By The Editors of Eat This, Not That!
Most people don't get serious about their health until their doctor hands them a script for an angioplasty instead of a lollipop.
Then, for the next six months, they start living like a Mahayanan monk.
If you consider all the things you might do every day to try to stay healthy—the pilates class, the wheatgrass, the meditation, the medication—taking care of your body can start to feel like a second job or a medieval prison sentence.
No time to squeeze in two 20-minute Transcendental Meditation sessions, a Master Cleanse, and an ocean swim today? No problem.
Research suggests that good health doesn't necessarily require hours of daily effort. You can actually boost your health significantly through the accumulation of many tiny positive lifestyle boosters, most of which take 60 seconds or less. Choose a few of these quick health hacks to master every couple of days and see if you feel the difference. You might even find you have plenty of time for that snake massage class you've been itching to try. Too short on time to lose weight as well? You don't want to miss these 40 Ways to Lose Weight in 4 Seconds.
1. Put Fat on Your Face
Olive and other oils are amazing anti-agers. Try argan oil on your face for a healthy glow. Use virgin coconut oil as an all-body moisturizer and coat your lips with a bit of olive oil.
2. Make Gratitude Your Attitude
Studies have shown that 90 percent of people say expressing gratitude made them happier people and more than 75 percent said it reduced stress and depression and gave them more energy. Start by making an effort to thank people more often. Then advance to counting your blessings at least once a day for 30 seconds. Need some suggestions? Be thankful for your health, your food, your family, and friends. Heck, thank your letter carrier even if all he brings are bills. He or she may be out of a job next month.
3. Hydrate Your Head
When you first get out of bed and every two hours afterward, drink an 8-ounce glass of water until you've downed at least eight. "Your brain is 80 percent water," says brain disorder expert Daniel Amen, MD, author of Change Your Brain, Change your Life. "Your neurons can't function properly if your brain is not hydrated." Worried about water weight? Don't be; check out these 17 Things You Need to Know About Water Weight!
4. Make Your Feet Stink to Kill Fungus
Garlic is a natural antifungal and may be one of the most effective treatments for fungal infections under the nail bed, says ethnobotanist James A. Duke, PhD, author of The Green Pharmacy and former scientist at the US Department of Agriculture. First, apply a warm moist compress to the affected area to open pores of the skin. Then mash a garlic clove and place it in the center of a piece of cotton gauze. Cover with another square of gauze and hold it in place with medical tape.
5. Leave Something on Your Plate
Joining the clean-your-plate club often includes membership in the brotherhood of overeaters. So, get in the habit of always leaving some food on your plate during each meal. According to an animal study at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, adult primates that were fed diets of 30 percent fewer calories, lived 9 percent longer than those who ate as much as they wanted.
6. Stock Shrimp
Buy a bag or two of frozen shrimp for your freezer. "Throw it on the stove and it's ready to eat in just a minute or two and it's a great source of lean, low-cal protein," says celebrity fitness trainer Shawn T. "Bad diet decisions are often made when you're starving and have nothing healthy to eat in your kitchen." We recommend any of these 25 Healthy, Protein-Packed Shrimp Recipes.
7. Practice Wrist Management
To reduce the numbness and pain of carpal tunnel syndrome, do a 60-second stretch every hour, especially when typing or working with your hands. Here's how: Hold an arm straight in front of your and parallel with the floor and palm, now. With your other hand, grab the fingers of your outstretched arm gently pull them down until you feel the stretch. Hold that position for 20 to 30 seconds and release. Switch hands and repeat the stretch. Improving wrist flexibility will keep the median nerve from becoming cramped and irritated.
8. Press Here for a Chilling Response
In a study, researchers at Hong Kong Polytechnic University found that acupressure reduced stress and tension in subjects by up to 39 percent. Try this chill drill the next time you are feeling tense: massage the fleshy pad between your thumb and index finger for up to 30 seconds.
9. Dry Brush Your Teeth
Before squeezing toothpaste onto your brush, take 30 seconds to brush your teeth with a dry toothbrush. Doing so cuts tartar by 60 percent and also reduces the risk of bleeding gums by half. Use a dry soft bristle brush to scrub the insides of your top and bottom teeth, then buff the outer surfaces. Rinse, then brush normally with toothpaste. For a whiter smile, be sure to avoid these 15 Worst Foods That Stain Your Teeth.
10. Go to Sleep Quicker and Stay Asleep Longer
Getting 8.5 hours of quality sleep nightly is the easiest way to look younger, lose weight, and improve your mood. But it's not very easy if you can't fall asleep. Instead of counting fence-hurdling sheep to fall asleep, just wear socks. Swiss researchers found that people fell asleep quickest when their hands and feet were warmest. This happens because warm feet and hands cause blood vessels to enlarge, allowing more heat to escape your body, which in turn lowers your core temperature faster and causes you to nod off sooner. The researchers say putting on socks may help you fall asleep in half the time it normally takes.
11. Spit Pits
Keep chunks of watermelon in the fridge for post-exercise snacks. High in water and electrolyte content, "this delicious fruits helps replenish depleted glycogen stores and refuels my tired muscles after a cardio workout," says Jay Cardiello, personal trainer to J.Lo and 50 Cent.
12. Step on a Scale Once a Week
Checking your weight once a week can alert you to body weight changes before they grow into 10-pound gains. Being mindful of "weight creep" can motivate you to be more mindful of your food choices. Tip: try to step on the scale at the same time of day for most accurate measurements. If a little extra weight has crept back on, get back on track with these 15 Easy Ways to Reset Your Diet.
13. Soften Your Skin
Toss a handful of flaxseed into the blender the next time you make a smoothie. The oil from this grain will help keep your skin smooth, moist, and glowing. You can buy this omega-3–rich seed at supermarkets or health food stores.
14. Make Breast Exams More Comfortable
If you're premenopausal, get your mammogram during the first 2 weeks of your cycle (the week of and after your period) to avoid hormonal shifts that can make your breasts more sensitive, says Barbara Jaeger, MD, director of mammography at American Radiology Services in Baltimore. Also, lay off caffeine for a week before the test—it increases tenderness, too. Skip deodorant (and powders, creams, and perfume) on the day of the mammogram, as these can interfere with the reading.
15. Pop an Aspirin
Make a daily habit of swallowing a low dose aspirin. (Check with your doctor first.) You know it can help prevent heart attack, but did you know it might also prevent colon cancer? Although daily low-dose aspirin isn't for everyone, new research suggests that middle-aged people on aspirin therapy may have as much as a 25 percent lower risk of developing colon cancer. In one study, aspirin cut the risk of cancer in the proximal colon, where it's harder to detect, by 70 percent. Again, no one should start aspirin therapy without first consulting their doctor.
16. Raise the Bed, Lower the Burn
Raising the head of your bed can reduce or even eliminate nighttime heartburn by making it more difficult for gastric fluid to blow back and irritate your esophagus. Place a few old hardcover books under the feet of the bed on the head side. Even better: ask a recent college grad for those bedpost risers that nearly all dorm dwellers use when at school.
17. Bust Dust
When working in dusty or smoky places, rub a bit of petroleum jelly inside your nostrils to prevent inhaling offensive particles. And speaking of things that make you feel sneezy or stuffed up, find out 15 Foods That Can Make You Congested.
18. Nail Germs Where They Hide
The number one place that germs live on your body is under your fingernails. Regular hand washing won't do the job, especially if you're sporting talons. So get in the habit of digging your claws into the bar of soap every time you wash your hands.
19. Diagnose Your Headache
Is it a tension headache or sinus pain? Diagnose yourself by tapping your forehead just above your eyebrows between your eyes and notes. If you wince with each tap, it's likely a sinus infection.
20. Make the Medicine Go Down
A few seconds before swallowing bad tasting liquid medicine, suck on an ice cube. It'll numb your taste buds and make the medicine taste less nasty.
21. Tilt Your Mirror
Avoid lower back pain on long car drives by tilting your rearview mirror up. Doing so will prevent you from slouching (which causes the pain) by forcing you to sit up straighter to see the cars behind. On a long road trip? Just avoid stopping and ordering any of these #1 Worst Menu Option at 40 Popular Restaurants!
22. Do More Things You Suck At
You'll help grow new brain connections. Can't sing? Keep trying. A mess at chess? Challenge the kids. "As we become older, we tend to do things we're already good at," says William J. Tippett, Ph.D., director of the University of Northern British Columbia Brain Research Unit, "but you have to step out of your comfort zone to keep your cognitive edge."
23. Check Your Pee
Most Americans walk around dehydrated, which affects your energy level, fitness, and good digestion. "You should drink enough water that your urine looks like pale lemonade," says registered dietitian and nutrition consultant to the Cincinnati Bengals, Chris Mohr, PhD.
24. Beat Migraines with Pie
Feel a headache coming on? Have a piece of apple pie or munch on an organic Granny Smith apple. In one study from the Smell&Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, when subjects in the midst of a migraine attack sniffed test tubes containing a green apple smell, the pain improved more than when they sniffed tubes that had no scent. Researchers say it could be a matter of distraction, or it could be that the smell of green apple actually reduces muscle contractions in the head and neck, reducing headache pain. Earlier studies found that the smell of green apples helps reduce anxiety.
25. Take This Old Tennis Ball and Shove It
Against your back, that is. But first, cut a slit into the tennis ball, squeeze it open, fill it with water, and toss it in a freezer. Next time your back is sore, lie on your back, slip the frozen ball under your lower back, and roll around on it for soothing cold and pressure.
26. Cut Your Food into Smaller Pieces
One way to curb your appetite? Findings from an Arizona State University study suggest you should cut your food into smaller pieces. Researchers found that when people ate a whole bagel cut into small pieces for breakfast, they consumed 25 percent fewer calories at lunch compared to those who ate the same bagel whole. Speaking of breakfast, these are the 20 Worst Breakfast Habits for Your Waistline.
27. Defeat Headaches Quicker
Drinking caffeinated tea or coffee after taking ibuprofen relieves headaches faster than taking ibuprofen alone. In a study of 400 headache sufferers, 71 percent of those who took ibuprofen and the caffeine equivalent of two cups of coffee reported complete relief, compared to 58 percent of those who took ibuprofen or caffeine.
28. Kill a Canker with a Cuppa Tea
Hold a wet tea bag on a canker sore; the tannins in the tea act as an astringent.
29. Ease Stings with Meat Tenderizer
Hornet sting? Spider bite? Reduce the swelling with ice. Then rub a paste of meat tenderizer or crushed aspirin onto the bite to break down the venom. Later, apply a paste of baking soda and water to ease the itching.
30. Nourish Your Brain
"Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables protect your brain from wear and tear and the stress of aging," says Gary Small, M.D., director of the UCLA Longevity Center. A 40-year-old guy should consume at least 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables a day, the USDA says.
31. Check Your Testicles
Gentlemen: once a month during a warm shower, soap up and gently roll each testicle between your fingers for a minute. Compress it gently. It should feel like a hard-boiled egg, smooth and oval-shaped. Feel around for lumps. Don't freak if you notice a coiled mass that feels like spaghetti strands behind each testicle; that's the epididymis, tubes that carry sperm. If you detect anything odd, see your doctor. Testicular cancer is highly curable when found early.
32. Turn Down the Thermostat
A new study published in the journal Diabetes suggests that simply turning on the AC may subtly transform a person's stores of brown fat—"good" fat, stimulated by cold temperatures, that serves to keep us warm by burning through "bad" fat stores. Participants spent a few weeks sleeping in bedrooms with varying temperatures: a neutral 75 degrees, a cool 66 degrees, and a balmy 81 degrees. After four weeks of sleeping at 66 degrees, the men had almost doubled their volumes of brown fat.
33. Say Hello, Then Start Complaining
On average, face time with a doctor only lasts 3 to 5 minutes. Get the most out of your brief encounter by sharing your most urgent concern within the first minute, just after you say hello. Research shows that patients who bring up difficult issues at the start of an appointment are more likely to be satisfied with the visit and to adhere to their MD's recommendations.
34. Speed Up Pain Relief
Get pain relief 60 percent faster by swallowing ibuprofen in the form of liquid gel capsules instead of solid tablets. The dissolved ibuprofen will reach your bloodstream much more quickly than it would in solid form.
35. Check Your Feet
Take your shoes and socks off, grab a hand mirror, and examine your feet. Melanoma can develop even in places that don't see much sun. The three most common on the feet: the soles, between the toes, and around or under the toenails. Check once a month for spots that are new or asymmetrical or that change in size, color, or thickness. Oh, and might we suggest you nosh on these 7 Foods to Eat to Help Prevent Sunburn?
36. Pop an Altoid
Peppermint can boost exercise performance. Researchers say that the scent of mint alters your perception of how hard you're exercising, which can make workouts seem less strenuous so you don't mind exercising longer.
37. Sign Your Name
When starting a diet or workout program, create a simple contract that says you promise to give it your all to get in shape. Sign and date the document and post it where you'll see it every day. It creates accountability. "I've found that when clients sign a contract with themselves, they are far more likely to see dramatic weight loss results," says celebrity trainer Adam Rosante.
38. Squeeze More From Tea
Squeeze a lemon wedge into your iced or hot tea. The acidity can boost antioxidant concentrations in green tea by 20 percent, according to a study in the journal Food Chemistry. Researchers believe the same trick works with all kinds of tea. Make the most of the benefits from tea with The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse! Test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in one week!
39. Be like Popeye
...and love olive oil. In a study from Spain, men who ate about 4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil a day showed better language comprehension, attention, and abstract thinking than those on a low-fat diet. Its antioxidants (Italian olive oil has the most) may reduce brain inflammation.
40. Mop Up Your Pizza
Before you take a bite of that slice, take a napkin and sop up some of that oil from the cheese topping. You'll save calories – and avoid oil stains on your blouse.
41. Improve Your Balance
Boost ankle strength and your balance with this simple exercise you can do while watching TV or working. Take a cushion off the sofa, place it on the floor and stand on it with one leg, the other bent behind you. Try to balance for 30 seconds, then switch legs. Once you've become proficient, make the exercise harder. Hold a 1 gallon just of water and pass it from hand to hand and around your back while balancing on one foot. Next, try it while keeping your eyes closed.
42. Argue Like a Monk
In a heated argument with your partner, walk out of the room for 60 seconds and take a few deep breaths to temper the rush of adrenaline and slow your pounding heart. You'll have a hard time processing and understanding your partner's point if your heart rate exceeds 100 beats per minute, says relationships expert John Gottman, PhD, cofounder of The Gottman Institute.
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43. Make Every Second Count
During resistance training workouts, run in place or jump rope for one minute in between sets of exercises. Then rest for 30 seconds to 1 minute before doing your next set. Doing so can nearly double the calories you burn during a workout.
44. End Your Workout with a PP&J
According to nutrition scientists at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, the perfect post-weight training meal contains 20 to 30 grams of protein (to build new muscle) and 50 to 65 grams of carbohydrates (to repair muscle) and about 400 calories. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich hits that formula deliciously.
45. Massage your Way to Healthier Looking Hair
You're halfway there every time you shampoo: massaging your head in the shower improves blood flow to the scalp. This means a better environment for hair growth, but it also aids the penetration of any treatment shampoos you use. P.S. Consult this list of 30 Best&Worst Foods for Healthy Hair before your next grocery store trip to find out the foods that can prevent hair loss—or speed it up.
46. Stretch to Look Taller, Younger
After scratching your butt when you roll out of bed, stretch like a cat to get the blood pumping, flex muscles, and improve your posture. Kneel on the floor on all fours and curl your back up like a Halloween cat. Then bend in the opposite direction, lowering your belly toward the floor (yoga's cow pose). Your arms should be straight, hands directly under your shoulders.
47. Check Your Contacts
Before popping your contacts into your eyes, give them the onceover on behalf of your cardiovascular system. A diet full of fat, protein, or alcohol weakens your tears' ability to block cholesterol from adhering to the lenses. This results in cloudy deposits. If your diet is destroying your contacts, just imagine what it's doing to your arteries.
48. Whiten Teeth with Celery
After a glass of red wine, chew on celery, cauliflower, and other vegetables from the crudité́ platter. The crunchy raw produce will scrub away red wine stains for brighter and whiter-looking teeth.
49. Check Your Bags
The thin skin under your eye sockets allows blood vessels to show through. As years go by dark circles can form as the fat under the skin absorbs water. To reduce that baggy look, dip cotton balls in a 1 to 1 mixture of cold water and milk. Place the soggy balls on your eyes for a minute or two to reduce swelling. You can also eat your way to a youthful appearance with these 25 Healthy Foods That Give You Glowing Skin!
50. Slip on Socks for Better Sleep
Can't fall asleep? Put on some socks before slipping into bed and you may nod off in half the time it normally takes. Swiss researchers found that people fell asleep quickest when their hands and feet were warmest. This happens because warm feet and hands cause blood vessels to enlarge, allowing more heat to escape your body, which in turn lowers your core temperature faster, initiating sleepiness.
51. Check for PFF
Before every meal, ask yourself, "Where's my protein, where's my fiber, and where are my healthy fats?" It's the key mantra of the Zero Belly Diet by Dave Zinczenko. Why is that? Most Americans are not eating too many carbs; they're just eating too many of the wrong carbs: the simple ones. These high-calorie, non-nutritious foods burn up quickly in your body, which spikes your blood sugar and then causes it to crash. The result? Low glucose levels trigger your hunger hormones. Make the most out of the calories you are eating on your diet by cutting out high-calorie, low-value foods like sweets and refined grains. Then, replace them with high-fiber whole grains and vegetables, foods rich in protein, and plant oils full of healthy fats. This trio of protein, fiber, and healthy fats will keep your energy levels stable and your belly full, helping to curb overeating. Lose up to 16 pounds in 14 days, compliments of the 100+ delicious drinks in Zero Belly Smoothies—available on Amazon!
52. Remove Nail Polish before a Skin Cancer Screening
Melanoma can develop even in places that don't see much sun. The three most common on the feet: the soles, between the toes, and around or under the toenails. Examine your feet during a pedi, and if you are having a skin cancer screening be sure to remove nail polish before the appointment. Bright toenail polish can mask the signs of a problem from your doctor's examination.
53. Switch Chips
Instead of chips with your sandwich, switch to unsalted pistachios. In research at the Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, VA, people who ate two to three ounces of unsalted pistachios a day for four weeks raised their HDL cholesterol (the good kind) by 6 percent.
54. Go to Bed With Kiwis
Researchers reporting in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition say eating kiwis may help you fall asleep faster. When insomniacs ate two kiwis an hour before bed every night for 4 weeks, they fell asleep 35 percent faster. Taiwanese researchers say the fruit contains rich amounts of serotonin, a hormone that impacts regulates sleep in the body.
55. Make a 60-Second Salad
Grab a generous handful of prewashed arugula, drizzle lemon fused olive oil on top (or extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice), shaved Parmesan cheese (inch wide) coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper.
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56. Add Class to Jarred Pasta Sauce
Chop two handfuls of fresh spinach and add to any tomato-based pasta sauce for a boost of fiber, folate, niacin, vitamin e, and calcium.
57. Extinguish Overeating
Have trouble cutting yourself off after you've eaten your fill? Light a candle when you sit down to the dinner table and blow it out after you've finished your meal. This simple action sends a message to your brain—and your mouth—that it's time to stop noshing. Not only will this strategy keep the temporary food baby that develops when you overeat at bay, over time, eating fewer calories adds up major weight loss.
58. Go Heavy on the Vinegar
Enjoy that submarine sandwich, even with all that Italian bread, by adding extra vinegar. The acetic acid in the vinegar interferes with enzymes that break down carbohydrates, keeping blood sugar levels from rising quickly, say nutritionists at Arizona State University. You can also get the same result by starting a high-carb meal with a salad drizzled with vinaigrette.
59. Squash ANTS
ANTS are Automatic Negative Thoughts that trigger anxiety and flood the body with stress hormones, says family business consultant and psychologist Mario Alonso, PhD. Whenever an ANT enters your mind, write it down and forget about it for now. Later, review your ANTS, try to determine where they are coming from and devise a plan to correct negative thinking.
60. Add Cinnamon
Sprinkle cinnamon into your coffee grinds before you press "brew." This antioxidant rich spice, studies show, may reduce blood pressure and lower stress. Check out the 30 Best-Ever Fat-Burning Foods for more functional foods that do double duty!