Your health is your most important asset. If you’re not living a healthy lifestyle, then you’ll severely diminish your ability to achieve goals and get the most from each day.

While you can’t exercise with just a five-minute habit, there are many other small actions you can do during this limited time. In this section, I’ll cover a variety of healthy habits that will support your long-term goals, like losing weight, eating better, and improving your fitness.

Let’s get to it.

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#40. Weigh Yourself

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Morning

Frequency: Daily or weekly

Benefit: Weighing yourself regularly is a key habit for establishing clear health and fitness goals. Again: what gets measured gets managed. Stepping on a scale is not just for people who want to shed a few pounds. It’s also a metric that can be used to make sure you stay within a target weight range.

Now, I do want to caution you: your weight will fluctuate daily, so you shouldn’t be upset if you notice a few extra pounds or kilograms one day. (That’s why some folks like to weigh themselves weekly.) What’s more important is to see a consistency with your weight loss efforts (if that’s a goal) or a steady level (if you’re just trying to maintain a specific weight).

Description: Buy a scale and keep it in a prominent location—like your bathroom. Pick a specific time to weigh yourself and the same day of the week (if you’re only doing it every seven days). Finally, write down your weight in a journal that you maintain daily. I recommend the MyFitnessPal tool for this.

#41. Maintain a Food Journal

Type: Keystone habit

Best time to complete: Evening

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: This is a critical habit if you want to lose or maintain weight. Maintaining a food journal is an effective strategy because it makes you responsible for your actions, encourages you to avoid little “snacks,” and keeps you on track to meet your health goals. In fact, one study has shown that keeping a food diary can double your diet weight loss efforts.

Food journaling is also a keystone habit because it makes you more self-aware about what you’re putting into your body. Without even trying to change your diet, you’ll start to avoid certain foods because you know you’ll have to write them down later. This subtle change will have a positive spillover impact on your productivity, your self-esteem, and even your enjoyment of your passions.

Description: Again, you can use a tool (like MyFitnessPal) to get an accurate measurement of the food you’re eating. Add this habit to an evening stack to make sure you’re being accurate about what you eat daily. If you have trouble remembering your food intake, then do this habit twice a day—once in the morning and once in the evening. Another option is to create a habit of writing down your food intake right after each meal.

Also, be sure to log the portion sizes. In other words, don’t just write “ate pasta” in your journal. Write how many serving sizes you consumed. (You can check out my article on portion control habits if you get stuck.)

Finally, be honest with your logging efforts. If you cheat, then write it down. Nobody will look at this journal besides you, so trying to hide your indulgences will only hurt you. In fact, being brutally honest with your journaling efforts might help you make a better decision the next time you’re faced with a dietary dilemma.

#42. Replace One Food Item

Type: Keystone habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: We all know it’s important to eat healthier, but sometimes it’s hard to make smart food choices when we’re tired, stressed out, and overbooked. So, one simple habit you can build is to make a single food substitution each day.

Many foods have common alternatives that are a lot healthier. These choices are often lower in calories and almost always have better vitamins and nutrients. Swapping out food not only improves your health, but it can also positively impact your weight loss efforts.

Description: This is a simple process. In the morning, when you’re planning your day, think about what you’re going to eat. After going through this mental list, make a commitment to swap out just one of these items with a healthy alternative. Here are just a few examples (based on a similar cooking and prep time). You could try substituting:

•      Rice with quinoa
•      Bacon with turkey bacon
•      Soda with tea
•      White bread with whole grain bread
•      Mayonnaise with mustard or avocado
•      Ground beef with ground turkey
•      Ketchup with salsa
•      Sour cream with Greek yogurt
•      Milk with almond milk (regular milk has six times the sugar of almond milk)
•      Eggs with Egg Beaters or two egg whites for each egg
•      Vegetable oil with coconut oil
•      Croutons in salads with almonds
•      Potato chips with non- (or lightly) buttered popcorn
•      Bread with pita
•      Iceberg lettuce with arugula, romaine, spinach, and/or kale

These are just a few ideas you can use to slowly build a healthy eating habit. You’ll consume just as much food, but what you eat will be of a higher quality while typically having fewer calories.

If you’d like to learn more about this topic, I’d highly recommend checking out David Zinczenko’s Eat This Not That series of books.

#43. Take Daily Vitamins

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Morning

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: Vitamins are essential because they strengthen the immune system, increase alertness, and help your body get essential nutrients.

Description: This habit works best in conjunction with keeping a food journal. Spend a week writing down your food intake and identifying what important nutrients you’re missing. Some online nutrition tools (e.g., FitDay) will even help you determine if you are getting the recommended daily amount of each vitamin. If you aren’t getting the right amounts of necessary vitamins, shop for a vitamin supplement to match your age and nutritional needs. (For more on this, check out this WebMD article on how to find the right vitamin.)

#44. Prepare a Smoothie Drink

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Morning

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: If you need a quick pick-me-up, try making an antioxidant smoothie. These delicious drinks contain essential vitamins and minerals, so drinking one in the morning can give you energy that will last for many hours.

Description: There are a lot of smoothie recipes on the Internet, but as mentioned before, I recommend mixing up different recipes that include proteins, fruits, vegetables, potassium, and antioxidants. If you’re interested in some of the ones that I typically drink, you can check out the NutriLiving website and app, which are part of the NutriBullet brand.

#45. Fill a 32-Ounce Water Bottle

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: Even mild dehydration can cause headaches and fatigue, affect your concentration, impair short-term memory, and impede mental function. If you want to be at your most productive, it’s important for your brain to be firing on all cylinders. Therefore, you should make sure you are sufficiently hydrated before starting work.

Description: Fill a thirty-two-ounce bottle and drink it over the next few hours. Either warm or cold water is fine—there are health benefits to both, so pick whichever you prefer. If you find plain water unpalatable, try adding ice and a squeeze of lemon.

Additionally, the rule of thumb for the right amount of water intake is eight eight-ounce glasses per day (or a total of sixty-four ounces.) This number will vary according to your weight and level of physical activity. To keep it simple, I recommend filling up your bottle twice a day and committing to drinking the entire thing. That should be enough to give you a basic level of hydration.

#46. Wear a Step-Tracking Device

Type: Keystone habit

Best time to complete: Morning

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: Wearing a step-tracking device can have an amazing impact on your physical fitness. If you’re not familiar with them, step trackers are small devices or watches that track your total steps and floors climbed every day.

At first glance, “putting on a step-tracking device” might seem like an inconsequential habit. But there are a surprising number of people who buy these devices and never wear them. If you start each day by clipping on this device, you’ll take that crucial first step to building the exercise habit. And when you constantly wear this device, you’ll find reasons to get more movement throughout the day.

Description: This is another super simple habit. When you wake up in the morning, put on your step-tracking device. This should be the first action you complete to start the day.

If you don’t have a step tracker, then feel free to check out the exhaustive review that I posted on my website, which compares the pricing and features of the popular pedometers.

#47. Walk between Blocks of Focused Effort

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: All day

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: Walking is one of the best ways to get regular exercise without it negatively impacting your busy schedule. While some people (like me) prefer a scheduled time of day to get exercise, others find that it’s better to walk throughout their workdays, specifically between blocks of focused effort.

If you use the Pomodoro Technique I mentioned in the Career section, then you should get up and walk for a few minutes after every twenty-five-minute block. Not only will this help you feel refreshed before the next block, it also adds a small deposit to the “bank of healthy you.”

This habit doesn’t neatly fit into a single stack. Instead, it should be completed throughout the day, usually after an intense block of work. My recommendation is to create a simple if-then statement, like, “Whenever I finish a work-related task, I will get up and walk for a few minutes.” Sure, this might feel weird at first, but eventually you’ll become comfortable with taking a walk whenever you complete a task.

Description: Let’s do a quick bit of math, based on the assumption that you follow my advice and use the Pomodoro Technique to manage your time.

•      25-minute blocks = two walking breaks per hour
•      Two walking breaks = eight minutes of movement (if you give yourself an extra minute to run to the bathroom or grab a drink of water between blocks)
•      Eight minutes * eight hours (a normal workday) = 64 minutes of movement

Obviously, this is a perfect-world scenario where you take a walking break twice an hour. But even if you halve that amount, that’s still thirty minutes of regular exercise completed during a normal workday. That’s two miles of movement on top of what you already do.

#48. Complete a 7-Minute Workout

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: Okay, let me get two points out of the way before we talk about the benefits of this small action:

1.      Yes, this is a seven-minute habit, so it breaks the “rules” of habit stacking. But like I said before, the five-minute rule isn’t written in stone. The habits you choose can be as long as necessary to receive the full benefit of the activity.
2.      No, I don’t think you can get a full workout in this short amount of time. However, if you live a completely sedentary lifestyle, then completing a seven-minute daily workout is a good step in the right direction.

All that said, a great way to start or end your day is to use an app like 7 Minute Workout, which acts like a personal trainer that guides you through a twelve-exercise total-body workout. Obviously, it only takes you seven minutes to complete.

Description: This is another simple habit. Just fire up the app and complete the recommend exercises. (You might have to buy a few pieces of equipment ahead of time to get the real value from this app.)

Also, you should consider upgrading to their “All the Things” level, which gives you a few different program options:

•      Arms
•      Cardio
•      Core
•      Pilates
•      Toning

If you alternate between these options with each stack, you’ll get a decent amount of exercise that’s better than what most people do during their day.

#49. Jump Rope

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Mornings

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: Starting each day with exercise gives you an immediate boost to your mood. Sure, it’s not easy to break a sweat first thing in the morning, but if you do it often enough, your body will learn to crave this surge of endorphins.

Jumping rope is ideal when you don’t have time to go to the gym in the morning. A quick session of jumping has many benefits. It’s a full-body workout, it helps with blood circulation, it has less impact on your joints than jogging, it’s inexpensive, and it can be done anywhere.

Description: As you wake up and listen to some of your favorite songs, grab your jump rope and start jumping on the spot. Try your best not to stop in between jumps; this is something that will come naturally if you master the exercise. Continue jumping until the song is over, and then jump into the shower to freshen up before you start the day.

#50. Complete “Deskercise” Routine

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Afternoon

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: It’s not healthy to sit for a prolonged period of time. This not only decreases your focus, but has also been linked to cancer, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and bad cholesterol. That’s why you should consider sneaking in a quick exercise routine that can be completed without leaving your desk. This is often cutely described as a “deskercise routine.”

Description: The goal of a deskercise routine is to strengthen abs and legs, which are often weakened from a sedentary lifestyle. You can perform the following routine two to three times a day, while mixing in the occasional walking break (see habit #47). This is enough to give you a decent baseline level of fitness.

Here is a quick fifteen-part routine you can follow that exercises these areas:

1.      Use your chair
2.      Tricep dip
3.      Wrists
4.      Lower-body stretch
5.      Spinal stretch
6.      Shoulder stretch
7.      Hamstring stretch
8.      Side stretch
9.      Buns of steel
10.      Hamstring curl
11.      Arm stretch
12.      Shoulder blades
13.      Neck muscles
14.      Core strengthener
15.      Ankle roll

You can do all fifteen of these movements or just a few to feel more relaxed. The key thing is to get some form of exercise throughout your workday.

#51. Increase Your Flexibility

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: Being flexible is one of the best ways to improve your overall health. The surprising thing? While it doesn’t take too long to increase your mobility, many people don’t do it because they think it’s too difficult.

One thing to keep in mind: according to a Harvard Medical School study, “Experts no longer recommend stretching before exercise. Newer recommendations suggest that you start your workout routine with a warm-up, such as an easy walk or a sport-specific routine such as serving some tennis balls and practicing ground strokes before a match.”

There are many ways you can increase your flexibility. You could do a full-body stretch, a quick session of yoga, or a dynamic routine like Pilates. And whatever you choose doesn’t have to be very long. In fact, you could easily squeeze it into a five- to ten-minute block as part of a morning stack.

Description: The best time to complete a flexibility routine is after your muscles have warmed up, so you should consider going for a quick walk before getting started. (Again, see habit #47). To get started, I recommend this basic stretching routine that covers seven areas:

1.      Hamstring stretch
2.      Butterfly groin stretch
3.      Lying hip stretch
4.      Lying quad stretch
5.      Calf stretch
6.      Shoulder stretch
7.      Triceps stretch

You can do this stretching routine on an exercise mat at the end of your workout. It takes five to ten minutes. Be sure to hold each stretch for ten to fifteen seconds and repeat twice with each leg.

#52. Practice Good Posture

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: Bad posture has been linked to long-term back pain, fatigue, and even migraine headaches. If you practice good posture, you can eliminate and prevent many of these medical issues from occurring.

Now, the difficulty with trying to improve your posture is you often must undo decades of learned behavior. These are the ingrained actions that you learned when you first started walking and crawling. You need to work on your posture daily by introducing small habits that are anchored to your existing behaviors. When you complete these actions often enough, you’ll make incremental improvements in your posture.

Description: The simplest way to improve your posture is to create new habits for the actions that you regularly do. For instance:

•      If you’re standing at the fridge to get a drink. Double-check your feet and make sure they are correctly positioned. Take a couple of deep breaths.
•      If you’re sitting down at your desk. Check to see if you’re leaning too far forward with your head and neck. (Do this whenever you sit down.)
•      If you’re standing up to pee. Make sure your pelvis is in a neutral position and not tucked forward. Make sure that your weight is back on your heels instead of falling forward and leaning on your toes. You should be able to wiggle your toes.
•      If you’re waiting at a red light while driving. Pull your shoulders back and square them up instead of keeping them rounded. Your ears should be directly in line with the center of your shoulders.
•      If you’re waiting in a line. Practice your squatting position while you’re staring at your phone scrolling through Facebook. (Don’t worry about the people who look at you funny.)

Like the other habits discussed in this book, these actions aren’t hard to complete. The trick is remembering to do them. That’s why my recommendation is to attach one (or all) of these actions to your established routines and make them part of your day.

#53. Meditate

Type: Keystone habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: Meditation helps you maintain focus on one thing (such as your breathing or the sounds of the ocean) and block out any other distractions. It has been proven to have numerous benefits, including reduced stress, improved creativity, better focus, and improved memory.

Some people meditate for hours on end, while others just take a few minutes out of their mornings. I suggest you start by meditating for five minutes so it fits neatly into your regular stack. But if you start to enjoy it, then I recommend increasing the length of your sessions.

Description: Find a quiet place that’s free from distractions and set a timer for five minutes. Start by taking a deep breath and releasing the tension from your diaphragm. Stretch your muscles so you stay comfortable while you focus inward. Focus on clearing your mind and thinking about the present moment.

It’s natural to experience frustration the first few times you meditate. If this happens to you, focus on your breathing and let your feelings of frustration dissipate. Focus on your body parts so you know when the meditation starts to take hold.

If you have trouble focusing, then try the Calm or Headspace apps, which provide specific prompts that you can use to create a relaxed state of mind.

#54. Follow an Evening Shutdown Routine

Type: Keystone habit

Best time to complete: Evening

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: A shutdown routine is a keystone habit for getting a full night’s sleep that will prepare you for a productive start to the next day.

What most folks do before bedtime is they load up on caffeine, alcohol, technology, or TV. Then they wonder why they toss and turn all night. You can break this cycle by practicing a series of habits that reduces the “noise” in your life and helps you to get into bed feeling fully relaxed and ready to sleep.

Description: A shutdown routine can be its own habit stack, or you can simply focus on completing a few of the following actions.

1.      Don’t consume any caffeine within four to six hours of bedtime. Instead, substitute it with water, a calming tea, or even cherry juice—which has been found to contain melatonin, a natural ingredient to help with your sleep cycle.
2.      Avoid eating a big meal within two hours of sleeping.
3.      Shut down all screened devices in the last hour before bedtime. This includes TV, phones, laptops, and tablets. You can use a Kindle device if it’s just used for reading a good book.
4.      Designate your bedroom as only for sleeping. Get rid of the TV, technology, and work-related items from this room. Do everything you can to ensure that this is only a place where you get a full night’s rest.
5.      Practice relaxing habits like taking a hot shower (or bath), practicing aromatherapy (habit #119), or speaking calming words like prayers (habit #110).

If you follow just a few (or all) of these practices, your head will hit the pillow feeling relaxed and prepared for a great night’s sleep.

#55. Use the Sleep Cycle App

Type: Keystone habit

Best time to complete: Evenings

Frequency: Morning

Benefit: It has been reported that the average sleep cycle is ninety minutes, which is repeated throughout the night. If your sleep patterns match these cycles, then you’ll wake up feeling refreshed and energized. Using an app like Sleep Cycle will help you make sure that you’re getting a full night’s rest.

Description: Setting up the Sleep Cycle app is a simple process. First, connect your phone to a charger. Then, choose the motion detection mode. If you’re using the microphone as motion detection mode, then place your phone facedown on your bedside table. But if you’re using the accelerometer, then place your phone facedown on your bed. For more on this process, I recommend checking out the article published on the Sleep Cycle website.

#56. Connect Your Location to Beeminder

Type: Keystone habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Weekly or monthly

Benefit: Beeminder is a habit-building app on steroids. Instead of relying on self-reporting to track your habits, Beeminder syncs with a variety of apps (like IFTTT, Gmail, FitBit, and RescueTime) to make sure you follow through with your commitments. If you fail to achieve a target goal, then Beeminder will charge you money. Sounds hardcore, right?

As you can imagine, there are many uses for Beeminder. In fact, you can use it to build many of the habits mentioned throughout this book. I recommend that you check out the site to see how it works.

In my opinion, the best use of Beeminder is to use the location app on your cell phone when you’re at the gym and then create a “commitment contract” with Beeminder where you promise to go to this location a specific amount of time each week. If you don’t follow through, you’ll have to pay money to Beeminder.

Description: It’s simple to sync Beeminder with your phone. First, set up a Beeminder account. Next, use an IFTTT recipe for your phone. Finally, turn on the notification the next time you’re at the gym and create a commitment contract with Beeminder for that location. This means you’ll agree to go to that location for a specific amount of time each week, otherwise you’ll get fined.

Now, I don’t recommend that this habit should be part of your daily stack. Instead, you should set it up one time and then review your commitment contracts every week (or month) to decide if they are worth sticking to.

#57. Apply Sunscreen Year Round

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: While sunscreen might stay in your medical cabinet for most of the year and only come out when it’s time to hit the beach or pool, UV rays can harm you year round. By applying sunscreen daily, you can reduce your chances of sunburn, photoaging, and skin cancer.

Description: While it may take some getting used to, the habit of applying sunscreen every day is possible to implement in your daily routine.

1.      Find a high-SPF bottle of sunscreen and keep it in a place where you’ll be sure to notice it, such as on your bathroom sink or dresser.
2.      As you ready yourself in the morning, find a suitable time to apply sunscreen. A good time would be between showering and getting dressed.
3.      Apply the sunscreen all over your body.
4.      Check to see how long your sunscreen lasts. If it expires after a few hours, then bring some along with you to work or school or wherever you have to go and reapply it at a convenient time. Also, look for sunscreens that last as long as possible.

I recommend this habit whenever you’ll be in the sun for longer than ten minutes. This means even if it’s a cold but sunny day outside, you’ll need to spend a few minutes applying a bit of protection.

#58. Eliminate Bacteria in Your Kitchen

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Daily or weekly

Benefit: According to WebMD, your kitchen is the germiest room in your home. From the sponges to the counters to the refrigerator, there are billons of microorganisms that that could become a health hazard to you and your family. That’s why you should consider a quick daily (or weekly) stack where you remove bacteria from the location where food is prepared.

Description: This is an easy habit that can be added to an evening stack (or become part of a weekly routine). Using a combination of disinfectants, bleach, and vinegar-based solutions, you should clean the following areas:

•      Sinks
•      Countertops
•      Cutting boards
•      Kitchen faucets
•      Soap dispensers
•      The dishwasher
•      The refrigerator (specifically the seal and the door handles)
•      Trash can

The WebMD article mentioned before provides a quick strategy on how to clean each of these areas, but I recommend one additional suggestion. After cleaning these surfaces, finish the routine by microwaving the sponge and then leave it soaking in a bleach solution. Since this is the item that you use to clean the house, you need to take extra precautions to ensure it’s 100% free from germs.

#59. Sneeze into Your Arm, Not Your Hands

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Daily

Benefit: I’ll admit this habit sounds disgusting, but it can also have a positive long-term impact on the health of you and your family. If you’re sneezing into your hands, you’re letting germs onto the part of your body that helps them spread the fastest. Also, there’s a lack of area in your hands for particularly intense sneezes. By sneezing into your elbow, you can do your part to curb the spread of germs.

Description: If you’ve been sneezing into your hands, it might be hard to break the habit. In order to undo your reflex urge to sneeze into your hands, you need to replace this with the habit of sneezing into your elbow.

First, sneezes can come out of nowhere, which is why undoing this habit can be especially difficult. In order to prepare, just sit down and imagine you feel a sneeze coming out. Bring your elbow in proximity with your nose and mouth and make a movement similar to a sneeze.

You can even try verbalizing “achoo” or other sneeze sounds in order to help you out. Practice this for thirty seconds to one minute at a time for a few days.

Next, while some sneezes are sudden and explosive, others come through more slowly. For these sneezes, you have more time to prepare yourself. If you feel a sneeze well before it’s expelled, ready your elbow in preparation.

Finally, take a moment to consider how many germs are floating around in our environment and how easily people are spreading them. By keeping germs out of your hands as much as possible through sneezing, coughing, and other actions, you are providing an invaluable service to the world.

#60. Perform a Safety Check

Type: Support habit

Best time to complete: Anytime

Frequency: Weekly and monthly

Benefit: At the risk of sounding like a dad (which I am), there are little habits you need to build that will protect you and your family. These are called safety checks because double-checking these items might be a life-or-death action.

Description: This is a simple habit where you set aside a block of time each week and once a month to complete the following actions. (If you get stuck with how to do any of these actions, then refer to the owner’s manual of an appliance or watch a how-to video on YouTube.):

Weekly:

•      Check the tire pressure in your car(s). Fill them if they are low.
•      Check each carbon monoxide and smoke detector to make sure they’re operational.
•      Clean the lint from your dryer and inside the exhaust vent.
•      Check that medical alerts and contact numbers for all family members are visible on your fridge or near your phone.
•      Check all electrical sources for needed repairs.
•      Check locks on property outside the house, such as storage shed and gates to the backyard.

Monthly:

•      Check your emergency flashlights to see if you need to replace the batteries.
•      Check your designated place for all medical emergency equipment and make sure all are in working order.
•      Check that contents of first aid or medicine kits are up to date (not expired) and properly labeled.
•      Lock away all firearms and separate ammunition (as needed) from children. Use firearm safety locks.

Never underestimate the value of safety checks. Sometimes it’s the small things in life that can have the biggest impact on your health and well-being.