8 Small Steps Toward a Healthy Lifestyle

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

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How do you want to look and feel by this time next year? If your goal is to be thinner, happier, or healthier, you can achieve it just by making small adjustments to your lifestyle. See how, over the course of a year, tiny changes can have a surprisingly big impact.

If You…Lose One Pound a Week

Next year: A pound-a-week loss seems so minimal, and yet think about it: At that rate, you’ll be 52 pounds lighter in a year. But if you are overweight, you don’t have to drop 52 pounds to be healthier: Losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can improve your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugars, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And that can reduce your risk of big-trouble diseases, including cardiovascular disease (still the number-one killer in the United States) and diabetes (which currently affects more than 25 million Americans). These high-tech tools can help you stick with your weight-loss plan.

If You…Take a Lap Around Your Local Big-Box Store

Next year: If once a week you take a turn around the inside of a mega-store before you begin shopping, you’ll walk 12 extra miles over a year: That big U shape you trace by walking the outermost aisles of the average big-box store adds up to an extra quarter-mile of walking each time. Want to get more serious about a walking workout? Find out how to plan your ideal regimen.

If You…Take the Stairs

Next year: You will have burned double the calories you would by riding the elevator. A 160-pound woman would burn about 4,940 calories a year—1.4 pounds—if she took three minutes to briskly climb the stairs every workday (carrying 1 to 15 pounds of stuff with her). That stair habit could burn the equivalent of 11½ Hershey bars. On the flip side, standing in an elevator for three minutes barely burns 10 calories, for a total of just 2,480 calories over a year, not even enough to torch a pound (to do that, you’d have to burn or cut out 3,500 calories).

If You…Cut Out One Cookie a Day

Next year: You will have eliminated 21,170 calories. That’s enough to drop six pounds. Cut more, lose more, of course.

If You…Use Oil Instead of Butter

Next year: You may have reduced your risk of heart disease by 19 percent in a year’s time. In a review published in PLOS Medicine in March 2010, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health noted that drop in risk when they analyzed research on more than 13,000 people who swapped out saturated fat (that’s in butter, as well as red meat) for polyunsaturated fat (in soybean oil and canola oil) for at least a year. To learn more about the health benefits (or risks) of the oils you use, check this guide.