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New Year, New You

8 Small Steps Toward a Healthy Lifestyle

Think little alterations to your lifestyle won’t get you anywhere? Think again.

By Marty Munson
Woman climbing stairs in officeZero Creatives/Getty Images


If You…Cut Out a Few Hours of TV Time

Next year: You may have slashed your risk of an early death. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2011 found that people who watched TV for six hours a day had shorter lives—by about 4.18 years—than people who didn’t watch TV. In fact, the researchers say that every hour of TV watched after the age of 25 reduces life expectancy by 21.8 minutes. But TV itself is not the culprit: It’s sitting for prolonged periods that can shorten your life. In a 2010 study, in the American Journal of Epidemiology, women who logged in some six hours of sitting time during their nonworking hours were 37 percent more likely to die earlier than peers who sat for just three hours over the course of a day (outside of work). Sedentary men, meanwhile, were 18 percent more likely to die earlier than their more active peers, according to the study. It’s possible, the researchers say, that sitting could suppress enzymes involved in the metabolism of fats or may somehow indirectly affect cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, and other markers of health. Going to the gym daily isn’t enough to change the stats: The key is to find ways to stand and move more during the day. Some experts recommend getting up from your chair every 30 minutes or less.

If You…Call One Old Friend a Month

Next year: That’s 12 people with whom you’ve rekindled or strengthened your friendship, and research has found that people with stronger personal bonds are 50 percent more likely to outlive their less social peers. There’s no magic amount of phone calls/e-mails/coffee dates that protects you, so if you want to check in with one friend (new or old) every week—or even every day—have at it.

If You…Go to Bed One Minute Earlier

Next year: Going to bed a minute earlier every night for just two months will earn you an extra hour of sleep pretty painlessly (a minute earlier a day for a year would gain you an extra six hours of sleep each night, which we hope is more than you actually need). There are compelling reasons to get those zzz’s (other than less money spent on coffee). Shortage of sleep is associated with a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart problems, a decreased ability to pay attention, increased chances of car accidents, and diminished memory capacity.

Read More About:Preventative Health

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