After spending nearly 20 years working with a range of people to improve their health and fitness, I'm constantly asked 'what is the secret to staying fit and healthy?'
While it's easy to go for the latest pill, potion, bottle or lotion promising you can 'get fit', 'lose weight', 'maximize energy', 'improve your wellbeing', 'stay young', 'improve your sex life' - there really is no magic, there are no secrets, and there is no fountain of youth.
Sorry that's probably not what you wanted to read. But I have noticed a number of lifestyle habits that fit and healthy people do, day in and day out.
1. Eat breakfast
Breakfast is, without doubt, the most important meal of the day. And I'm not talking about sculling a cup of coffee and vacuuming up a jam donut. A healthy breakfast fuels your body and brain to perform throughout the day. And if you think you're too busy to eat breakfast, think again. Not having brekky slows down your thinking and energy levels. It only takes five to 10 minutes to eat a bowl of porridge with fresh fruit, or to prepare some wholemeal toast and a poached egg.
2. Exercise regularly
If the Prime Minister can find time to exercise most days, why can't you? Let's face it, everybody these days is super busy – between work, and life, and relationships, and kids, and social media, and … there are more and more things competing for our time.
Exercising three times a week for 60 minutes is less than 2 per cent of the total time you have available each week. How much time do you spend watching TV? Sending emails? Or sitting in traffic? Getting a blend of cardiovascular training (for the heart and lungs), strength training (for the muscles and bones) and flexibility (for the tendons and joints) will keep your body young, minimise the risk of many lifestyle diseases, boost your self-esteem and pump your body full of energy. Try to find an activity you enjoy and train with family members, colleagues or friends to add accountability.
3. Keep moving
While it is important to lock in at least three or four fitness sessions a week, it is also vital to keep your body moving; this is called incidental movement. The average worker sits down the majority of their day – catching the bus or driving to work, sitting at your desk or in meetings, travelling back home and then sitting down for dinner and crashing in front of the TV. Sound familiar? Research shows people who move regularly (meaning get up off your backside and consciously move around every 90 minutes) burn up to 350 extra calories a day, the equivalent of a steady 60-minute walk. Take the stairs whenever possible, wash your own car rather than going to a car wash, mow your own lawn. Move.
4. Show gratitude
A healthy mind focuses more on what you have and less on what you don't have. When you become stressed and life throws challenges at you, showing gratitude for what you have is a proven way to stay in control and manage your emotions.
Sounds simple, but how do you put this into practice? At the end of every week make a list of five to seven things in your life you are grateful for. An example might be a loving family, quality friends, a rewarding job that gives you money to travel, a healthy body, a great place to live, or children that just adore you.
5. Have fun
It is way too easy to get caught up on the treadmill of life and wake up, go to work, go home, go to bed, wake up, go to work … making time for fun is a habit that you not only need to do, but can also help you live longer.
A team of psychologists from Yale University discovered positive thinkers live 7.5 years longer than pessimists. Constant worrying puts a burden on the heart and dramatically increases the negative effects of stress.
When you have fun and engage in activities you really enjoy, the body releases endorphins that send a message of confidence and satisfaction to the brain. Watch your favourite comedy show, hang out with silly friends, play.
Sounds simple, doesn't it? You know this stuff, and yet, if you think about the last week, how many of these five healthy habits did you actually use?
With a little bit of discipline and focus, you too can be one of 'those people' who appears to have endless energy and breezes through the day. Go for it!
What are your top habits to stay healthy?