But the rest of us? Not so much. There are few among us who wouldn’t want to seriously tweak, if not downright re-imagine, the lives we lead. We’d do just about anything to have more career success, better health, a rockin’ bod, and a brain that’s firing on all cylinders. But taking the huge steps—the intense diet, the career overhaul, the hours in the gym, or just packing up and moving to Vanuatu to become a professional sun worshipper—are a little beyond our daily means.
Fortunately, there are things you can do starting today that cost almost nothing, take 5 minutes or less, and can begin making a dramatic impact on your overall life. The makers of the new Sweat This, Not That! 30-Day Fit Moves Challenge presented by Degree® deodorant app—for iPhone or iWatch—have culled their favorites. Start each morning with these super-quick rituals, and start reaping the rewards:
Ritual #1 Mark Your Wakeup Time
Because It: Doubles Your Brain Power
Whether you wake up with an alarm or just naturally, jot down the exact time you woke up. Over the course of a week, average out your up-and-at-em times, then plot your bedtimes accordingly: You want to aim for exactly 7 hours each night. In a recent Spanish study, sleeping less than six hours or more than eight was associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment by 2.6 times in people over the age of 65.
Ritual #2 Pour One Cup of Coffee
Because It: Turbocharges Your Sexual Function
A new study from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston found that men who consumed 85-170 milligrams of caffeine a day were 42 percent less likely to report ED than those who did not. A standard cup of Joe has about 95 mg. However, once you exceed two cups, the benefits start to decline; those who drank 171-303 mg daily had slightly less protection.
Ritual #3 Step Outside
Because It: Turns Off Your Fat Genes
Recent research published in the journal PLOS ONE found that getting direct sunlight exposure between the hours of 8:00 am and noon reduced your risk of weight gain regardless of activity level, caloric intake, or even age. Researchers believe that the sunlight synchronizes your metabolism and undercuts your fat-storage genes.
Ritual #4: Take an A.M. Fitness Challenge
Because It: Burns Off Stored Fat
Even a short bout of exercise before your morning meal can burn calories far more efficiently than a typical lunch-hour workout. Because you’re exercising in a “fasted” state, your body burns through its energy stores and has to tap body fat to keep you moving. As a result, you set yourself up for increased fat burn throughout the day. For a series of 5-minute moves that require zero equipment, check out the 30-Day Fit Moves Challenge app, available for phone or Apple Watch.
Ritual #5: Grab a Handful of Walnuts
Because It: Flattens Your Belly
Snack on them on your way out the door. Richer in omega-3s than salmon, loaded with more polyphenols than red wine, and packing a mighty dose of fiber and protein, these brain-shaped snacks are like Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. They’re the king of the nuts. A study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that people who eat tree nuts have decreased BMIs and waist sizes.
BONUS TIP: Double-Check Your Cereal
Because It: Prevents Energy Slumps
If your morning ritual involves a serving of healthy, hearty oatmeal, do a double take. A serving of Quaker Oats Old Fashioned Oatmeal has 4 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein and just a single gram of sugar. But their Fruit & Cream flavored oatmeal packs half the fiber and 12 TIMES as much sugar, plus trans fats, which are used to create their “Flavored and Colored Fruit Pieces.” As a general rule, a truly healthy breakfast cereal should have less than 8 grams of sugar. Wheat Chex, Kellogg’s All Bran, Multigrain Cheerios and Kashi Autumn Wheat all make the grade.