Fitness and health hacks for busy people

Most of us lead such hectic lives that it’s really difficult to get everything done. Often the first thing we sacrifice is our health and fitness, and yet it’s the most important, and impacts everything else we do. We’ve pulled together the best hacks to help you fit healthy living around your crazy busy routine. No big time-consuming changes, just little adjustments to your day that will make a huge difference.

Feet first

This may sound like a strange piece of health advice, but let’s start from the bottom up, literally: if you want to avoid illness in the future, make sure you wear shoes that don’t pinch your feet. Wearing painful shoes can cause chronic inflammation which can damage DNA and the body’s natural repair process. Plus, certain kinds of inflammation have been linked to heart disease and cancer, according to Professor David Argus, of University of Southern Carolina. So ditch the high heels or too-tight loafers and wear some comfy shoes.

Beware of the chair

Apparently, sitting is the new smoking. Avoid being completely sedentary at work by setting a notification or alarm for every hour or half hour to remind you to get up and move about just for a minute, whether it’s just standing up and having a stretch or walking to the water cooler. Or if you’re feeling ambitious, squeeze in some quick exercises.

In a study by New Balance and Organisations in Motion, employees were encouraged to incorporate some kind of physical activity into their work routines. 53% increased their level of physical activity at work and 42% reported better engagement and concentration, so the benefits are more than just physical.

We recommend trying the following exercises:

  • Stair sprints – Take a walk up and down the stairs, if you’re feeling really energetic, challenge yourself to some 2 minute reps.
  • Planks – If you’ve got a meeting room or a quiet area, have a go at doing some planks for 30 seconds or a minute by lying down and then propping yourself up on your arms and feet, keeping your core stomach muscles engaged and your body parallel to the floor.
  • Chair dips – Sit on the edge of the chair with your hands firmly on the sides of the seat. Then ease yourself off the seat and slowly lower your body up and down by bending your arms, but don’t bend your elbows to less than 90 degrees.
  • Wall sits – Find a wall and lean your back against it for support. Then bend your knees to a 90 degree angle and maintain this sitting position for a quick work out of your thighs and core.
  • Leg lifts – If you don’t even have time to get up properly, you can just engage in some movement under the desk. Lift one leg at a time so that it comes level with your hips and hold it for 30 seconds. Then repeat as many times as you can bear.

Swap working lunch for a workout lunch

It can be hard to will yourself out of bed an hour earlier in the morning to exercise, and afternoon workouts are often put on hold following a tiring day of work. The solution? Sneak in some exercise during your lunch break by taking a trip to the gym or pounding the pavement. A study by Bristol University that encouraged employees to exercise on their lunch break found that 72% reported improvements in time management. So what are you waiting for?

Don’t worry if you only have 30 minutes to spare, researchers from the University of Copenhagen found that 30 minutes of intense exercise burned more fat than moderate exercise over an hour. So make every second count with a work out like high intensity interval training, AKA HIIT workouts. One popular HIIT exercise at the moment is Tabata, which is a short round of ultra-high-intensity exercises at 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off intervals.

Online personal trainers: lounging to lunging

Don’t have time to go to the gym or get to your yoga class? Use online tutorials and YouTube videos to get yourself a free personal trainer who is ready whenever you are. We recommend the following:

Yoga: Yoga with Adriene  – flow through work outs to strengthen and tone your body, or just find your inner peace, guided by Adriene’s soothing and encouraging voice.

Quick workouts: Adam Rosante  Fitness coach and author of The 30 Second Body has a channel full of great exercises and his charisma will help to motivate you through the sessions.

Strength exercises: You’ll need some of your own equipment for this one, but if you want to get as swole as Schwarzenegger, check out these YouTube videos.

Don’t drink your calories

Sometimes our efforts for healthy eating can be sabotaged by what we drink, so don’t waste calories on your fluids. Research from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that total calories per day from sweetened drinks has gone up in the last 20 years by 29% to over 200 calories per day. Look out for the following sugar-sweetened drinks that can add to your calorie intake:

  • “Low-calorie” drinks
  • Sweetened teas
  • Fruit drinks and juices
  • Sweet coffee-bar drinks (such as Frappuccinos and hot chocolate)
  • Rice and soy milks
  • Sports drinks

It goes without saying that you should try to avoid soft drinks. But you should also beware of sneaky smoothies that claim to be healthy but are packed full of calories and sugar (albeit natural sugars). Look for unsweetened fruit juices instead, or flavour your water with some fresh fruit.

Last, but not least, don’t forget alcohol. According to Drink Aware, a 250ml glass of wine contains 228 calories and a pint of 5% beer contains 215 calories, about the same as a 44g bar of chocolate.

Keep drinking water

The human brain is made up of 73% water, so you need to keep hydrated while you’re on the go. As soon as you wake up, you should drink a large glass of water. Not only will it help your immune system rid your body of toxins from the day before, but it can also kick-start your metabolism.

It can be hard to keep hydrated during the day, so ensure you always have a bottle of water on your desk at work. If you use a large bottle you can monitor how much you’re drinking; the NHS recommends you drink around two litres a day. But remember, if you’re doing more exercise, you’ll get dehydrated, so make sure you take on board extra fluids.

Be mindful of how you eat

This means not mindlessly eating food in front of the television or at your desk. Even if you’re busy, be mindful of what you eat, as it’s been proven to help people lose weight as you concentrate on what you are consuming and enjoy your meal rather than mindlessly putting food in your mouth.

“Mindful eating not only allows you to enjoy your food and all the flavours, but also helps you digest food properly and tune into your hunger signals,” dietitian Alexandra Parker told the Huffington Post. By giving our bodies the time to register fullness and respond accordingly, it can help prevent overeating and support weight management.”

Equally, you should be mindful of what you eat. Controlling portion size is a great way to eat healthily and reduce your calorie intake. For an easy way to achieve this, try switching to a smaller plate at meal times, you could eat 22% less.

“When the brain sees a large plate with white space surrounding the food, it unconsciously assumes the plate contains less food than a smaller-sized dish with no white space, when in fact, both plates contain the same amount,” says Greatist. Your eyes can have as much of an effect on your calorie intake as your stomach!

These exercises and practices prove that you don’t need hours of spare time to make a change to your health: little and often can be just as effective as intense workouts or strict diets. Give them a go!


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