The beginning of any year is typically filled with lofty New Year’s resolutions to improve health. But rather than hitting the ground running, most people — feeling far too busy to make the big shifts in their life and health — end up giving up on their goals just weeks in.
But that — along with setting gargantuan, unrealistic goals — is a massive mistake. Having better health doesn’t always mean making sweeping changes, and it definitely doesn't have to wait until an imaginary date on the calendar (like the start of a new week or year). Plus, experts agree that taking small steps to score big goals is the best route to realizing them.
Here are five simple changes that you can make to your life right now to improve your health and mentality without even really thinking twice.
5 Spartan-Approved Steps to Better Health
1. Drink More Water
Keeping hydrated is crucial for maintaining health. All of the body’s cells and internal organs need water to function properly, and not drinking sufficient fluids can lead to health problems, beginning with the digestive system, kidneys, and skin.
Water also helps increase energy levels, lubricates the joints, and is believed to enhance performance during exercise. In a Journal of Sport and Health Science review, it was shown that dehydration reduced physical performance in activities lasting longer than 30 minutes.
So, drink some water right now, make a habit of drinking a glassful every morning before your breakfast or morning workout, and take a reusable water bottle with you wherever you go.
2. Run Up and Down the Stairs Every Day
If — due to family, life, and work obligations — going for a long run every day isn't in the cards, you can still take a minute to run up and down the stairs in your office or home no matter how busy you are. A study from the International Journal of Epidemiology showed that running for at least one minute a day is associated with 4% better bone health.
Spartan CEO Joe De Sena’s introduction to extreme racing was meeting a guy running up and down the stairwell of his office back when he was working on Wall Street. (At the time, Joe was only looking to get a little exercise under his belt, but 20 years later, he's transforming lives through extreme health and wellness. Just saying.)
3. Start Squatting
Think you don’t have time for strength training? Think again. Stand up right now and do 10 bodyweight squats.
With such a small amount of effort, you just completed one of the most effective strength training exercises in less time than it would take for you to order lunch. And incorporating squats into your daily life will not only improve the quality of your health right now, but it will improve the quality of your life, too.
That’s because squats — even without external weight — are one of the best functional strength exercises, meaning they can help you perform everyday activities such as bending, walking, climbing stairs, or carrying loads.
Squats help strengthen your core, thighs, and glutes, and increase blood flow throughout your body. Plus, as a form of strength training, squats can also help reduce your risk of chronic health conditions such as arthritis, back pain, heart disease, and obesity.
So, stop and do 10 squats whenever you can — when you need a short mental break from your work, when you’re waiting for your Spartan Tea to heat up, and when you’re getting ready for bed each night. You can even hold a squat while you’re brushing your teeth every morning.
4. Do Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is something you can practice anywhere and at any time, from sitting in front of your computer, to doing the laundry, driving your car, or even running on a trail. That — along with the fact that deep breathing exercises have been shown to help lower stress, induce relaxation, stabilize blood sugar, and promote better sleep — makes it a no-brainer to incorporate this a health hack into your daily training regimen.
A study from Northwestern University also shows that deep breathing can help improve cognitive functions, including memory, because the rhythm of slow and specific breathes helps kick-start the part of your brain where memories are held.
5. Stand Up
Being a Spartan is all about getting off of the couch and doing hard things, so standing as much as possible while others sit is just what we Spartans do.
Several studies and research papers have proven why standing — even if you aren't moving — can have health benefits. For starters, we use more muscles in our legs and butt when we stand, including the postural muscles, which can guard against back and neck pain.
We also burn more calories standing than when sitting. Obviously, a good workout is the best way to scorch extra calories, but research has highlighted that people who spend an equal amount of time standing at their work desks to those sitting, burn around 1,000 extra calories per week.
So, why are you still sitting down reading this? Stand up and improve your health now.