The last thing you want to do is add more to-do’s to your day—we know. You’re busy. But guess what? So are the fittest, healthiest, and most successful among us who still make time for habits that prime them for, well, more health, happiness, and success. So copy them. Here’s your cheat sheet—13 ways to shape up your life, starting today.
They Move For At Least 30 Minutes
By now you probably know that sitting can kill you. And that’s because humans were made to move—not stay still. The problem is, we’re moving less and less. But the most successful among us know that movement isn’t just the key to better physical health, it also boosts your brainpower. “Exercising just 30 minutes a day is the single greatest thing you can do for overall health,” says Alex Caspero M.A., R.D. In fact, one study in the American Journal of Physiology found 30 minutes of moderate exercise to be just as effective as 60 when it came to weight loss. And while you’re probably already exercising, it’s important to find something you love—that way fitness will never feel like a chore, especially on those days where the last thing you want to do is get movin’.
They Have Sex
Ah, the powers of sex. From fixing a migraine and reducing stress and anxiety to boosting your mood and even lowering blood pressure, getting frisky pays off. Single? Some research even suggests that casual sex has its benefits, too. Regardless, you can thank a surge of hormones and endorphins that your body releases during intercourse for the health boons. How much and how often your should get busy varies with every couple, but just knowing that a morning quickie could have long-term perks should help start your day.
They Get Outside
“Most of the wealthiest and healthiest people admit that each and every day they try to go outside and connect with Mother Earth,” says exercise physiologist and athletic trainer Scott Weiss, C.S.C.S.. And that makes sense. Being outdoors can reduce stress, alleviate symptoms of depression, and boost your mood. Being outdoors is also a crucial part of logging a good night’s sleep—as natural daylight helps sync up your circadian rhythm. (And success is a by-product of a good night’s rest, right?) So take advantage of summer and take your workout outside.
They Drink 2 liters of H20
Water is key to a healthy day, says Caspero. Even mild dehydration—losing just 1.5 percent of your normal water volume—can alter your mood, found a study from UCONN. That study also found that dehydration is linked to fatigue, headaches, anxiety, and trouble concentrating. Aim for eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day, about two liters.
They Get The Right Amount of Sleep
Most healthy people not only exercise everyday, but they make sure to get the sleep they know they need. “Sleep is when most of the anabolic or growth hormones are produced and regeneration occurs. It is imperative to vital daily function,” says Weiss. Some people function great on six hours a night—some on eight. So don’t get caught up in the number. What matters? “Knowing your body and making sure to plan accordingly,” says Weiss.
They Go Offline
While Facebook, Twitter, and Tinder have their perks, there’s science to the face-to-face meet up. So call your buddies from college to get together—and make it a habit. Research shows that the bigger your social circle, the longer you’ll live and the healthier your life will be. And family matters too—one study found that, for men in particular, a network of relatives is key to wellbeing in midlife.
Stretching is vital to a healthy life: It helps maintain flexibility in every muscle, provides longevity to the joints, and flushes the muscles out, clearing congestion. “As you stretch, you can imagine wringing out a towel,” says Weiss. “All the toxins and byproducts of metabolism have a chance to move toward central circulation instead of being stagnant and stuck in your muscles.” Target what tends to be tight and neglected: your hip flexors, hamstrings, calves, chest, lats, and forearms, he suggests.
They Learn Something New
In today’s world, we there are so many different platforms and mediums for new knowledge whether you want to learn a new language or find out how to grill the perfect steak—and people that are the most successful not only plan for exercise in their everyday life, they try to consistently learn and understand new methods of training or diet and implement what works best for them, says Weiss. And a sense of curiosity, no matter the topic, could pay off too. Research out last month found a connection between health and wonder. People who experienced “awe” on a regular basis also had fewer markers of inflammation, which is linked to everything from pain to cancer.
Looking to lower blood pressure naturally? Try meditating. “I noticed a huge difference in how I handle stress after adding just 10 minutes of meditation to my daily routine,” says Caspero. Studies back that up, too: Harvard research finds mindfulness and meditation can ease anxiety, stress, and even physical pain. You don’t have to zen out for hours either. Research suggests just 25 minutes a day can reduce stress reactions in your body. Other experts argue that it only takes a few deep breaths (your stomach should expand as you breathe in and contract as you exhale) to calm your nervous system, better prepping you to face the day.
They Train Outside of the Gym, Too
“One thing I learned from an amazing Shaolin monk was the idea of training through the day,” says Weiss. “Whatever you do, from carrying a package and lifting a box to vacuuming and doing yard work, take the time to be conscious that your breath is in conjunction with your movements in addition to using the correct form and technique.” Learning how to move more efficiently—without rushing—will not only make you stronger, but help prevent injury.
They Do Bodyweight Exercises
Being able to move and control your body weight is a big-time indicator of health. One study found that higher muscular strength—measured by a handgrip test—was linked to a 25 to 30 percent lower risk of death by heart disease. Another study out of Brazil suggests that the easier it is for you to pick yourself up off the ground using your own weight, the longer your life will be. You're probably already doing some of the best basic body weight exercises including the pushup, pull-up, dip, plank, and calf raises.
They Eat By Color
Five servings is ideal when it comes to fruits and vegetables, sure. Some research even suggests we should be getting seven a day. But start small—and don’t beat yourself up over it. “Eat at least two servings of vegetables,” says Caspero. “While 3 to 5 is the ideal, two is an easy minimum to strive for if your diet is less than colorful.” Go for green first. One study found that those who ate just two servings of leafy greens a day had better cognitive skills than those who ate none.
“Smiling is a human’s most valuable gesture if used correctly,” Weiss says, “Smiling stimulates our brain in a way that even chocolate, sex, or a well-regarded pleasure-inducer cannot match.” In fact, happy people smile 40 to 50 times a day, he says, noting that the average person only does so 20 times. Better yet? You can fake it till you make it: Simply smiling even if you're not really feeling it can initiate and perpetuate a good mood and good chemistry naturally, he says.