Day 1: Walk toward a goal. While walking, pick an object (car, sign, rock, tree) at least 50 feet ahead of you and focus on it as you walk quickly to reach it. Slow down and catch your breath for a minute or two. Pick another object and go. Research shows that people who focus on a distant target walk faster than those who look around as they walk. That faster pace will boost your cardio fitness and calorie burn more than your normal walk.
Day 2: Pick up some dumbbells. Strength training is essential for maintaining muscle and bone—both of which you lose as you get older if you don’t exercise. It also helps to keep your blood sugar in check, reducing your risk for diabetes. And strong muscles keep you more active and protect your joints. Here are five moves to get you started.
Day 3: Move on the hour. Set a timer to go off every hour today. If you’re not doing something active when it goes off, get up and move for at least two minutes. Walk around. Climb some stairs. Do some squats. Step side to side. Stretch. Anything that gets your blood flowing. Every minute counts.
Day 4: Hop to it. Simply jumping 10 times with 30 seconds of rest between each jump twice a day was enough to significantly increase bone mineral density at the hip of women ages 25 to 50 after four months of training. Those who jumped 20 times twice a day showed even greater gains.
Day 5: Challenge your core. Three times today assume a plank position (balancing on your forearms and balls of your feet with your body in line from head to heels) and hold for 30 to 60 seconds. All movements you make originate from your core, which is made up of your abdominal, back, hip, and buttocks muscles. Training these muscles can improve your posture, make everyday tasks easier, elevate your sport performance, and reduce risk of injuries.
Day 6: Run errands on foot. The less sitting you do, the healthier you’ll be. If you can’t walk or bike to do errands today, park once and walk to do as many errands as possible. Or anytime you’re out, park as far from entrances as you can to get more steps in.
Day 7: Sign up for an event. A 5K, 10K, or half marathon. A charity walk, run, or bike event. A triathlon. An obstacle course race. Or even a virtual challenge. Committing to an event that you have to train for can keep you motivated to work out regularly.
Day 1: Keep a food diary. Write down what you eat and drink and when you consume it. You can estimate your serving sizes or measure them out. The first step to improving your diet is being aware of what your current eating habits are. Research also shows that the more people tracked what they ate, the more weight they lost. At the end of the day, review your record to see where you can improve. Too much sugar? Not enough veggies and fruit? You’ll be addressing some of these issues during the week.
Day 2: Add some veggies or fruit to each meal. Banana with breakfast. Salad with lunch. Broccoli with dinner. Veggies and fruit are loaded with nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other disease-fighting phytochemicals. Eating more vegetables and fruit has been found to lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. They also help with weight loss since veggies and fruit tend to be low in calories and full of fiber so you feel full faster.
Day 3: Make one beverage substitution. The next time your reach for a soda, mocha latte, energy drink, or other caloric beverage, grab a glass of calorie-free water, sparkling water, or seltzer instead. Your body doesn’t register liquid calories like it does from solid food so it’s easy to consume too many calories, which may be one of the reasons sugary drinks are linked to weight gain. Drinking sugary beverages also appears to increase risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Day 4: Eat some fish, even if it’s just some canned tuna. Fish is a great source of high-quality protein, which can help protect against muscle loss as you age. Many varieties like salmon are also loaded with omega 3s, a healthy fat. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week to reap its heart-healthy benefits. Fish may also help fight off depression, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.
Day 5: Sneak some spinach or kale into your smoothie. It will give you a vitamin boost without changing the flavor—as long as you don’t overdo it. Don’t drink smoothies? Whip up a simple one made with your favorite fruits and milk or yogurt. It’s a great way to get more fruit and veggies in your diet.
Day 6: Snack on nuts or seeds. Replace highly processed snacks like chips and cookies with almonds, cashews, walnuts, or pumpkin or sunflower seeds. They’re packed with vitamins, healthy fats, and fiber, which help to fill you up faster so you eat less. Since they contain a good amount of calories, portion out a handful-size serving so you don’t overdo it. And for more flavor and crispiness, toast nuts or seeds in the oven at 350 degrees for five to 10 minutes. Check on them a few times and move them around so they don’t burn.
Day 7: Redesign your plate. For lunch and dinner today, fill half of your plate with veggies and fruit, a quarter with healthy protein such as fish, poultry, lean meat, beans, or nuts, and the final quarter with whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta. Portioning your plate in this way will maximize vitamins, minerals, and fiber, while minimizing saturated fat, sugar, and empty calories.
Day 1: Take some deep breaths. It’s one of the simplest ways to beat stress, which can wreak havoc on your health. Stop at least three times today and sit quietly, breathing deeply. Inhale through your nose and then slowly exhale through your nose. Each time, try to make your exhalation a little longer than your inhalation. You can count if that helps, for example 1, 2, 3 as you inhale and then 1, 2, 3, 4 as you exhale. See if you can exhale for twice as long as you inhale. Take 10 deep breaths and then continue on with your day, noticing how you feel.
Day 2: Check in with your doctor. You want to make sure that you’re up-to-date on all vaccinations, which can help prevent some serious problems, especially as you get older. Along with vaccinations, make sure that you have completed all recommended screenings for your age, such as a mammogram, colonoscopy, and skin cancer check. Early detection is the next best thing to preventing health problems.
Day 3: Go to bed a half hour earlier. A lack of sleep may increase your risk for a number of health problems, including heart attacks, stroke, depression, diabetes, and obesity. In one study, people who slept about seven and a half hours a night had the fewest sick days per year—half as many as those sleeping five hours or less—seven days compared to 14 days. Not getting enough sleep can also affect your performance the next day.
Day 4: Do posture checks. Standing or sitting tall takes pressure off of your muscles and joints, relieving tension and reducing your risk of aches and pains. Today, set a time to go off every hour and do a posture check. If you’re slumping over your desk, roll your shoulders up, back, and down. If you’re standing, make sure you’re not overarching your back or tucking your pelvis and slumping down into your hips. Imagine a cord attached to the top of your head is lifting you up and elongating your spine. Being aware of poor posture is the first step to improving it. And studies show that when people go from slouched or slumped postures to proper upright postures their mood and energy level improves.
Day 5: Make a date with a friend or loved one. Even if you can’t meet in person, connect via Zoom or FaceTime. Maintaining quality social relationships—both with family and friends—can be just as good for your health as not smoking. Research even shows that people who have close friends and family live longer than those who don’t.
Day 6: Pop a vitamin D3 supplement. While the jury is still out on the value and effectiveness of many vitamin and mineral supplements, research supports the use of this one. Vitamin D is important for keeping bones and muscles strong, and recent research shows it may also protect against depression, cancer, and heart disease. The recommended intake for most adults is 600 IU. Despite getting vitamin D from the sun and some foods, few people get enough unless they take supplements. The D3 form is recommended because it raises blood levels better than other forms.
Day 7: Practice gratitude. It’s too easy to get caught up in the negative stuff, which brings you down. Instead make a conscious effort to think about, or even better write down, what you are thankful for. Before you go to bed tonight, think back over your day and write down three things that went well. Getting to work or an appointment on time. Scoring a great deal while shopping. Praise from your boss on a project. Successfully navigated a difficult conversation. People who are grateful for what they have tend to be healthier both physically and mentally.
Day 1: Clear clutter. You’ll be less distracted when you have a clean, organized workspace. If you’re not actively working on something, it should be filed out of sight. Piles of paper, receipts, and folders can waste time when you need to find things, increase stress and anxiety, and even encourage procrastination. Find a place for everything, and then, always return items to their rightful place when you’re done with them. This goes for your desktop too. Don’t leave lots of files and web pages open. It can make you feel overwhelmed.
Day 2: Turn off your email notification. Taking control of your email can increase your productivity and reduce stress. It may also help you to stay better focused on more important tasks when you’re not constantly being interrupted. Instead, set a schedule for checking your email that works best for your situation. For some that might be hourly, or for others they may be able to check only three or four times a day.
Day 3: Surround yourself with plants. Research shows that people who had plants around when they were working were up to 15 percent more productive than workers in offices without plants. In other studies, plants have been found to reduce stress, improve attention, and boost mood, which may help you perform better on the job.
Day 4: Stop multi-tasking. In theory, it seems reasonable to think that you’ll save time and be more productive if you can do two (or more) things at the same time. But in real life, tasks end up taking longer when you’re less focused and switching between them, according to research. Instead, focus on one task, complete it, and then move onto the next. You’ll save time and probably do a better job on all tasks.
Day 5: Take a walk. Exercise anytime of the day can help you to be more productive. But getting up from your desk and taking just a 15-minute walk during the workday has also been shown to be very effective at boosting performance. Stanford researcher found that when people walked, they came up with more creative solutions than when they were sitting. And the effect lasted even after they sat back down.
Day 6: Set a timer to stay on track. It’s all too familiar. You need a stat for a report or you’re looking for a recipe, and then it happens. You see an interesting article or get a Facebook notification that you just can’t resist. Fast forward 20, 30 minutes and you still haven’t found what you were originally looking for. If you’re going to allow yourself to stray from the task at hand, set a timer for 10 to 15 minutes. When it goes off, get back to the task you need to complete.
Day 7: Work in intervals. Your brain can only stay focused on the same task for so long before you become less effective. For some that might be 30 to 60 minutes while others may be able to go longer. When you notice your performance lagging or you’re having a harder time paying attention, take a break. Get some fresh air. Close your eyes and meditate. Stretch. Watch silly cat videos. Just five minutes can be enough to refresh so you can return to work with more focus and determination. Downtime outside of work can also increase productivity so limit how much work you take home with you, too.