5 healthy habits that are easy to add to your day | CNN

Editor’s note: Dana Santas, better known as “Navigation maker,” is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and mind-body coach in professional sports, and is the author of “Practical Solutions for Back Pain Relief.”


If you feel like you don’t have enough time for daily self-care beyond the basics, you’re not alone. Many people cite their busy schedules as barriers to leading healthy lifestyles.

But what if you only need five minutes?

Believe it or not, there are quick, hands-on activities you can do in five minutes or less to have a measurable positive impact on your health and wellness.

If you’re still not convinced you can find the time, consider reclaiming those minutes from a less productive and time-consuming activity. How often do you check social media accounts, mindlessly scroll through posts only to look up and realize five, 10 or even 20 minutes have passed?

With excessive social media use linked to negative mental health effects, if you’re one of the 7 in 10 Americans who use social media, it might be in your best interest to trade in five minutes of scrolling in favor of one of the five science-supported, health-promoting activities listed below.

Want to reduce stress and boost your physical and mental health almost instantly? Take a breather break. Simply stop and spend a few minutes taking long, deep breaths in and out of your nose.

Better yet, it doesn’t even require a full five minutes to start reaping the wellness benefits. In as little as 90 seconds, deep breathing stimulates a physiological relaxation response that inhibits stress hormone production, lowers blood pressure and reduces heart rate, according to research. Consistently working on better breathing can improve posture and reduce pain.

Move your body

Not moving, especially sitting for long periods, not only harms your physical health, but also your mental health, increasing the risk of death and depression. Moving your body for five minutes at a time can make a difference. In fact, a 2020 study found that just 11 minutes of exercise per day, in any increments, increases your lifespan.

How you move your body is up to you. As long as you keep your body moving, the type of exercise doesn’t matter. You can do five-minute yoga stretches, bodyweight exercises, or another creative way to get your body moving, like dancing to two of your favorite upbeat songs.

Take five minutes to feel seen and heard every day – and give back to someone else. If you can’t meet a friend or family member in person, screen time can actually work in your favor by enabling video chat. Talking face to face is always best, but socializing in any way that helps you feel supported can stave off loneliness and feelings of isolation, which are linked to decreased cognitive skills, depression, heart attack, stroke, and early death.

If scheduling makes it hard to connect with friends on a daily basis, be sure to strike up conversations with others while you’re running errands. For example, you can easily talk to the cashiers at the grocery store by asking how their day was going, responding with genuine interest and volunteering information about your day. A smile and an honest interaction can go a long way to your health and the health of those you meet. You can even make a new friend!

Have you ever watched TV and wanted a snack but didn’t want to take the time to wash fresh fruit in the fridge, so you grabbed a bag of potato chips instead? I know I have. Accessibility is an important factor in our ability to make healthy choices, so taking five minutes to prep fresh foods for snacking can be impactful.

You’ve likely heard nutritionists and fitness influencers alike tout the benefits of weekly meal prep, where you prep all of your meals for the week in one day. While this sounds great in theory and is comfortable for the week, it can be logistically demanding and time consuming. Taking just five minutes every other day or so to wash and chop some of your favorite fresh fruits and vegetables is less intimidating and serves as a good entry point for large-scale meal prepping.

Research has shown that 10,000 steps a day can reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and premature death, but recent research has found that any amount of walking helps. So, just a five-minute walk around your neighborhood or inside your office building has health benefits.

Taking it a step further (pun intended), walking for five minutes every 30 minutes results in an immediate, measurable decrease in both blood pressure and blood sugar, according to a recent study.

In contrast to lofty resolutions for the sake of better health, such as giving up cheese or chocolate forever, the five-minute activities mentioned above are much more practical. With consistent practice, they can become sustainable healthy habits that will provide wellness-enhancing benefits over your lifetime – a longer life because of those five-minute habits!

Subscribe to CNN’s Fitness Newsletter Series, But Better Than CNN. Our seven-part guide will help you ease into a healthy routine with expert support.

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