Sometimes healthy living feels like all or nothing. Should you go to the gym for 3 hours, or just skip it for the day and catch up on your Netflix queue? Should you make a 12-ingredient salad from Pinterest, or just grab takeout on the way home from work? Should you splurge for an expensive (and very intense) spin class, or save the cash and sleep in?
Fortunately, prioritizing your health doesn’t require big tradeoffs—it just means making tiny baby steps every day that make life more nutritious, more active, and more fun. Here are five of our favorite research-backed daily adjustments that lead to big benefits down the road.
1. Keep Your Countertop Nutritious
Would you believe that the food on your countertop can give scientists a sense of how healthy you are? A 2015 study by researchers at Cornell looked at photographs of over 200 women’s countertops to see how a person’s food environment affects their weight. The result? The women with ready-to-eat nutritious foods were found to have a healthier weight by more than 20 pounds.
One takeaway: what you see, and what’s readily available to you, has a big impact on what you eat. Try tucking away sweets and processed foods, and give healthier options like fresh-cut veggies center stage in your kitchen. You might find yourself reaching for them more than you think.
2. Taste Veggies More Often
Speaking of veggies—do you hate brussels sprouts, or never crave broccoli? That might change. In 2003, London’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health asked parents to give their child one of his or her least favorite vegetables for 14 days straight. Afterwards, researchers found that the children reported liking the vegetable significantly more than at the beginning of the study.
Meaning: you might be a brussels sprouts person after all! And, like fine wine or black coffee, they might be an acquired taste for you—so go on and put ‘em on your salad. Maybe you’ll discover a new favorite.
3. Go to Bed 30 Minutes Early
Sleep! We all know it’s important, but carving out the time for it never seems as important as the other 900 things on our to-do lists.
Want an excuse to tuck in early tonight? According to a study by sleep specialists at the Henry Ford Institute, baseball players who got 30 minutes more shuteye per night had dramatically better response times while playing the game. What’s more, a 2015 study at Weill Cornell Medical College found that losing just 30 minutes of sleep on weeknights has been shown to cause long term weight gain in adults.
There you have it. You + your bed = your best self in the short term, and a healthier weight in the long term.
4. Meditate for 10 Minutes
Okay, okay, everyone says meditation is awesome—but who has time to meditate, anyway? According to Dr. James E. Stahl and his team of Harvard researchers, just 10 minutes a day can bring about enough relaxation to usher in a whole host of health benefits (in his study, he found that those who meditated spent thousands less on medical costs per year).
In short, just 10 minutes a day really adds up.
5. Remember the Importance of Walking
Next time you’re considering skipping a workout, remember two magic words: walking counts! The American Heart Association and American College of Sports Medicine standards recommend 30 minutes of brisk walking 5 days a week, or 20 minutes of intense exercise 3 days a week. If walking fits your life better, go for it! Better yet, walk outdoors and enjoy some gorgeous scenery, or use an app like Aaptiv for a guided walk complete with tunes.
6. Always Choose Something Over Nothing
The bottom line: baby steps are 100% better than doing nothing at all. You’ve got this!
At Hungryroot and Aaptiv, we’re here to help you make every day healthier. For nutritious snacks, pre-prepped veggies, and much more, subscribe to Hungryroot here. For guided meditation, quick workouts, yoga, interval training, and everything in between, get 40% off a 1-year Aaptiv membership here.