When you’re in your 20s and 30s, it’s possible that you’re just getting your sea legs as an adult. You may make your bed in the morning, but cold pizza still seems like an acceptable breakfast food. You may have a steady job, but tying a tie still seems a bit… much. Even if you have some not-so-healthy vices that you’d rather not admit to, you’re still at a young enough age where overcoming your addictions and bad habits is perfectly possible—and so is replacing them with new, healthy habits that will benefit you well beyond your younger years.
And while many younger folks aren’t all that concerned with how today’s habits might affect them tomorrow, it’s important to consider how all the things you’re doing can (and will) have an impact on your health, both now and in the future. With that in mind, here are 40 healthy habits you’re going to want to incorporate into your daily life well before your 40th birthday.
Don’t skip leg day.
Though nobody actually enjoys doing squats and calf raises until their legs give out, it’s especially important to spend at least one day each week focusing on your leg muscles at the gym. Why? According to new research published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, working out your legs not only builds muscle mass, but also helps maintain the production of the neural cells that allow the brain and nervous system to function.
Cook at least three meals at home every week.
Ordering in after a late night at work might be convenient, but it’s not doing your waist line any favors. When researchers at the University of Washington School of Public Health studied the eating habits of different households, they found that home-cooked meals better complied with the federal guidelines for a healthy diet—and the more a family ate at home, the better their diet was.
Down a glass of cherry juice before bed.
As far as healthy habits go, getting an adequate amount of sleep every night is one of the most important ones there is. (Without enough sleep, you run the risk of gaining weight, developing heart disease, and messing up your memory.) Som if you struggle to doze off every time your head hits the pillow, then consider chugging a glass of cherry juice every night before bed. According to one study in the American Journal of Therapeutics, the liquid can help add an average of 84 minutes of shuteye to your sleep cycle.
Replace some showers with long, warm baths.
If you thought that hitting the gym was the only way to burn calories, think again. Per research published in the journal Temperature, sitting in a hot bath for an hour burns 130 calories, which is approximately how much you’d burn if you walked for half an hour. And if that’s not enough to convince you to draw a warm bath, the study authors also found that immersing yourself in warm water can reduce inflammation and lower blood sugar levels.
Add a few weight training sessions into your routine.
Though workouts of any kind are good as far as staying healthy goes, it’s weight training in particular that can really keep you toned and trim. “Training with weights two or four times a week builds muscle and maintains bone density,” explains Ivana Chapman, a fitness and nutrition coach. “It also makes it easier to maintain your weight, since a leaner body with more muscle is more metabolically active and burns more calories all day long.”
Move to an area populated by lots of birds.
Birds? Why birds? Well, according to one study published in the journal BioScience, people who live in areas with many a bird, shrub, and tree are less likely to be stressed, depressed, and anxious. It might sound strange, but it’s true: The study subjects’ depression levels were inversely correlated to the number of birds they could see in the afternoon.
Stop eating so much cauliflower.
Nutrition experts and dietitians are always going on about the importance of eating enough fruits and vegetables, so what gives? Well, according to one study published in PubMed, eating too many cruciferous vegetables (which includes cabbage, turnips, and cauliflower) can cause hypothyroidism, as the breakdown of the vegetable may interfere with thyroid hormone synthesis.
Swap out slabs of steak for lean slices of turkey.
“A big steak might have a lot of protein, but it also has a lot of fat—more than can be trimmed,” explains Keith-Thomas Ayoob, an associate clinical professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. If your goal is to bulk up without widening your waistline, then your best bet is to build your meals around protein sources like turkey, chicken, salmon, and plants—that is to say, protein sources that don’t raise cholesterol levels and clog up your arteries.
Focus on the positive memories.
Quit dwelling on all your negative thoughts and memories and start thinking about the good times instead. When researchers from the University of Liverpool instructed individuals to focus on positive memories, they found that just thinking about something happy was enough to boost mood, banish anxiety, and increase feelings of safety and security.
Load your diet up with fiber-rich foods.
These days, the internet is swimming with so much diet advice that it’s hard to keep up with what the latest healthy eating recommendations are. If you’re sick of constantly having to switch up your diet based on what the latest fad is, then simply abide by this one simple rule: eat a lot of fiber. According to one study published in ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, incorporating high-fiber foods (like pears, quinoa, and artichokes) into your diet can trim your waistline, protect your heart, and banish belly fat.
Become a proud pet owner.
Unfortunately, with age often comes a slow but steady decline in the function of the heart, easily one of the most important organs in the body. If you want to ensure that your ticker stays in tip-top shape, then consider adopting a pet. Why? According to one study published in the journal Circulation, owning a pet can reduce your heart disease risk and, should you get heart disease, increase your chances of survival.
Make breakfast the biggest meal of the day.
Busy weekdays don’t exactly have ample amounts of time built into them for big extravagant breakfasts—but if weight loss is your goal, then you’ll want to get into the habit of making time for a satisfactory morning meal. When researchers at Tel Aviv University studied various diets and how they impact the weight loss process, they found that a traditional diet of a big breakfast, a normal lunch, and a small dinner was most effective when it came to shedding pounds, curbing cravings, and controlling insulin levels in patients with diabetes.
Try to sit for less than three hours a day.
It’s hard to avoid sitting all day when you work a desk job, but you’ll want to make the effort to stand up and walk around more if healthy living is your priority. Per the findings of one study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, people who sit for more than six hours a day have a 19 percent increased risk of premature death compared to those who sit for less than three hours every day.
Snack on some raw vegetables.
If you want to boost your mood and lower your risk of depression, then don’t bother cooking those carrots or bell peppers the next time you pick them up at the market. When researchers at the University of Otago analyzed the nutrient levels of fruits and vegetables in their various forms, they found that the cooking process “limits the delivery of nutrients that are essential for optimal emotional functioning.”
Work out in the late afternoon.
It might be convenient to get your workout out of the way in the morning, but it’s better for your body to hit the gym in the late afternoon. Though you can enjoy a great workout either way, one study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research concluded that, because your body temperature rises slowly throughout the day, your strength and flexibility are at their best just before the sun sets.
Gather the gang together for routine family meals.
In this day and age, making time for family meals is no easy feat. However, if living a healthy life is your top priority, then you’ll want to try your best to gather everyone together as often as possible, seeing as research shows that these meals promote bonding and instill healthy eating habits in children that stay with them for years to come.
Keep your showers short and sweet.
“Showering and being in the water dries out your skin,” dermatologist Dr. Alan J. Parks explained to Bustle. “It’s okay to shower every day, but you should keep your showers relatively short so that your skin doesn’t dry out.”
Go on more getaways.
According to the American Heart Association, approximately one out of every three adults in the United States suffers from high blood pressure, which can lead to everything from a stroke to a heart attack down the road. If you’re one of the folks whose blood pressure is higher than it should be, then consider scheduling some more vacations—research shows that leisurely activities can reduce cortisol levels (and high cortisol = high blood pressure).
Incorporate more salmon into your diet.
As you begin to approach 40, make sure that you’re eating adequate amounts of salmon, herring, tuna, and trout. These fish are all high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found to assist in the healthy aging process—that is to saying, aging sans major chronic diseases or mental and physical decay.
Pencil some 30-minute naps into your schedule.
Why should children be the only ones who get to enjoy nap time? (It could very easily be argued that adults are the ones who actually need naps, after all.) Not only are naps restorative, but one Harvard study of 24,000 subjects found that just three 30-minute naps per week can reduce your risk of heart-related death by 37 percent.
Pay attention to your posture.
While many healthy habits require copious amounts of effort and energy, there’s actually one out there that requires little to no effort at all—and that’s sitting up straight. According to the Cleveland Clinic, having good posture reduces the amount of stress being put on your ligaments, thereby eliminating any potential for annoying aches and pains.
Get between seven and eight hours of sleep—and that’s it.
Believe it or not, getting too much sleep is just as bad as getting too little sleep as far as your brain is concerned. When researchers at Western University in Canada studied more than 40,000 subjects over a three-day period, they found that getting between seven and eight hours of sleep per night was the perfect amount in terms of cognitive function—no more, no less.
Douse your salads in olive oil.
Get into the healthy habit of drizzling olive oil onto all of your signature salads. Per one study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the combination of unsaturated fatty acids (from olive oil) with nitrite (from lettuce) creates nitro fatty acids that lower blood sugar levels.
Make yourself a morning person.
Don’t make a habit out of getting things done by moonlight. When U.K. researchers analyzed data on 433,268 people between the ages of 38 and 73, they found that “definite evening types” had a 23 percent increased risk of respiratory disease and a 10 percent increased risk of dying overall.
Pay for your groceries with cash.
Though paying for your groceries with a credit card is certainly convenient, it also promotes the purchasing of junk food that could pack on the pounds. That’s according to a study from Cornell University, which found that people who paid for their groceries with cash were less likely to make unhealthy impulse buys compared to those who used their card.
Balance on one leg while you brush your teeth.
If you want to keep your balance in good standing (pun intended) before it starts to fade, then the Cleveland Clinic recommends standing on each leg for 10 seconds at a time while you brush your teeth. This easy exercise will train your neuromotors, which assist in balance, agility, and movement. Sure, you might look a little bit strange balancing on one leg with a toothbrush in your mouth, but looking weird is a small price to pay for being in good health.
Maintain strong relationships with friends and family members.
Don’t underestimate the power of a beautiful bond. When Harvard researchers followed young adults into their elderly years, they found that the strength of their relationships was a better indication of how well they’d age than their cholesterol levels.
“Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too,” study director Robert Waldinger said in a press release. “That, I think, is the revelation.”
Watch more funny movies.
It’s true what they say: laughter really is the best medicine. In fact, according to one study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, laughing decreases stress-related hormone levels in the body, plus increases the number of immunity-boosting activated T cells and natural killer cells.
Listen to energizing music while you work out.
Make sure that all of your workouts are accompanied by some killer playlists. Research shows that with the right fast-paced and motivational music, you can easily make your workout more intense, increase your reps and stamina, and feel more inspired.
Cover your food with hot sauce at least once a day.
Good news for those who love spicy foods: According to research published in The BMJ, people who eat spicy meals at least once a day have a 14 percent reduced risk of death compared to those who consume fuego foods less than once a week.
Wash your dishes by hand.
As you begin to approach your 30s, 40s, and beyond, your healthy habits need to concern not only yourself, but the well-being of your family members as well. That’s where hand-washing your dishes comes into play. According to one study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, hand-washing dishes is associated with a reduced risk of allergy development in children, as “microbial exposure during early life induces immunologic tolerance via immune stimulation.”
Wear comfortable clothing.
Every aspect of how you prepare for your day—from what you eat to breakfast to what time you get out of bed—plays a part in your subsequent performance both mentally and physically. And as weight management specialist Dr. Luiza Petre, MD, explained to INSIDER, something as small as choosing to wear comfortable clothes can help you burn an additional 25 calories per day, which can “add up to significant weight loss with very little extra effort.”
Believe in yourself.
Having a healthful and happy life really is as simple as believing that you deserve to. When Australian researchers analyzed data from 757 patients, they found that individuals with positive self esteem had greater qualities of life and greater overall feelings of happiness.
Pay attention to the color of your plate.
If you’re serving a green salad or a leafy green vegetable with dinner, then make sure not to use green plates. Why? When Cornell University researchers served pasta on two different plates—one plate matching the food being served and the other contrasting it—they found that participants ate 30 percent more when the food matched the plate.
Meditate for just 10 minutes a day.
Too busy to take time out of your schedule to meditate every day? That’s fine—all it takes to reap the benefits of this ancient practice is ten minutes, according to research by Leeds Beckett University. Apparently, people who meditate for this amount of time on the daily are better able to handle pain and require less pain medication in times of distress.
Sleep with the window open.
Getting a good night’s rest is important for everything you do: It energizes you, it curbs cravings, and it gives your body the chance to reset. And according to one study published in the journal Indoor Air, all you have to do to ensure that you sleep soundly is crack a window. The freeze breeze filtering into your room lowers the levels of carbon dioxide in the air, which aids in getting a good night’s rest.
Keep healthy snacks on your person.
If the only food options around you are potato chips and cupcakes, then odds are you’re going to succumb to your cravings and ditch your diet in favor of some delicious junk food. However, if you get into the healthy habit of carrying nuts or protein bars around with you at all times, then you’ll never again have to worry about eating empty calories. Simply reach into your bag or jacket pocket, and a healthy snack is right at your fingertips at all times.
Schedule in some alone time.
Want to feel healthier and more energized? Try flying solo for a bit. When researchers surveyed more than 18,000 people living in 134 countries, they found that “spending time alone” was the activity that made subjects feel most rested, followed closely by “reading” and “being in nature.”
Consume more raw cacao.
“Raw cacao has phenylethylamine, which is known to increase energy levels in some—depending on your level of responsiveness, it may energize you in a similar way to a shot of espresso,” says fitness coach Kylene Terhune. Some of the many ways to consume raw cacao include in smoothies, in hot drinks, and in the form of dark chocolate. Yum!
Plant a garden in your backyard.
Why garden? For one, flowers are beautiful, and simply looking at them in your backyard is enough to instantly boost your mood. Better yet, one study published in the Medical Journal of Australia found that older people who garden have a 36 percent reduced risk of dementia, thanks to the activity’s physical factors.
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