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A long healthy, disease-free life is a good reason to stick to habits like taking the stairs, snacking on nuts and meditating regularly but, let’s face it, some of us prefer instant gratification. That’s why we’ve sifted through the latest research to discover both the immediate perks and long-term payoffs of a range of healthy habits.
Healthy Habit 1: Eating Breakfast
Instant Perk: Blood glucose, our brain’s main source of energy, is at its lowest first thing in the morning, so basically, anything you eat for breakfast will improve your brain power and help you feel and perform better throughout the day.
Long-term Payoff: Make the morning meal a daily ritual and you’ll be slimmer than people who skip breakfast, as you’ll be less prone to overeat or make poor food choices throughout the day.
Habit Helper: If you can’t stomach breakfast first thing or are pushed for time, keep these healthy breakfast slices in the fridge to take with you to work. These zucchini berry muffins are also a great on-the-go lighter choice and can be cooked and frozen (if need be) ahead of time.
Healthy Habit 2: Snack On Nuts
Instant Perk: Grazing on nuts mid-morning will tide you over until lunch time, thanks to the filling fibre and protein they contain. Their good fats further satisfy by increasing satiety hormones in the gut. They make a great snack because they are easy to consume in small quantities.
Long-term Payoff: A rich source of heart-healthy nutrients like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, plant sterols and antioxidants, nuts have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease by 37 percent in people who eat them four times a week. Frequent nut eating also defends against diabetes, lowering risk by 27 percent.
Habit Helper: Despite their health benefits, nuts are still energy dense, so portion control is the key. Look at about having 30 g, or a small handful on a daily basis.
Healthy Habit 3: Taking The Stairs
Instant Perk: Swapping the lifts for the stairs burns up to 10 times more energy. It contributes to the 10,000 steps we should aim for daily, as well as ensuring we’re not sitting for long periods.
Long-term Payoff: Dedicate 10 minutes a day to stair climbing and in just two months, your aerobic fitness can jump up by 17 percent, according to UK experts. Stick to the habit and you could decrease your risk of premature death from any cause by 15 percent, according to Swiss scientists.
Habit Helper: To incorporate stairs into your working day, fill up your water glass and use the bathroom on a different floor. When you’re ready for a challenge, try taking a few stairs at the one time, change your walk to a job, or increase the numbers of floors you climb.
Healthy Habit 4: Get Enough Sleep
Instant Perk: A solid night’s sleep – about 8 hours for most people – won’t just improve your energy and alertness, it can help you recall new information or skills learned the day before, thanks to overnight memory consolidation. It also tames appetite, reducing kilojoule intake up to 22 percent more than if you scrimped on sleep, says French experts.
Long-term Payoff: Research shows that short sleepers who get less than six hours a night are at in increased risk of being overweight, obese or developing diabetes, hypertension or cardiovascular disease.
Habit Helper: Studies suggest that seven and a half to eight hours most nights is optimal, but being in bed for eight hours does not guarantee you will you’ll get that much sleep by the time you drift off, so aim for around nine hours in bed.
Healthy Habit 5: Take Time To Meditate
Instant Perk: A single 20 minute meditation session reduces stress and anxiety levels. Maintain the habit for four days and your mental focus, mood and memory will also improve, research shows.
Long-term Payoff: Regular meditation switches on genes that reduce inflammation, destroy diseased cells and fight free radicals, finds Harvard research. It also helps you listen to your body’s needs, feelings and symptoms, so you know when you need more rest, nourishment or social contact.
Habit Helper: Start with 15 minutes of meditation a day, building up to 30 or 40 minutes, and don’t worry if you feel bored or restless. These are withdrawal symptoms from our addiction to constant stimulation, so hang in there because before long, it will get easier.
Healthy Habit 6: Regular Resistance Training
Instant Perk: If you shy away from strength training, consider this: A single session increases your metabolic rate so you burn more energy in the hours afterward, as well as stimulating the release of feelgood hormones like endorphins, serotonin and dopamine.
Long-term Payoff: Regular strength training boost bone mineral density, which protects against osteoporosis and increases muscle mass for better tone and definition.
Habit Helper: To get started, do 8 to 12 reps of simple exercises like squats, lunges, crunches, plank push-ups and sit-ups twice a week, which use your own body weight to build strength. From there, progress to using household items like bags of rice for bicep curls or holding a bucket of water while you do lunges.