16 Lifestyle Habits to Adopt for Better Mental and Physical Health

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Yeah, good habits may be hard to form, but you'll want to put in the effort with these. Each of these to-dos can help you feel better — physically and mentally — so you can crush your health goals with ease.

01 of 16

Make Sleep a Top Priority

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Sleep may be one of the most important yet often overlooked components of physical and mental health. Sleep helps your muscles recover: "There are repair processes that happen when we sleep," Seema Khosla, M.D., the medical director at the North Dakota Center for sleep, previously told Shape. You should aim for seven to eight hours of quality sleep every night. (See: Tips for Better Sleep, Straight from the Experts)

02 of 16

Replace Grains with Veggies

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Next time you cook a stir-fry, serve it over a bed of broccoli instead of rice. (Or turn the broccoli into rice!) Just like rice, the florets of the broccoli will soak up the sauce and juices from your dish. Plus, you have the added cancer-fighting addition of indole 3-carbinol, a potent anti-cancer nutrient found in vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage.

03 of 16

Use a Foam Roller After Your Workout

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Using a foam roller to perform self-myofascial release (aka to massage the connective tissue surrounding your muscles, bones, and tendons) is one of the least expensive yet most effective ways to recover from your workout. By using your own body weight to roll on the foam, you can improve flexibility, function, and performance as well as reduce injuries. Plus, it feels amazing. (Here are some foam roller mistakes to avoid.)

04 of 16

Don't Multitask During Lunch

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Do you habitually eat lunch at your desk or in front of the TV? A review of research found that people who multitask while eating eat more food both at mealtime and later on. Plus, eating while distracted might make you taste your food less, according to one study, so taking 10 minutes to focus on and enjoy the food you're eating will leave you more satisfied. (It's called mindful eating, and here's how you do it.)

05 of 16

Try a Training Log

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If you don't have a training log, start one today. Keeping accurate records of your workouts helps you track your progress and see that your hard work is paying off. Is there anything more motivating than that? (Need a workout plan? Try this four-week strength-training plan.)

06 of 16

Do a Bonus Abs Exercise

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Planks and side planks are an excellent way to strengthen your core, fast. Plus, the exercise is quick and efficient. Try doing a one-minue plank hold — if you can't maintain the position for the full 60 seconds, hold as long as you can and then repeat as many times as necessary to total 60 seconds of work. (See what happened when one woman tried planking for five minutes a day for an entire month.)

07 of 16

Put One Person On Notice

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Tell someone (your partner, a friend, or a family member, maybe) about your health or fitness goals. If the people you surround yourself with know what you're doing and your plan for accomplishing it, you'll have the support you need to keep chugging along.

08 of 16

Hit the Sauna

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Sauna therapy is an excellent tool for recovery because it improves blood flow, helps with inflammation, and relaxes the muscular and nervous systems, according to one systematic review. Plus, it can jump-start your workout recovery: "It has been suggested that [taking a sauna after a workout] can help with relaxation, the transition from exercise to a more relaxed state, and perhapes can help with decreasing delayed-onset muscle soreness," Heather A. Milton, M.S., R.C.E.P., C.S.C.S., a board-certified clinical exercise physiologist at NYU Langon Health's Sports Performance Center, previously told Shape.

09 of 16

Plan Your Meals for the Week

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Trying to decide what you're going to eat for lunch while you're rushing to leave for work is a recipe for disaster. (So much wasted $$$ on unsatisfying takeout!) Having a weekly nutrition plan will help you skip the stress and ensure you're getting a fulfilling meal. (Here are some delicious — and not boring — lunch meal prep ideas to try.)

10 of 16

Continue to Challenge Your Body

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If you can easily finish the maximum number of reps for the prescribed amount of sets, increase the resistance by approximately 2.5 to 5 pounds for upper-body exercises and 5 to 10 pounds for lower-body exercises. (That's just one way to get out of a workout rut.)

11 of 16

Embrace Strength Training

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Weight training has tons of health benefits: It can strengthen your bones, improve your heart health, and keep you safe from injury. Plus, strength training helps you target fat loss instead of lean muscle mass — something cardio can't do. And that's just scratching the surface of the benefits of lifting weights.

12 of 16

Make Sure You're Getting Enough Protein

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Try to prioritize protein at every meal. If you want to gain muscle, your body needs protein to repair your muscle fibers after your workouts, which will make them stronger than they were before. ICYDK, "you're continually using protein to support hormones, immune cells, hair, skin, muscle, and other protein tissues," Cynthia Sass, R.D., a performance nutritionist based in New York and Los Angeles, previously told Shape.

13 of 16

Always Static Stretch After Your Training Session

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One of the biggest benefits of post-workout static stretching (reaching forward to a point of tension and holding the stretch) is that it helps relieve muscular tension from your workout and triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part of the nervous system that helps slow down your heart rate and helps you relax.

14 of 16

Get the Most Out of Your Cardio Session

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When doing cardio training, always try to push the intensity of your work intervals. If using a rate of perceived exertion scale to monitor intensity, your work intervals should fall between 7 and 8.5 (i.e., very hard to very, very hard) during your session. Perform as many of your work intervals at the higher end of the RPE range for fastest and best results. Also consider trying HIIT training, which comes with tons of benefits.

15 of 16


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Eating healthy doesn't mean that you need to deprive yourself of delicious flavors and foods. Try one of these healthy desserts for a snack that satisfies your sweet tooth — or just eat the "unhealthy" thing that your brain is trying to guilt you out of eating. Life is all about balance, and any food is good in moderation.

16 of 16

Recover with an Epsom Salt Bath

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If your body aches or your muscles are sore, take a hot Epsom salt bath for 15 to 20 minutes to help your body recover. Magnesium sulfate, its scientific name, has been shown to help muscles relax and reduce inflammation. Epsom salts are a strong vasodilator, which means they will increase blood flow to the muscles as well as the surface of the skin. Plus, the magnesium absorbed through your skin helps build strong bones, manufactures proteins, and releases energy from muscles, in addition to numerous other benefits. Take one or two baths per week and you'll notice a big difference in how you feel.

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