Fall into habits that improve your health
Human beings, like most living things, thrive on routines. Just ask the parents of a toddler. Covid upended many of our routines, but it also allowed us room to make new ones, whether they were rooted in a craving for connection that we took outdoors or a newfound flexibility in our work schedules.
Fall is an excellent time to revisit the ways we spend our days and build in some healthy routines. It takes around 90 days to make a habit – so follow these tips to set some goals, stick with them through the end of the year and you’ll have set yourself up for an extra-healthy 2023.
Make the most of technology. Our phones contribute to the couch potato phenomenon, but they can also work to your advantage. Use the alarm or reminder function to build healthy habits, whether it’s a nudge to get up from the desk and stretch or a notification that it’s time to turn off Netflix and get outside for an hour. Track steps with a smartphone’s health app and enter your exercise “dates” into your weekly calendar.
Practice good sleep habits. Practice turning in and waking at the same time each day – preferably on the early side. (Experts say sleep before midnight is more valuable than after.) Limit food, caffeine and alcohol in the hours before your designated bedtime. Tuck the smartphone into a drawer, or at least set it to “airplane mode” or “do not disturb.” If you wake up in the night for a bathroom run, keep the lights dim, return straight to bed and resist picking up that phone. Before you reach for the coffee, start mornings with a tall glass of water.
Eat on a schedule – and focus on your food. Mindless eating is bad for your health. Grazing all day is no good for anyone; neither is denying yourself food for hours and then overloading. Plan out meals, keep nutritious snacks on hand and, when it comes time to eat, stop working, sit down at a table with a glass of water and actually pay attention to the process of eating a meal. Take time to chew food and savor the flavors.
Build movement into your routine. Some people begin the day with a vigorous workout, others plan a long walk after dinner, a lunchtime bike ride or a class or workout meetup with a friend. The key to success is making movement a habit. Put exercise on the calendar just like you would any important appointment. Buddying up goes a long way to making workouts routine. Just be sure to choose an exercise partner who will show up and hold you accountable.
Get outside every day. Sit on your steps to sip a morning tea. Instead of setting a lunch date, meet a friend for a regular walk. Work in the garden, walk to the mailbox, plan a hike or bike ride and, whenever you are outdoors, take time to take in your surroundings. Many of us got to know our neighborhoods in new ways during the pandemic. Hold onto, or reestablish, the practices you found that made your world feel a little less small – and make them a part of your weekly routine.
John Pecchia is owner of Get In Shape For Women in Porter Square.