Discover the little things you can do every day that could make a big difference to your results – from those in the know
‘Exercising little and often is one of the most effective ways to build activity into your day – no more dashing to make the gym straight after work’
Ever wondered what the most successful people on the planet do every day to keep fit and healthy? If only you could find out, emulate it and become amazing, too. Guess what? You can!
We’ve tapped into eight of the greatest fitness minds to discover which daily rituals they complete without fail. And, after spending a fortnight doing 6am sun salutations and chowing down on beetroot crisps, we’ve learnt which tricks work best for optimal living – and they’re much more manageable than you might expect.
Ritual 1: 7 minutes of yoga
This is the ritual of health guru and Emmy Award winner Dr Mehmet Oz. That’s right, the doc’s secret lies in daily flexibility sessions. He swears by yoga to decrease inflammation, reduce blood pressure and boost weight loss. If a few downward facing dogs can do all that, we’re not complaining.
Yoga translates as ‘breath control’. Ushering in the day with full diaphragmatic breathing means you are much more likely to maintain it regularly, and deep inhalation is known to boost cognitive activity, too.
So which poses to do? We opted for early-morning warriors, sun salutations and pigeons. This seemed like enough to bend ourselves healthy – and we certainly felt ready to go for the day. Don’t have a second to spare in the morning? Panic not. Nightly downward dogs and cat-cows will ease even a severe case of the office aches.
Ritual 2: Micro workouts
This one comes from model Miranda Kerr, owner of one of the most photographed bodies in the world and spokeswoman of Reebok’s new Skyscrape Runaround Shoe. ‘Even when I’m at work, if I’m in between takes waiting for the photographer to set up the shot, I’ll be like, OK I’ll do a few squats… because every little bit helps,’ she says.
Exercising little and often is one of the most effective ways to build activity into your day – no more dashing to make the gym straight after work. And another benefit of mini workouts is they take you away from your desk (unless you fancy a few walking lunges through the office?). We found it helpful to get up every hour, stroll to the water fountain, stretch our backs out or nip to the loo for a few calf raises.
Ritual 3: 200 jumping jacks
As soon as the sun creeps out over the horizon, personal trainer Ben Greenfield, who’s been voted one of the top 100 most influential people in health and fitness, can be found bouncing up and down in his shed. The reason? He’s kick-starting his lymphatic system, of course. How does that work? Well, think of the lymphatic system like a bin man. It goes around collecting metabolic rubbish and toxins then takes them to the dump – quite literally, the loo. However, the problem with the lymphatic system is that it gets blocked fairly easily unless you partake in vigorous exercise. Ben discovered this simple way to get things moving without having to tackle hill sprints upon waking.
We found jumping jacks were a quick and easy approach. Another option is rebounding on a mini-trampoline – sure to get you going in the morning!
Ritual 4: Use a standing desk
‘I built my own standing desk two years ago and I love it because I never really feel sedentary. In fact, I find that I think better standing,’ reports Anna Sward, founder of Protein Pow and the world’s leading protein powder cooking expert.
What was once deemed highly eccentric has found a place in our modern health-conscious society. According to research, ditching the desk-bound monotony by standing while you work increases life expectancy, expends extra calories and boosts brain power.
We went down the DIY route, too, improvising with a stack of vintage Women’s Fitness editions under our computer. After two weeks we definitely felt less sedentary, but we also found that standing in one position all day hurts. The solution? As prolonged periods of anything have a negative effect, spicing up your desk activity will ultimately lead to the best results. So be inventive – stand on one leg or squat and hold, for example.
Ritual 5: Morning mindfulness
‘It sounds cheesy, but I take five minutes in the morning to think about what I’m grateful for, and what I’d like to get out of that day – it’s really important.’
These are the wise words of Katie Lowe, Fat Girl PHD (fatgirlphd.com), one of the countries top wellness bloggers, with over a 250,000 clicks a year. We like to think of her ritual as ‘brain-ercise’. And the best part is it can be done anywhere – when brushing your teeth or walking to the train. So instead of stressing about your to-do list, consider the positives in your life instead.
Saying the same thing to yourself every day could become a snore-fest, though, so keep it interesting. Select a different area of life each time: whether it’s work, family or even how wonderful your exercise wardrobe is. Run through every item thinking about how much you like it and why.
And it’s not just the brain that benefits from this ritual. Research published in the Journal Of Health Psychology shows mindfulness decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol, too. Who doesn’t want to be happier and less anxious?
Ritual 6: Take control of your email
An average office worker spends 28 per cent of their day emailing, according to research. What a waste! However, Tim Ferriss, multiple New York Times best-selling fitness author and tango dancing Guinness World Record holder has a clever fix: email auto responders. This system indicates that you check your inbox twice a day at specific times, letting customers, clients and colleagues know exactly when you will reply. Essentially, you are training others to communicate with you on /your/ terms.
With this protocol and a twice-daily 30-minute reply limit, we gave this a go. Believe us, your emails become the most efficient words ever typed – not to mention, they often get tidied up by others who are cc’d into the group before you get a chance to reply. Jackpot.
Ritual 7: Oil your feet
Dr Nick Delgado is a leading anti-ageing expert and prospective future world record holder for longevity. In pursuit of the record, Dr Nick goes to the extremes of hypoxic chambers and measuring brain waves. We’ll not do that just yet, but he does have one trick that we can replicate simply and without much expense: putting oil on the soles of your feet.
The reasoning behind this is that everything we put /on/ our skin is ingested and sucked straight /into/ the blood stream. Therefore it makes sense to put things onto our skin that we want inside our bodies. We chose coconut oil, partially to smell like tropical goddesses, partially because of the fat profile. Each spoonful contains EFAs required for essential body functions, in particular, lauric acid, which is found in breast milk, nature’s original superfood.
Ritual 8: Eat lots of veg
Our final ritual comes from Keris Marsden, nutritionist, health seminar host and co-presenter of Fitter London podcasts.
‘I aim to have around nine to 10 servings of vegetables across my day,’ she says. ‘My salads are epic, if I do say so myself! A salad should never just be a bowl of leaves. I top them with avocado, fresh herbs, nuts and seeds, olives, peppers, julienned vegetables, olive oil and apple cider vinegar. ’
Research indicates that the average person in the UK still only consumes four portions of fruit or veg a day. This means we are missing out on valuable phytonutrients that can reduce inflammation and protect cells against cancer.
So, like Keris, experiment a little to up your vegetable intake and keep mealtimes interesting. We tried different juices, soups, courgette noodles and vegetable crisps and increased our veggie intake easily /and/ without getting bored. Try it for yourself – your health and taste buds will thank you for it!
So there you have it: eight people, eight rituals – each of them completely manageable. So why not try a few rituals on for size? Leo Tolstoy once said, ‘True life is lived when tiny changes occur’, and we couldn’t agree more. Yes, these changes are small, but the potential impact on your life is enormous.
Because we all need a helping hand sometimes…
Way of Life – The Ultimate Habit Maker & Breaker. Use this as a daily reminder to get stuck into jumping jacks or squeeze in some oil rubbing. Before you know it, these things will be old hat.
Whole Foods Market Recipes. This handy little recipe app has a whole stash of ideas to keep your kitchen interesting. Simply search for your favourite vegetable and you’ll be floored by how many different ways there are to prepare it.