6 Small Lifestyle Swaps for a Healthier You by This Time Next Year

Think simple swaps to your lifestyle won’t get you anywhere? Think again.

If your goal is to be happier and healthier, you can achieve it gradually (and surprisingly easily) by making small, sustainable adjustments to your lifestyle. Over the course of a year, tiny changes, like taking the stairs, or choosing olive oil over butter; can have a significant impact inside and out, without feeling overwhelming. Make minor tweaks like these to your daily routine and reap healthy rewards before you know it.

01 of 06

Choose the stairs.

Taking the stairs for a whole year sounds like an impossible lifestyle swap, but hear us out. By next year, your body will have worked nearly twice as hard (in a good way) by choosing stairs over the elevator. Beyond getting your heart rate up, blood flowing, and metabolism kicked into gear; you'll help combat a tendency toward sedentary behavior, or too much sitting still.

Research published in 2019 confirmed a higher mortality risk among adults who engaged in minimal-to-no physical activity. Little changes, like taking the stairs between floors or walking home from the grocery store instead of driving, are easy ways to add some low-impact exercise into your daily routine.

RELATED: This Quick Full-Body Stretching Routine Will Help Loosen Stiff Muscles

02 of 06

Rethink your snack choices.

Snacks aren't all bad, but those cookies in the break room or chips in the cupboard probably are. What your body really needs is sustenance from whole, balanced snacks.

Between-meal energy dips and cravings are a signal to reach for protein-packed, nutrient-rich munchies. Try a handful of almonds, yogurt and berries, a banana and peanut butter, or a plate of crunchy veggies and hummus. Trade your midday candy bar or bag of chips for a snack that's actually nutritious.

03 of 06

Call one old friend a month.

By this time next year, you'll have rekindled or strengthened a friendship with 12 people. An Australian study published in 2005 found that people with stronger personal bonds are more likely to outlive those who are less social.

Of course, there's no magic number of phone calls, emails, or coffee dates that can protect you; so to stack the deck, check in with one friend (new or old) every week—or even every day.

RELATED: How to Make Friends in Your 20s and 30s

04 of 06

Go to bed one minute earlier every night.

Yes, one minute will do it. Going to bed a minute earlier every night for just two months racks up an extra hour of sleep rather painlessly.

There are several compelling reasons to get sufficient sleep (other than spending less on coffee): Sleep deprivation is associated with a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and heart problems, as well as a decreased ability to pay attention, increased likelihood of car accidents, and diminished memory capacity.

RELATED: How Well You Sleep Matters More Than How Much You Sleep—Here's How to Boost Your Sleep Quality

05 of 06

Choose oil over butter.

Choosing oils over butter may reduce your risk of heart disease by 19 percent in a year's time. A 2010 review published in PLOS Medicine noted this drop in heart disease risk while analyzing research on more than 13,000 participants who swapped saturated fat (as in butter as well as red meat) for polyunsaturated fat (as in soybean and canola oils) for at least a year.

RELATED: The Top 7 Healthiest Cooking Oils—and Which Ones to Avoid

06 of 06

Stand up and move every 20 minutes.

Sadly, it's true: Sitting for prolonged periods can shorten your life. A 2010 study revealed that women who logged six hours of sitting time during nonworking hours were 37 percent more likely to die earlier than peers who sat for just three hours 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. Researchers posited that sitting can suppress enzymes involved in fat metabolism; or may indirectly (and adversely) affect cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, and other health markers.

Going to the gym 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 at least every 30 minutes.

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  1. Stamatakis E, Gale J, Bauman A, et al. Sitting time, physical activity, and risk of mortality in adults. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2019;73(16):2062-2072. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2019.02.031

  2. Giles LC, Glonek GF, Luszcz MA, et al. Effect of social networks on 10 year survival in very old Australians: the Australian longitudinal study of aging. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2005;59(7):574-579. doi:10.1136/jech.2004.025429

  3. Sadeghmousavi S, Eskian M, Rahmani F, et al. The effect of insomnia on development of Alzheimer's disease. J Neuroinflammation. 2020;17(1):289. doi:10.1186/s12974-020-01960-9

  4. Medic G, Wille M, Hemels ME. Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption. Nat Sci Sleep. 2017;9:151-161. doi:10.2147/NSS.S134864

  5. Mozaffarian D, Micha R, Wallace S. Effects on coronary heart disease of increasing polyunsaturated fat in place of saturated fat: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. PLoS Med. 2010;7(3):e1000252. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000252

  6. Patel AV, Bernstein L, Deka A, et al. Leisure time spent sitting in relation to total mortality in a prospective cohort of US adults. Am J Epidemiol. 2010;172(4):419-429. doi:10.1093/aje/kwq155

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