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.
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?
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
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.
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
- 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.
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!
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