picked up on at camp as a child as really wish I’d followed through on during middle and high school. Water does such great things for your body! Having a glass of water in the morning before your usual cup of coffee helps keep you hydrated (sounds self explanatory but coffee is a diuretic and can slightly dehydrate you). Water during dinner helps to flush impurities from your system. Drinking eight glasses a day is the ultimate goal to strive for and this is, in my opinion, the easiest starting point.
2. Whatever your average step count is for Monday-Friday try to double it Saturday and Sunday
FitBits and step counters seem to be more popular than ever nowadays, but do they really improve our lifestyle? While I usually get 10,000 steps a day walking to and from classes, I don’t actively pursue ‘real’ exercise after I’ve hit my step count. If you’re like me, or are just trying to hit 10,000 steps at least once or twice a week, try doubling your average step count on the weekends. For example, my average step count this Monday-Friday was 7,356 so for both Saturday and Sunday I’d try to hit 14,712. For me, that’s roughly 7 miles. It sounds like a lot, but if I spent an hour jogging as opposed to watching Netflix I’d be nearly finished for the day.
3. Stand up and walk around every one to two hours
Did you know that being seated for more than an hour and half is bad for your heart, spine, brain, and digestion? Because I didn’t! Sitting for prolonged periods of time (i.e. over an hour) slows your blood flow and makes it easier for fatty acids to clog your arteries. If you’re sitting incorrectly this puts an abnormal amount of pressure on your neck and shoulders, leading to pain and/or stiffness. Sitting extensively also prevents your brain from getting fresh blood flow and a good amount of oxygen, leading to fuzzy or slowed thinking! And what most people are probably concerned about – lots of sitting causes your digestion to slow, causing bloating and sometimes weight gain. While just standing up and stretching for a second each one to two hours doesn’t seem like much, it makes a world of a difference for your body! And walking a lap around the room, to the bathroom, or even just to fetch a fresh cup of coffee helps to keep your blood moving properly and takes a lot of stress off your shoulders (literally).
4. If you read a lot, or have to read for class or work, try reading while using a stationary bike or treadmill
Last semester I read at least one book a week for class. It took up a lot of the time I’d usually spend exercising, so I came up with a compromise. I took my book, and a highlighter, to the gym and sat on a stationary bike for an hour. Audiobooks are great for when I’m running or walking, but if you need to write in the books you’re reading for class I’d definitely suggest my stationary bike method.
5. When buying unhealthy snacks or desserts opt for the smaller carton or the prepackaged servings
Such. A. Good. Idea. Because who hasn’t eaten an entire chocolate cake before? Pro tip: if baking your own goodies cut the amount in half or more so you don’t end up with three weeks worth of servings for one person, if not share with friends!
6. Do calf raises, squats, lunges, or some other easy leg exercise while brushing your teeth
I had the unfortunate experience to have my calves called out in Calculus class early last semester. Two cross-fit junkies decided it was a good idea to make the entire class aware that they were jealous of my “muscular man calves” and ask for my secret as to how I got them this toned. The only thing I do specifically for my calves are calf raises while brushing my teeth, which also helps strengthen the ankle I rolled last January. When you think about it, doing four minutes of light leg workouts a day ends up being a whole lot of muscle toning by the end of the year.
7. Take a multivitamin with your breakfast
Easy, peasy, lemon squeezey. Just make sure to look for one containing both calcium and iron if you’re still a “young adult” like me!
8. Cut out the negatives for your life
We’ve all heard this a million times. But seriously, go do it. It’ll take some time, but if you’re scrolling through Insta anyways then what’s a little unfollowing going to hurt? Same with Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and the like. Surrounding yourself with positive people removes stress, which can eventually lead to better heart health and weight loss!
9. Do pushups, crunches, yoga stretches, etc. during commercial breaks or in between Netflix episodes
Think of it as a light pre-workout exercise or a stretch session. You shouldn’t be sweating or breathing hard, but you should definitely be using your muscles and slightly elevating your heart rate. This not only leads to better overall health but can keep you awake and focused for longer, meaning you can binge watch to your heart’s content (or at least until class starts…)
Think happy thoughts! Radiate happy thoughts! Be happy that your happiness is helping others be happy! That’s not just the little psychologist in me speaking – studies show that smiling more can help reduce blood pressure.