5 Super Small Changes to Make for Better Health

All of these can be achieved in 30 minutes or less.

1

Move around an extra two minutes an hour.

woman-walking-beach-boardwalk
Photo by Quim Roser/Getty Images

You’ve heard the reports: Sitting all day is terrible for you. It’s been linked to increased heart disease, colon cancer, and mortality risk, among other scary health effects—it’s even been called the new smoking. But maybe you don’t need to dramatically overhaul your day, or convert to a standing desk to fix the problem. Recent research from the University of Utah Health Sciences suggests that adding just two minutes of walking (or other “light intensity” activities, like gardening or cleaning) every hour might be enough to counteract the negative effects of sitting all day. In fact, trading off these activities in place of “low intensity” activities (read: sitting and even standing) for two minutes or more each hour was linked with a 33 percent lower risk of dying amongst the study participants. Walking meeting, anyone?

2

Replace one sugary drink a day. 

Sugary drinks can contribute to obesity (and they’re the top calorie source for teens, according to Harvard School of Public Health). The ideal solution would be to cut them out entirely, but if that’s too daunting to start, try reducing your intake by one. You’ll see results: Recent research published in the journal Diabetologia suggests that swapping out just one serving of sugary drink per day with water, unsweetened tea or coffee can slash the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by between 14 and 25 percent.

3

Look out the window for 40 seconds.

Losing focus at work? You don’t have to overhaul your workspace or take a long break to renew it. Research published in the June issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology showed that study participants made fewer errors and had higher concentration levels on a task after they spent just 40 seconds staring at a green roof space.



4

Walk 20 minutes a day. 

Sure, ideally you’d incorporate regular, vigorous exercise (plus strengthening) into your routine for maximum health benefits. But while you’re working toward that, start by taking a walk every day. Research released earlier this year from University of Cambridge researchers showed that a daily, brisk 20-minute walk might be enough to stave off the risk of early death. “This is a simple message: just a small amount of physical activity each day could have substantial health benefits for people who are physically inactive,” lead author Ulf Ekelund, from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge, said in a statement.

5

Take a 30-minute nap.

Sleep is indisputably the third pillar of health, along with diet and exercise. And too little shuteye has been linked to serious conditions like obesity, diabetes, and depression. But sometimes it’s just impossible to clock the recommended seven or eight hours. The good news? A short nap can help. Recent research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism showed that two 30-minute naps helped to reverse the adverse hormonal effects of a night of only two hours of sleep in men. Added bonus: Short naps can also boost performance and alertness. We’ll see you in 30.