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How To Improve Fitness and Get Stronger – A Daily Checklist

Being fit is important. Especially if you are a high achieving individual. If you are fitter, you have fewer chances of falling ill too. And that’s quite a good time-saving deal!

However, simply telling yourself to get back into the gym or consume fewer chocolates won’t suffice. Improving fitness requires a mindset shift. You have to start with the small things. Begin with things that you can control in your daily life. And build up from there. Here’s a list of quick wins that you can start incorporating today to reach your desired fitness goals.

Take this free health quiz to get your health score and check if you are performing at your absolute best. Also get free personalised health advice based on your score.

Lifestyle hacks to improve fitness

1. Squat here, squat there, squat everywhere!

There’s no doubt that exercise is the first thing you should be doing to get fit. The benefits are ridiculously myriad. But, it’s hard to get started. Life tends to get in the way. But hey, you are here, you want to get fit, so let’s find reasons to be and not excuses to not be.

In our post on health hacks for quickly achieving a healthy lifestyle, we mentioned doing squats while brushing your teeth. It’s a really neat hack. If you combine something that you do every day with something you rarely do, there is a good chance that you will pick up the latter as a habit. Get creative and find opportunities to implement this hack!

Squats are a perfect exercise, to begin with. They don’t require any equipment. They target large muscle groups that increase core fitness. You can do them in the same spot.

Consider adding just a few sets of 15 squats to your day. That’s it! According to one study, four to six workout sprints of just 30 seconds each have the same heart health benefits when compared to moderate 40-60 minutes workouts1.

2. You always deserve a 25 minute power nap

Do you think naps improve your health?

Heck yes!

Cosy afternoon naps can have a positive impact on your work performance, boost alertness, and regulate emotions.

There’s an interesting study conducted with athletes to study the effects of a power nap. Athletes were made to take naps of varying durations. They were then asked to do some intense activity. It was observed that their performance and recovery time were much improved after they had taken a nap. The best performance was observed after a 45-minute nap2.

3. There are work desks that are meant to keep you healthy

Sitting for long periods reduces the number of calories your body can burn. Treadmill desks are a great way to get some exercise during your day. They also reap plenty of health benefits from weight loss and reduced lower back pain.

If a treadmill desk is a bit too strange and doesn’t fit in with your house decor, get the humble standing desk. And none of those electric motor fancy ones. Get the good old hand lever ones and stand up every 20 minutes.

By the way, exercise bike desks are a thing too if you’re looking for more fun!

4. Fidgeting is actually good for you! Kind of.

You know those small movements you make with your body such as tapping your foot under the table, bouncing your knee, or pacing the room while chatting on the phone. That’s called fidgeting.

Fidgeting is an example of Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT). That’s just a neat (pun intended) acronym for when energy is burnt without intentionally engaging in physical activity.

Obviously, you can’t expect to have rock-hard abs by twiddling your thumbs at the desk but in a sedentary lifestyle, a little bit of physical activity goes a long way.

Fidgeters, according to sources, burn up to ten times more calories than those who remain motionless3. Moreover, small exercises done frequently can have the same effect as vigorous exercises done less frequently. They aid in the prevention of obesity and the improvement of cardiovascular health4,5.

5. Gardening is hot!

Hear me out!

  • It is physically taxing. Your muscles get worked out quite a bit!
  • Gardening is a relaxing pastime that can also reduce stress and improve your mood6.
  • It’s very accessible. There’s no need to join a fancy gym or purchase expensive exercise equipment.
  • You are working hard to grow something. That requires dedication and patience which are admirable qualities.
  • Everyone looks amazing after a good gardening session! Sweat dripping off your glistening muscles and mud grazes across your face make you look rugged and strong.

Nutrition hacks to improve fitness

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

You are what you eat. Your fitness is directly proportional to your diet. Food is fuel for your body and if it isn’t getting the right amount of nutrients it can’t perform at its best.

6. Give your tummy some rest with intermittent fasting

Short-term fasting increases your metabolism. Thus, by burning more calories, it can save you from the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer7,8.

With intermittent fasting, over time, your appetite will reduce too. Therefore, it’s great if you want to get rid of late-night snacking or control your calorie intake.

You can start small with a 12-hour overnight fast and then increase the time gradually. The 8/16 protocol is quite standard. You basically fast for 16 hours and then eat in an 8-hour window.

7. Salad bowls can be so much more interesting

What picture springs to your mind when you think of a salad bowl? I hope it’s not just a sad-looking mish-mash of vegetables thrown together.

Live a little!

Salads do not have to be depressing. Liven them up with some combinations. You can add fruits for some natural sugar. There are many healthy sauces and spreads (hummus!) that you can add for a bit of zest. Here’s a cool guide to building a salad bowl that you might actually enjoy.

Your fitness will skyrocket once you combine some form of exercise with the assortment of nutrients you will get from a salad bowl built the right way. (Image source)

And if you want to ease into salad bowls, you can start the other way around, add some vegetables to your unhealthy meals to begin the transition.

Perhaps you can even try some instant gratification to get yourself on the salad track? Salads inherently look amazing thanks to the burst of colours. Try posting your salad bowl on social media and let the likes fuel your transition.

8. Nuts over crisps

I won’t lie, I do enjoy the occasional packet of crisps. Okay, maybe more than one. But it’s immediately followed by a pang of guilt and regret.

So here’s what I began to do to address that guilt. I started buying pre-made packets of mixed nuts and kept them on my work desk. Every time I feel like munching on something, I grab the packet of nuts. Nuts are great for your health as they contain calcium, magnesium, copper, vitamin E, and iron9.

You can buy any nuts according to your preference. However, make sure they aren’t the chocolate coated ones. For obvious reasons!

9. Goodbye soda, hello lemonade!

Sometimes you just need a big gulp of a drink to wash down a bite down your gullet. Usually, for a lot of people, that’s soda.

The dangers of sugar are numerous. Ranging from weight gain to an increased risk of cancer and depression. As per the NHS, adults should consume only 30 grams of sugar each day10. However, people end up consuming over 100 grams a day11!

Many of the foods you eat might include hidden sugar in them. Here is an article listing 4 tricks to identify hidden sugars in your groceries.

If you’re a soda-aholic, there are some easy replacement hacks that can go a long way and help improve fitness.

  • Make a jug of lemonade using freshly squeezed lemons and honey. You can add a small amount of club soda to make it more fizzy.
  • Flavoured waters have become pretty good over the years.
  • 100% fresh juices are always a great option.
  • Fruit teas. You can enjoy them chilled too!

10. Protein isn’t just for gym bros

Protein is a fairly obvious nutrient to include in your diet if your aim is to improve fitness. Here’s why:

  • It increases your metabolism – you’ll burn calories faster12.
  • Protein keeps you satiated for longer – you won’t feel hungry quite as often and won’t resort to bingeing13.
  • It strengthens your muscles- micro tears in your muscles due to exercise are repaired with denser muscle fibers. This requires protein14.

The best sources of protein in different diet forms are:

  • Non-vegetarian diet: Chicken, Mutton, Eggs, Fish, and Beef.
  • Vegetarian diet: Lentils, Legumes, Beans, Green Peas, fruits, milk, and cheese.
  • Vegan diet: Soybeans, Tofu, Chickpeas, Broccoli, Quinoa, Oats, Spirulina, and vegetables 15,16,17,18,19.

11. Carbohydrates FTW!

Most restrictive diets recommend cutting back on carbohydrates. However, it is essential for aiding fitness performance20.

You can adjust your carbohydrate intake according to the intensity of your exercise regime.

Limit carbohydrate intake only on days with less physical activity. But when you are exercising, indulge yourself in some healthy carbohydrates.

Here are 5 sources of healthy carbohydrates:

  • Brown rice
  • Prunes
  • Quinoa
  • Potatoes
  • Wholegrain Cereals21,22

Supplements that improve fitness

The pace of our lives can make it hard to get all our nutrients from the food we eat. This leads to gaps in our nutrition which then show up in some form of ailment. Perhaps you feel tired more often or feel your concentration slip away more frequently.

That’s where supplements come in. Here are some supplements that have shown promise to improve fitness levels.

If you have any medical conditions, it is always safe to consult a doctor before picking up any supplements.

12. Fish oil capsules are really good

Fish oil has omega-3 fatty acids that, among other things, slow down age-related muscular degeneration23. If you don’t eat a lot of fish, you can get your required dose of omega-3 from these power-packed golden capsules to improve your fitness.

13. Vitamin D supplements are a quick win

It is estimated that more than one in five people have low levels of vitamin D in the UK24. That makes sense considering the fact that every time you look out the window, there’s a high chance that you will be greeted with dreary skies.

But all clouds have a silver lining and we have vitamin D supplements. It’s a good idea to get some vitamin D, especially in the winter months. They will help prevent muscle pain, weakness, and seasonal-affective disorders25,26,27. They provide us with quite a lot of other benefits too.

Our health test includes a vitamin D test. In fact, it will factor in your gender and age and if required add a vitamin D supplement to your plan.

14. Green supplements can be your backup plan

Green supplements are nutritious plant blends meant to supplement a diet lacking in fruits and vegetables. Studies show that these supplements support immune function, digestive health, and protect against cancer and chronic illnesses28,29,30.

Green supplements are not a substitute for eating fruits and vegetables! If you eat five portions of fruits and vegetables per day, these extra antioxidants won’t provide much benefit.

But let’s face it: you’re probably not eating the required amount of fruits and vegetables.

So, green supplements are your backup plan.

These are usually vegan and made from organic products. However, each brand has its own formula, so read the label carefully.

A word of caution. Avoid these supplements immediately after your workout. Loading up on antioxidants post-workout can impair your ability to build muscles31. However, you can have them at any other time of the day and you will have upgraded your diet!

15. Turmeric (aka the Golden Spice) is a health treasure trove

Turmeric isn’t just popular for its ability to satisfy our appetite for curry, but also for its long list of health benefits.

It has been used as Ayurvedic medicine for centuries and is arguably the most well-studied organic supplement in modern sciences32.

This potent natural supplement has powerful anti-inflammatory properties33. It reduces post-workout joint stiffness, muscle soreness, and damage34. Studies have shown that it’s best to have turmeric with black pepper either in supplements or when taken naturally35.

Interested in automating your fitness improvement plan with science?

You’ve scrolled so far and (hopefully) skimmed our fitness hacks. Clearly, you’re serious about getting your fitness levels up. Perfect!

Our health test is a tad different. We stick with you until you reach your goals, and beyond that too.

We will check 21 of your blood markers. These markers have been carefully chosen by experts to give the most holistic view of your health, including your fitness. It’s always good to know your current levels before beginning your health journey.

Based on your scores, you’ll get a completely personalised action plan towards achieving your health goals. Additionally, you’ll see your progress on your personal health data dashboard. Here’s a screenshot for you to check.

ElevateMe-Health-App
If you want to get a feel for what your report and action plan would look like, here’s a simple demo version.

Take the ElevateMe health test today and join a community of people working towards living their happiest and healthiest lives.

References

References

  1. Vollaard, N. and Metcalfe, R., 2017. Research into the Health Benefits of Sprint Interval Training Should Focus on Protocols with Fewer and Shorter SprintsSports Medicine, 47(12), pp.2443-2451.
  2. Boukhris, O., Abdessalem, R., Ammar, A., Hsouna, H., Trabelsi, K., Engel, F. A., Sperlich, B., Hill, D. W., & Chtourou, H. (2019). Nap Opportunity During the Daytime Affects Performance and Perceived Exertion in 5-m Shuttle Run TestFrontiers in physiology10, 779.
  3. Ravussin, E., Lillioja, S., Anderson, T., Christin, L. and Bogardus, C., 1986. Determinants of 24-hour energy expenditure in man. Methods and results using a respiratory chamberJournal of Clinical Investigation, 78(6), pp.1568-1578.
  4. Johannsen, D. and Ravussin, E., 2008. Spontaneous physical activity: relationship between fidgeting and body weight controlCurrent Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes & Obesity, 15(5), pp.409-415.
  5. Rempel, D. and Krause, N., 2018. Do Sit–Stand Workstations Improve Cardiovascular Health?. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, 60(7), pp.e319-e320.
  6. Hall, C. and Knuth, M., 2019. An Update of the Literature Supporting the Well-Being Benefits of Plants: A Review of the Emotional and Mental Health Benefits of Plants. Journal of Environmental Horticulture, 37(1), pp.30-38.
  7. Varady, K., Bhutani, S., Church, E. and Klempel, M., 2009. Short-term modified alternate-day fasting: a novel dietary strategy for weight loss and cardioprotection in obese adultsThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(5), pp.1138-1143.
  8. Lee, C., Raffaghello, L., Brandhorst, S., Safdie, F., Bianchi, G., Martin-Montalvo, A., Pistoia, V., Wei, M., Hwang, S., Merlino, A., Emionite, L., de Cabo, R. and Longo, V., 2012. Fasting Cycles Retard Growth of Tumors and Sensitize a Range of Cancer Cell Types to ChemotherapyScience Translational Medicine 4(124).
  9. King, J., Blumberg, J., Ingwersen, L., Jenab, M. and Tucker, K., 2008. Tree Nuts and Peanuts as Components of a Healthy DietThe Journal of Nutrition, 138(9), pp.1736S-1740S.
  10. nhs.uk. 2022. Sugar: the facts. [online]
  11. nhs.uk. 2022. How to cut down on sugar in your diet. [online]
  12. Pesta, D. and Samuel, V., 2014. A high-protein diet for reducing body fat: mechanisms and possible caveatsNutrition & Metabolism, 11(1), p.53.
  13. Halton, T. and Hu, F., 2004. The Effects of High Protein Diets on Thermogenesis, Satiety and Weight Loss: A Critical ReviewJournal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(5), pp.373-385.
  14. Carbone, J. and Pasiakos, S., 2019. Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health BenefitNutrients, 11(5), p.1136.
  15. Mariotti, F. and Gardner, C., 2019. Dietary Protein and Amino Acids in Vegetarian Diets—A Review. Nutrients, 11(11), p.2661.
  16. Orisa, C., & Usoroh, C. (2020). Protein Intake of Vegetarians and Non-vegetarians in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. European Journal Of Nutrition & Food Safety, 33-44. doi: 10.9734/ejnfs/2020/v12i830259
  17. Ramírez-Rodrigues, M., Estrada-Beristain, C., Metri-Ojeda, J., Pérez-Alva, A., & Baigts-Allende, D. (2021). Spirulina platensis Protein as Sustainable Ingredient for Nutritional Food Products DevelopmentSustainability13(12), 6849. doi: 10.3390/su13126849
  18. US Deparment of Agriculture. 2017. Food Data Central.
  19. US Deparment of Agriculture. 2017. Food Data Central.
  20. Thompson, D., 2009. Fitness Focus Copy-and-ShareACSM’S Health & Fitness Journal, 13(5), p.5.
  21. Ludwig, D., Hu, F., Tappy, L., & Brand-Miller, J. (2018). Dietary carbohydrates: role of quality and quantity in chronic disease. BMJ, k2340. doi: 10.1136/bmj.k2340
  22. Dikeman, C., Bauer, L., & Fahey, G. (2004). Carbohydrate Composition of Selected Plum/Prune Preparations. Journal Of Agricultural And Food Chemistry, 52(4), 853-859. doi: 10.1021/jf034858u
  23. Querques G, Souied EH. The role of omega-3 and micronutrients in age-related macular degeneration. Survey of Ophthalmology. 2014;59(5):532-539.
  24. nhs.uk. 2020. Vitamin D.
  25. Conti, P. and Kempuraj, D., 2016. Impact of Vitamin D on Mast Cell Activity, Immunity and Inflammation. [online] Pubs.sciepub.com.
  26. E. Gunton, J., & M. Grigis, C.,2018, June. Vitamin D and muscle. ScienceDirect.
  27. CANNELL, J. J., HOLLIS, B. W., SORENSON, M. B., TAFT, T. N., & ANDERSON, J. J. B., 2009. Athletic Performance and Vitamin D. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 41(5), 1102–1110.
  28. Gage, J. (2009). Understanding the role of probiotics in supporting digestive comfort. Nursing Standard, 24(4), 47-56. doi: 10.7748/ns.24.4.47.s50
  29. Ianiro, G., Pecere, S., Giorgio, V., Gasbarrini, A., & Cammarota, G. (2016). Digestive Enzyme Supplementation in Gastrointestinal Diseases. Current Drug Metabolism, 17(2), 187-193. doi: 10.2174/138920021702160114150137
  30. Jacob, K., Noren Hooten, N., Trzeciak, A., & Evans, M. (2013). Markers of oxidant stress that are clinically relevant in aging and age-related disease. Mechanisms Of Ageing And Development, 134(3-4), 139-157. doi: 10.1016/j.mad.2013.02.008
  31. Shephard, R. (2010). Antioxidants prevent health-promoting effects of physical exercise in humans
  32. Soleimani, V., Sahebkar, A., & Hosseinzadeh, H. (2018). Turmeric (Curcuma longa) and its major constituent (curcumin) as nontoxic and safe substances: Review. Phytotherapy Research, 32(6), 985-995. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6054
  33. S. Jurenka, J. (2018). Anti-inflammatory Properties of Curcumin, a Major Constituent of Curcuma longa: A Review of Preclinical and Clinical Research. Phytotherapy Research, 32(6), 985-995. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6054
  34. Jager, R., R Caldwell, A., & Sanders, E. (2020). Curcumin Reduces Muscle Damage and Soreness Following Muscle-Damaging Exercise. Phytotherapy Research, 35(4), 1768-1781. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6912
  35. Shoba, G., Joy, D., & Joseph, T. (1998). Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Clinical Trial, 3(1), 75-75. doi: 10.1007/bf02821338
hacks to improve fitness - elevateme

Written by Rida Khan

I'm a writer and a voracious reader with a graduate degree in English Literature. I have always harboured a keen interest in topics related to health, wellbeing, travel, and crafts. I am currently building my career in Writing and Communications.

21/01/2022

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