How many times have you made getting and staying fit your New Year’s resolution, only to give up a month later? Don’t worry, there’s no shame in it! We’ve all done it, and most of us have done it more than once.
Reaching optimal health is tough, and even tougher if you don’t have a blueprint to follow to reach your goals. Because the truth is, the odds are stacked against you.
It’s never been easier to be unhealthy. Thanks to smartphones, everything is at our fingertips, with all the junk food we could ever want just an Uber Eats order away. We don’t even have to get off the couch to order fast food or buy a box of cookies.
Because of this, developing a healthy lifestyle takes dedication and self-control, but it’s far from impossible. And we’re here to help you do it. With this guide, you’ll have all the information you need to start working toward optimal health today.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know!
Find Your Why
There are no hidden secrets to being healthy. But just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. Successful behavior change is exceedingly difficult, which is why it’s so important to have a personal reason for doing so.
Behavior change isn’t a one-step process. There are three stages that you have to go through before you’re even ready to start, and two more once you’ve made a commitment to change.
The first step is to decide that you want to get healthy. Once you’ve acknowledged there’s a problem that needs to be solved, you have to find your “why”.
There’s no wrong answer here. Whatever motivates you is the right choice. Do you want to be able to keep up with your children? Live a longer, healthier life? Feel better in your day-to-day life? Lower your risk of disease?
Some people will tell you that choosing a “superficial” motivator is a mistake, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. If looking fantastic in a bathing suit gets you excited to exercise and eat right, that’s the motivator for you!
Write Down Your Goals
We talked about the first two steps in the behavior change process, now let’s go over the third: preparation. This step is all about goal setting. Now, you might be thinking, I already have a goal! It’s to get healthy.
Well, this is a great jumping-off point, but far too vague to inspire real change. Your goal should include your end result, as well as a detailed plan of action. It needs to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-sensitive.
So while your overarching goal can be to get healthy, you need to then break it down a little further. For example, your goal could be to lose 20 pounds in 6 months by exercising 4 times a week and eating the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
As you can see, it hits all the criteria for a strong goal, increasing the likelihood that it will be achieved.
Address Your Diet
The two pillars of health are diet and exercise, but you’ll find the exercise portion much more difficult if your diet is poor. Always remember, you can’t outwork a bad diet. Even if you’ve perfected your exercise regimen, you won’t reach your health goals without addressing your diet.
A quick internet search on diet tips will reveal an endless amount of information, much of it conflicting. So how do you know which diet is best for you? The reality is, the best diet is no diet at all.
Consider this: the fitness industry is worth almost $100 billion. Getting and staying fit needs to seem as complicated as possible so that you continue to invest in products you don’t really need.
This isn’t to say that all diet and fitness products are a scam. Unfortunately, however, a lot of them are. Rather than forcing yourself into a fad diet or cutting your calories dangerously low, prioritize health. It’s that simple.
Make healthy choices more often than not and you’ll see amazing results. Have a choice between an apple and a candy bar as your afternoon snack? You know what to do.
That said, don’t restrict yourself to the point that you never allow yourself to enjoy a treat. This is setting yourself up for failure. Practice an 80/20 approach, where 80% of your food choices are healthy, 20% are whatever you want.
Make Time for Exercise
We’ll dive deeper into the specifics of your exercise routine soon, but designing a routine will be meaningless if you don’t make time for it. Improving your health and wellness means setting time aside in your daily life for healthy activities.
There’s debate over the best time of day to exercise, but you don’t need to worry too much about that anyway. Wherever you can fit exercise into your schedule is when you should do it.
Set appointments with yourself for exercise, starting with three or four days a week. As your fitness level improves, you can add more if you feel so inclined.
Treat these appointments with yourself just as you would an appointment with another person. Unless you absolutely have to skip for the day, don’t allow yourself to back out of your commitment to fitness.
Build an Exercise Routine
The CDC and other health organizations recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week for optimal health. This might sound like a lot, but when you break it down, it’s only 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
Keep in mind that this a minimum. More activity is almost always better (within reason).
There are two types of exercise that you should include in your routine: cardio and strength training. Aim for doing strength training exercises at least twice a week, including workouts for all your major muscle groups.
If this seems difficult, don’t worry, with just five exercises, you can hit all the major muscle groups and get a great workout. These are known as the big five lifts and include squats, deadlifts, bench press, row, and overhead press.
You can include other lifts, but for the most efficient, effective workout, these should make up 90% of your strength program. If you pick up weightlifting, start with low weight and build up over time. Pushing yourself too far can result in injury, which will only make your goal of health and fitness harder to achieve.
Those interested in building muscle will need to put extra emphasis on their strength training regimen and the makeup of their diet. You’ll need to increase your protein intake to about 1 gram per pound of body weight per day. You might also be interested in looking into sarms for sale to boost your results.
Choose Activities You Enjoy
We get it. Going to the gym and throwing weights around isn’t for everyone. Here’s the thing, if you dread going to the gym, don’t do it!
It’s much better to choose activities that you enjoy than to try to force yourself into an exercise regimen that you hate. You’ll find yourself looking forward to your daily workout, making it less likely that you’ll quit after a week or two.
Any type of physical activity is a good choice and can count toward your daily goal. Maybe you love to swim, or walk your dog around the neighborhood, or even tend to the garden in your backyard.
Physical activity should be fun, not another chore added to your to-do list. If you’re not sure what you enjoy, take some time to test a few things out. There are thousands of different workout videos and tutorials online, not to mention the various classes offered at local fitness centers.
Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
As we mentioned above, the two pillars of health are diet and exercise. However, the platform on which these two pillars stand is sleep. Because without proper sleep hygiene, all other health goals will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.
Adults between the ages of 18 and 65 are recommended to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. This doesn’t mean lying in bed for eight hours but only sleeping for five. It means high-quality, restful sleep the recommended amount of time.
The first thing to note is that, to get the best sleep possible, you need to have the same bedtime and wake-up time every day, even on the weekends. So if you have to wake up at 7 a.m. for work Monday through Friday, do what you can to wake up at 7 on Saturday and Sunday as well.
If you find yourself waking up tired more often than not, your sleep routine needs improvement. The most effective way to do this is to reverse engineer your schedule.
Let’s stick with the 7 a.m. example and say that you want to get 7 hours of sleep. This means you need to be asleep, not getting into bed, at midnight every night at the very latest.
To help ensure this happens, start winding down an hour or two before this. At 10 p.m., put your phone away and pick up a book, settle into a hot bath, or make a gratitude list for the day. The goal is to create a bedtime routine that leaves you feeling sleepy and ready for bed when the time comes.
Surround Yourself With People With Similar Goals
We all have the power to make our own choices, but making healthy choices is much easier if those around you are making them as well.
Surrounding yourself with people who never exercise and have terrible diets will increase the chances that you fall into these patterns of behavior as well. Similarly, spending time with people who prioritize health and fitness will help you to do the same.
That doesn’t mean you can never see friends and family members who make poor lifestyle choices. However, it does mean that should try to make new friends who enjoy healthy cooking, regular exercise, hobbies that involve physical activity, etc.
This is where the convenience provided by smartphones and the internet becomes a positive. There are hundreds of online communities full of people with similar goals and interests waiting for you to find them.
If you like hiking, for example, join a hiking community! You can meet up with fellow outdoor enthusiasts for a monthly hike, or simply take advantage of the positivity and motivation that online conversations provide.
While it’s great to use friends and role models as inspiration, comparing yourself to other people can quickly become unhealthy and unhelpful. This is your body, your life, and your fitness journey, no one else’s.
The only person you should compare yourself to is you. Strive to be a better, healthier version of yourself than you were yesterday and you’ll stay in a positive mindset and continue to improve.
It can be helpful to keep a log of your progress. In low moments or when you catch yourself comparing your body to a fitness model’s online, you can look at how far you’ve come in your own words.
Make Staying Fit Simple With This Guide
When you’re first starting out on your journey towards becoming physically fit, the road ahead can feel overwhelming. Keep in mind, however, that it isn’t nearly as complicated as it’s made out to be.
The key is to make small improvements over time. Building a healthy lifestyle is a marathon, not a sprint. It can be tempting to try to change your entire life overnight, but taking baby steps is a far more effective approach.
Looking for more tips for maintaining your health and fitness at all stages of life? Be sure to check out our blog!