20 Ways to Improve Your Health in Under 20 Minutes
What if we told you that you can boost your energy, fight diseases, erase wrinkles, and lose weight in just 20 minutes? No need to pinch yourself—or pencil in a vampire facial or full-body cryotherapy session—improving your health in less than a half-hour is totally viable with just a few simple steps. From hacking your workout to packing smart snacks in advance, our expert-approved tips below require small lifestyle changes that can lead to big results.
Improve your overall well-being by giving these effortless tips a try, and if you want healthy recipes, supermarket shopping guides, and essential nutrition tips at your fingertips, subscribe to the new Eat This, Not That! magazine now! For a limited time, you can save 50 percent off the cover price—click here!
Try a HIIT Workout
If you want to ditch the spare tire and get in tip-top shape, experts recommend fitting a half-hour of exercise into your daily routine. Doesn’t sound doable? You’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover that a 15-minute workout can actually help you lose weight—you just have to be strategic about the one you choose. HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise such as burpees or weighted squat jumps followed by a low-intensity rest phase such as walking or stretching. A study published in the journal BMC Endocrine Disorders discovered that engaging in a 15-minute-long HIIT workout improved overweight participants’ insulin sensitivity more significantly than moderate-intensity training. “The main point of HIIT is the excess post-oxygen consumption ‘EPOC.’ In other words, 24 hours after your workout, your metabolism is still revved up,” health fitness instructor Jim White, RD, ACSM, and owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios tells us in Best Workouts for Fat Loss and Burning Calories.
Pack Snack Bags for the Week
Arm your office desk drawer and your car’s glove compartment with healthy snacks to munch on when hunger strikes on the go. Instead of leaving it up to your willpower to make a healthy food choice—which isn’t exactly effective when your mind is flooded with fast food cravings—take 20 minutes out of your day to pack snack bags in advance.
Fill small, resealable bags with a single serving size of wholesome picks such as nuts, roasted chickpeas, and low-sugar trail mix or keep a bag of Rhythm Superfood’s Carrot Sticks on hand. Devoting less than half an hour a week to pre-portioning portable snacks will help you nix that pesky potato chip habit, pack more nutrients into your diet, and transform your summer-body goals into sheer reality.
Take a Coffee Break
Trim your mile-long Starbucks order by scrapping the fancy fixings and order your coffee black. Drinking java has been linked to lowering your risk of depression, providing migraine relief, curbing cravings, improving skin elasticity, and relieving migraines. And the glorious benefits don’t just end there: According to a study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, participants who sipped caffeinated coffee had a 16 percent higher metabolic rate on average than those who drank decaf. Ordering your cup sans milk, cream, and flavored syrups can help you cut back on calories and added sugars—a foolproof way to reduce your risk of metabolic diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Walk It Out
Hitting the weight rack might define the picture of health, but that doesn’t mean you have to clear your schedule and devote hours to the gym. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that adding a 20-minute brisk walk to your daily routine can improve longevity and overall health. So instead of confining yourself to the cafeteria during your lunch break, go for a quick walk outdoors—you’ll burn some calories, enjoy some sun, and get your daily dose of depression-fighting vitamin D. Sounds like a no-brainer to us!
Remember the days when you scribbled “dear diary” in pink gel ink and followed the salutation with an extensive recap of an encounter with your high school crush? Well, your old writing hobby shouldn’t be a thing left in the past. It turns out that journaling can actually help you improve your health and lose weight. A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that among 1,700 individuals, those who journaled daily lost double the weight compared to those who abstained.
What’s more, a study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reviewed 439 women and discovered that those who kept a food journal lost about 13 percent of their starting body weight compared to the 8 percent of those who didn’t jot it down. Take just 20 minutes out of your day to document what you ate and how you felt after every meal—you’ll become more aware of your daily eating habits and discover where there’s room for improvement.
Arrange a Fancy Fruit Bowl
You know that decorative bowl that your grandma gave you ages ago? Instead of keeping it hidden behind your collection of pots and pans, let the bowl have its big break. Stack an assortment of colorful oranges, pears, apples, and bananas and keep it on display on your kitchen table in plain sight. Swap that jar of wafer cookies for the fruit bowl and you’ll be way more likely to grab a healthy snack before heading out.
Look Up Restaurant Menus
Before RSVPing to that birthday dinner and texting “yes” in all caps in response to a brunch invite, make sure to spend a few minutes reviewing the restaurant’s menu. If you take the time to decide what you’ll order before you sit down to a meal, you’ll maximize your chances of making a more informed decision and order healthily.
Another pro tip: Volunteer to order first! If you wait for the waiter to make his round around the table and take everyone else’s orders first, you’re more likely to rethink your healthy decision and succumb to choosing the cheat-meal-worthy dish your buddies ordered. This is just one of the 35 Tips to Eat Healthy at Restaurants.
Don’t underestimate the power of your mind when it comes to giving your well-being a much-needed makeover. “Science shows that stress can trigger cravings for less healthy foods, as well as set your body up to store more fat. So, meditation, yoga, and taking time to do things you like to do are great healthy-weight strategies,” Annie Kay, MS, RDN, Lead Nutritionist at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health tells us in 32 Ways to Lose Weight Faster. Plus, meditation may be effective in treating high blood pressure, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression, and insomnia, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Slather on Hyaluronic Acid
Channel your inner Benjamin Button with the help of one simple skincare ingredient: hyaluronic acid. Slathering on a facial moisturizer spiked with HA can help restore your skin’s youthfulness and slow down moisture loss associated with aging, therefore preventing dreaded dullness and crow’s feet. A study in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology found that nano-hyaluronic acid decreased the depth of wrinkles by up to 40 percent, increased skin hydration by up to 96 percent, and improved skin firmness and elasticity by up to 55 percent.
Brush Your Teeth After Dinner
You snacked on skyr during lunchtime and dug into broccoli and grilled chicken for dinner, but now you’re craving the pint of Ben & Jerry’s lurking in your freezer. What to do? Try brushing your teeth after supper. The toothpaste’s minty-fresh flavor will help curb cravings and signal your brain that eating time is over. Not only will you bypass added calories and sugar, you’ll also make sure your oral health is in check.
Clean Your Kitchen
When was the last time you cleaned out your salt and pepper shakers? These shocking findings may convince you that it’s spring cleaning time: University of Virginia researchers tested the surfaces of salt and pepper shakers belonging to 30 participants who had cold-like symptoms and found that all had traces of the cold virus. Other gross things in your kitchen are likely also contaminated with bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella. Another reason to keep your eating space organized? A study published in the journal Environment and Behavior discovered that people eat 40 percent more food when they’re in a messy kitchen.
Try Feng Shui
Switching the placement of your coffee table or helping your friend move out of her apartment not only burns calories, it can also make you happier. According to Carrie Barron, MD, author of The Creativity Cure, “an impact on the environment, whether an imprint or a removal, lifts mood, provides concrete satisfaction and instills a sense of effectiveness.” Just remember to lift furniture with your legs to avoid injuries and engage your core to maximize your impromptu workout.
Snap a Selfie
Sure, stepping on a scale may help you stay accountable for your weight-loss plan, but snapping a selfie may be a more effective method. According to researchers at the University of Alicante in Colombia, taking full-body pictures and documenting waist circumference helped over 71 percent of dieters reach their goal weight. And a smaller waist circumference correlates to a reduced risk of metabolic diseases. Next time you’re at the gym, don’t be shy to snap a selfie—it may help you crush those summer body goals after all.
You’ll burn calories, reduce allergies, and transform the most-dreaded household chore into your new favorite pastime. How? Just by plugging in your Dyson. Researchers at the UCLA Department of Medicine found that dust mites that occupy your home’s hidden spaces can trigger allergies and cause you to pop antihistamines, which, if used frequently, can increase your appetite and carbohydrate cravings.
Pack Wild-Caught Salmon for Lunch
And sprinkle on some sesame seeds while you’re at it. The fatty fish is loaded with protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential in your battle against inflammation and heart disease. What’s more, omega-3s have been found to increase skin’s collagen production, resulting in a more glowing you. To pack an added nutritional punch, coat the seafood with crunchy sesame seeds, which are packed with bone-strengthening calcium. And researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that women who consumed the most lignans, polyphenols found in plant-based foods such as sesame seeds, were less likely to gain weight.
Boil Some Eggs
Taking less than 10 minutes to boil some eggs for the week ahead will help pack your diet with lutein and zeaxanthin, two nutrients that work to promote eye health. And forking the orbs for breakfast may even help you keep your tummy tight. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that participants who ate eggs for breakfast experienced a 65 percent greater weight loss and a 34 percent greater reduction in waist circumference than those who bit into a bagel bright and early. Spice up your a.m. meal by experimenting with boil times (soft-boiled eggs require about six minutes while hard-boiled calls for about 10 minutes) and pairing the protein with nutrient-dense foods such as leafy greens, alliums, and anti-inflammatory turmeric and cayenne.
Follow the 20-20-20 Rule
If you spend the day staring at blue-light-emitting screens (hello, iMac and iPhone) like the majority of Americans, you likely suffer from watery, bloodshot eyes by end of day. Combat your iDevices’ peeving side effects by investing in computer glasses (we especially like Pixel‘s) and try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break from your screen and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away. It’ll help you reduce eye strain and fatigue, according to the Canadian Association of Optometrists.
Get Out and Get Moving
“When stressed or depressed, it can feel almost impossible to find the motivation to get up and moving. Fatigue and decrease in motivation and energy can be a few of the many side effects of feeling stressed and depressed,” Danielle Forshee, PsyD, LCSW tells us in 45 Doctors’ Own Mental Health Tips. “One reason for feeling this way is that when we are depressed, our brains are likely not producing or releasing enough of the ‘neurotransmitter of happiness’ called serotonin. Countless studies have shown that exercise increases both serotonin production and release, and is the reason most feel better after they get out and moving.” David Sabgir, MD, FACC, adds that simply walking for about 20 minutes a day at a moderate pace can reduce anxiety and depression by an impressive 40 percent.
Stretch it Out
Aim to stretch your muscles for about 10 to 15 minutes at least two to three times a week—even if you’re not hitting the gym that consistently. According to Harvard Medical School, stretching can help your joints grow more flexible and improve balance, which are vital as you age. “As with all types of exercise, you need to engage in stretching regularly in order to reap lasting benefits. If you only stretch occasionally, the effects are short-lived,” Harvard Health Publishing explains.
Experiment With Your Instant Pot
The Instant Pot is a pro at creating healthy meals in a fraction of the time it takes you to concoct the dish on the stove. Use the handy machine to meal prep healthy lunches for the week and get dinner on the table in a jiffy with these 20 Instant Pot Meals You Can Make in 20 Minutes or Less.