Have you ever discovered a life hack just when you needed to hear it? The timing and the solution perfect, and the next step so obvious that you acted immediately and have stuck with it ever since?
When it comes to health, sweeping life changes are especially difficult to implement and even harder to sustain. But in my experience, it’s the smallchanges you adopt, maintain, and love that add up to a meaningful long-term difference.
I’ve been collecting a list of these kinds of fitness, diet, happiness, and sleep hacks for years. Here, for the first time, are my 43 favorite health hacks.
There’s no doubt one of the best things you can do for your overall health is tomake fitness a regular part of your life. In fact, studies have shown that even moderate levels of exercise can increase energy and reduce fatigue, improve your focus and decision-making, and increase your creative potential.
Here’s how to keep yourself motivated and make workouts work for you:
- Go to the gym at off-peak times. Try to avoid hitting the gym at its busiest times when everyone else is using your favorite machines and weights. Exercising during off-peak hours means less waiting, less traffic, and a more efficient workout. (Bonus points if you go midday to boost your productivityat work!)
- Use your own weight for resistance instead. No gym? No problem. Bodyweight exercises involve using your own mass as resistance in a workout. They’re convenient because they require no equipment and can be done almost anywhere. They’re also terrific at building your body’s foundation and can be easily tailored to your personal needs based on the exercise and number of repetitions. Bodyweight exercises are among my favorite, most underrated ways to get a workout in.
- Find solutions to work out while traveling. “I’m too busy traveling” and “I can’t find a gym on the road” are other common cop-outs for skipping a workout. Apps like Gymsurfing (only available in San Francisco for now) point you to the nearest professional gym, and sites like GoRecess share the best nearby fitness classes. Don’t want to leave the hotel? Popular apps like Nike Training Club, FitStar, and Daily Burn will coach you through a workout. GAIN Fitness, Power 20, and Sworkit will generate quick and easy bodyweight routines you can do right where you are—no gym required.
- Try Tabata. Izumi Tabata (my second-favorite inventor of a popular workout after Royal H. Burpee) created the Tabata Protocol, which calls for intense bursts of activity followed by short rests (and then more brief, intense activity). In some cases, its results may equal other training programs of much longer duration. It’s one of my favorite ways to cut down on time and boost efficiency.
- Take a group class. Don’t like going it alone? We can all use some support when trying to start (and stick with) a new training regimen. Exercising as part of a group brings you together with others who are facing the same challenges and can understand your struggles. Try taking a yoga, spinning, or Japanese samurai sword-fighting class. Having a set time to exercise will help keep you on track, and the class and instructor will provide a built-in support system.
- Listen to music. Believe it or not, music isn’t only a cure for boredom; it’s also a way to improve performance, increase motivation, and reduce distraction. The most important aspects of a workout playlist are the tempo and “rhythm response,” or how much a song makes you want to move. Runners tend to prefer music that’s about 160 beats per minute, but the motivational effects seem to level out at 145 beats per minute. To start off, here are the top 10 workout songs (according to Spotify, at least).
- Walk and stand more at work. Research continues to show that prolonged periods of sitting increase obesity, poor posture, and chronic pain. A standing desk at work can help reduce the amount of time you spend seated. If you have weekly meetings, try to conduct them while walking to improve blood pressure and stress (among other awesomeness).
- Get a workout buddy. Just like going to a class, having a friend or co-worker who’s doing the same fitness program can add accountability, encouragement, and fun. One investigation indicated that training with someone who’s more fit than you pays even bigger dividends. Another studyfound that even a virtual training partner can be beneficial for participants.
- Hire a trainer. Do you have a hard time pushing yourself in the gym? Research shows working out with a trainer can help increase your motivation and intensity during workouts. One study suggests that working with a trainer helps clients increase activity while also improving their attitude. Trainers aren’t always easy to afford, but if you’re committed to the splurge, don’t forget to make sure the trainer is worth the money.
- Put your money where your mouth is. Would you be more likely to work out if your money were on the line? That’s the promise of the Pact app, which helps keep you motivated to accomplish your fitness, health, or eating goals by putting up a small amount of cash to bet on yourself. If you don’t stick to your pact, you’ll be paying other app users who do achieve their goals. A similar community is DietBet, where you commit money and join a larger pool to stick to your weight loss goals.
- Swear a metric sh*t-ton. Strange as it may sound, researchers explored whether swearing when in pain improved pain tolerance. It actually benefited some of the subjects — largely because it induced the “fight or flight” instinct and accompanying physical reactions. Channel your anger into positive goals like reaching new personal records in the gym, but don’t assume it’s healthier to have a potty mouth. A follow-up examinationrevealed that the more you curse, the smaller the effect it has in reducing pain. So maybe not a “metric sh*t-ton,” but a “U.S.-based short sh*t-ton.”
- Visualize the exercise. Research suggests that simply imagining powering through that final set or finishing that last half-mile can help prepare the body to actually do it. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. Done properly, visualization can help you practice the execution of specific motor movements, improve performance, and even strengthen your intrinsic motivation.
- Enter a race. Signing up for a fun run is effective for establishing a fitness routine because it gives you a concrete goal to work toward and a deadline for achieving it. Check out Active to browse local races. The Color Run is one of my favorites!