From the Magazine

9 Easy Health ‘Cheats’ That Will Help You Feel Better Today

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No need to stress if you don’t have time for a super long workout, to meditate, to see a therapist, or any of those things we’re told to do to better ourselves but just can’t squeeze into our busy days. You can get healthy without all the hard work, thanks to shortcuts that deliver maximum results with minimal effort! Read on for 9 simple health strategies. 

Eating fewer veggies still protects the heart.

No need to feel guilty if you don’t always get the recommended eight full servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Research in the journal The Lancet revealed that fitting in as little as three servings daily protects your heart as well as if you ate more. That’s because produce is packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that reverse oxidative stress, lower your blood pressure, and keep your cholesterol in check.

Tame stress with a few deep breaths.

Sure, meditation is a great stress-buster — if you have the time for it. But with hectic days and even busier evenings, many of us need a quicker way to let go of tension. Simply take 10 deep belly breaths. 

UCLA scientists say this trick cuts your risk of chronic stress in half, which is the same result you’d get from 30 minutes of daily meditation. Deep breathing rapidly soothes the brain stem (which balances your heart rate and blood pressure), plus it calms the mind’s anxiety center.

Boost energy with micro workouts.

You already know a brisk stroll is a surefire way to put the pep back in your step and silence fatigue. But when your energy is flagging and you need a boost now, do a quick burst of jumping jacks (or try twirling a Hula-Hoop!) for just two minutes. 

Any spurt of activity that gets your heart pumping activates unique enzymes within your body that produce fuel for your muscles and brain. And that’s something that European researchers say can increase your energy by 100 percent for 90 minutes — the same revitalizing perk you’d get from taking a 30-minute walk.

Channel wonder woman.

Strike a Wonder Woman pose — standing tall with your hands on your hips and your shoulders pulled back — and you’ll trigger a release of testosterone that reverses fatigue within two minutes, according to research in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Lift your spirits with a quick chat.

Feeling blue but have no time to pencil in a pick-me-up? Phone a friend for a five-minute chat. University of Minnesota scientists say even brief, happy conversations with friends are enough to take your mind off your stressors and noticeably elevate your mood for hours.

Say this.

Going into the weekend, take a moment to repeat (out loud or in your head) the phrase “I’ll pick activities that make me feel good and avoid things that make me feel bad” three times. One study found this primes the brain to seek out joy, making you feel happier when Monday rolls around.

Shed weight faster by dieting part-time.

Double the weight loss with half the work?

Research proves it really is possible! Simply cut back on carbs for two consecutive days a week and eat sensibly the remaining days. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that women who did this lost nearly twice as much weight as those who strictly stuck to a weeklong low-calorie diet that included carbohydrates daily. Scientists say reducing your carb intake for 48 hours lowers insulin production, melting stubborn pounds.

Sharpen your focus by looking at coffee.

Next time you’re trying to power through a work project and feel your concentration slipping, steal a glance at the coffee cup on your desk. University of Toronto researchers found that our brains so strongly associate coffee with heightened attention that simply gazing at a mug (even if it’s empty) significantly improves your focus without the jittery side effects that come with too much caffeine.

Chew some gum.

For an instant clarity boost, reach for gum. British scientists say the act of chewing boosts blood flow to the brain, energizing cells and improving your focus and memory.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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