11 Small Daily Changes That Lead to a Healthier Life

Your physical and mental health should be two of your top priorities, but let's be honest, dieting is never easy and going to the gym is time-consuming. But you don't need to say goodbye to all your favorite foods or become a marathon runner in order to be healthy. Small, daily changes can go a long way; here are some easy changes that will vastly improve your overall health. 

1. Take the Stairs

If you have the option to take the stairs — opt in! Especially in places like malls and movie theaters where the escalator looks tempting, choosing to take the stairs is an easy way to improve your health. It may seem insignificant, but make a habit out of taking the stairs. A study administered by Preventive Medicine found that people who regularly climbed stairs "increased their stamina, cut almost 2 percent off their waist circumferences, lowered their weights by almost 1 percent, and showed signs of lower blood pressure and 'bad' LDL-cholesterol."

2. Don't Eat Late At Night

We eat late at night for lots of reasons-- whether we're bored or just want something to nibble on in front of the TV screen, many nutritionists  believe there is a connection between eating before bed and weight gain. According to the Daily Mail, weight loss experts recommend consuming the majority of calories during the day, because "at certain times of day the liver, intestines and muscles are at peak efficiency, while at other times they are ‘sleeping’. The easy solution: say the kitchen is closed after dinner. 

3. Cut Out Soda

In just 12 fl. oz of coke you are consuming 140 calories, 35 grams of carbohydrates and 35 grams of sugar. Beyond the nutritious facts, drinking soda has long-term health effects. According to Business Insider even diet soft drinks have been linked to the development of obesity, depression and diabetes. Drinking soda might also increase one's risk of heart attack, causes changes in metabolism and could shorten lifespan. Cutting out soft drinks all together is one of the easiest ways to improve your overall health. 

4. Floss Your Teeth

The American Dental Association recommends that individuals floss at least once a day, but many Americans chose to skip the floss in their daily routine. It is an easy and quick habit to build that leads to drastic health benefits. According to Livestrong.com, people who floss reduce their chances of developing ggingivitis — the precursor to periodontal disease. Flossing also protects from cavities, rotting and other uncomfortable sensations such as toothaches and sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures. 

5. Minimize Salt Consumption

Most Americans have no idea how much salt is packed into their daily diets, but according to the New York Times, the Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines say that salt is worse for people than fats, sugars and alcohol. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention adds that reducing salt consumption "is as critical to long-term health as quitting cigarettes. Salt contains affects both immediate and long term health. According to a Harvard University study, it clogs arteries and is linked to heart attack and stroke. In fact, "sodium reduction lowers cardiovascular disease and death rates over the long term." While eliminating the ingredient completely would be nearly impossible, minimizing salt intake and being aware of sodium on food labels is one easy way to improve your overall health drastically. 

6. Nap

Napping is not just for children! Due to hectic work schedules and the tedious demands of every day life, most adults do not get enough sleep at night. A schedule that leaves time for a quick nap could make a huge difference. According to the Mayo Clinic, a short nap leads to relaxation, energy, increased alertness, better mood, quicker reaction time, better memory and fewer mistakes. So carve out 20 minutes of the day to rejuvenate and feel the difference. 

7. Drink Green Tea

The Japanese nailed this one on the head: drinking a glass of green tea each day drastically improves health in more ways than you could imagine. According to Web MD, this antioxidants called catechins that are found in green tea possess the potential to fight cancer and hearth disease. The miracle herb also plays a role in lowering cholesterol  burning fat, warding off diabetes, stroke and dementia. According to Fitday.com, Green tea also contains antiviral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cavity qualities. For all the natural benefits of green tea, there is no excuse not to indulge in a single glass per day. 

8. Eat Breakfast

People chose to skip breakfast for a variety of reasons from time contraints to dieting. But there are many reasons why breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day. Both children and adults need breakfast to perform their best, according to Web MD. Eating a healthy breakfast — one low in sugars and carbs and high in protein and whole grains — leads to increased metabolism, weight loss, and more energy and alertness. Opt for eggs and multi-grain toast or a bowl of piping hot oatmeal and see the benefits a good, hardy breakfast brings.

9. Order Salad Dressing On the Side

Most people look to salad as the obvious solution when trying to stay healthy or lose weight. What many people don't realize, however, is that a heavily dressed salad counteracts the meal's "light" appeal. Most salad dressings contain anywhere from 80-130 calories in just two tablespoons. Stick to your veggies, but ask for your dressing on the side or stick to oil and vinegar in order to maintain the healthy benefits of salad.

10. Walk the Dog

You don't need to run three miles on the treadmill every day to improve your phsyical health. Research has shown that simply taking a 10-20 minute walk each day offers physical and mental benefits. So turn off the TV and lace up your sneakers — a leisurely walk helps maintain a healthy weight, protects against heart disease and high blood pressure, strengthen bones and even improves mood, balance, and coordination.

11. Meditate

You don't need to splurge on costly, time-consuming yoga classes in order to achieve the benefits of meditation. All you need is a few minutes and quiet spot to achieve the same results. According to the Huffington Poststudies have concluding that meditation is linked to "many psychological areas, including stress, anxiety, addiction, depression, eating disorders and cognitive function, among others." It has also been determined to reduce blood pressure, pain, and stress. 

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Hannah Loewentheil

I am a Senior at Brown University where I am studying international relations and non-fiction writing. Follow me on twitter @hrl792.

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