The quest for fitness is a lifestyle change.
In my college days, I was that perpetually lazy girl for whom the idea of exercise was repelling.
When I casually mentioned to my roommate that I’ll start running every morning, she and my other friends laughed. That’s how alien exercise was to me, and the fact that everyone knew it hurt a bit. But I was so lazy, that even a dented ego and the urge to prove my friends wrong couldn’t push me to actually start exercising the next day.
Things changed as I grew older. During my post-graduation days, I started running to offset the hours I spent staring at my screen. As the pandemic hit and running outside was out of the option, I started home workouts with YouTube tutorials and a Yoga mat as my companions.
What started as a pandemic experiment turned int oa lifestyle change, and now, missing my workout makes me feel unbalanced and lost through the day.
Yes, I’ve been consistent more or less, but there are bound to be breaks. Vacations, impromptu work engagements, sicknesses, injuries — these disrupt your schedule and make it hard to keep working out every day.
Based on science and personal experience, I’ve devised a handful of habits that help me stay fit even when I go long periods without working out. You can adopt them too if you miss your exercise once in a while. Even when you’re consistently working out, inculcating these habits into your daily routine will improve the ROI you get on your workouts. These habits don’t take much time or effort to build, and can be helpful no matter your age, job, or place of stay.
#1 Let your body do what it was meant to
Humans evolved as hunter gatherers. Our bodies are meant to run, jump, climb, and move around. They weren’t designed to sit in the same position for hours, surrounded by artificial light.
The first basic rule of staying fit is to embrace movement. Some ways you can do that:
- Walk around, count your steps (I won’t say make 10k steps your goal, but that’s’ a good place to start, if you’re looking for one).
- Spend 5 minutes walking for every 30 minutes you spend sitting.
- Stretch out your neck and shoulders every morning after you wake up. This will only take a few minutes, but go a long way in preventing injuries and keeping you strong.
- Invest in a standing table. You can also stack a few cardboard boxes on your regular desk to improvise.
#2 Unwind when the time is right
Sleep is one of the most important factors to stay fit. According to Healthline, it helps you:
- Maintain weight
- Strengthen your heart
- Improve concentration and productivity
- Support a healthy immune system
Aside from these, sleep has multiple benefits. I’ve found myself feeling more refreshed and energetic after a good night’s sleep, and have found it easier to focus on tasks.
When I’m not working out, one of the most consistent habits I try to maintain is going to bed at the same time every day.
However, this gets harder to implement if I’ve had a particularly busy day. Since I had zero control over what I did during the day, my brain rebels by telling me the night is my time to do what I want. Scientists even have a word for it: Revenge bedtime procrastination.
“Revenge bedtime procrastination” describes the decision to sacrifice sleep for leisure time that is driven by a daily schedule lacking in free time." - Alex D, The Sleep Foundation
The most effective cure to revenge bedtime procrastination is to ditch your phone and replace it with a book or e-reader before retiring for the night. You save yourself from all the doomscrolling by feeding new ideas to your brain.
I’ve kept alarms on my phone at 11 PM and 12 AM every night to remind me that it’s time to unwind for the day.
And if you’re still tempted to stay up late, remember what Ted Mosby’s mother told him:
"Kids, your grandma always used to say to me, "Nothing good happens after 2:00 a.m.," and she was right.When 2:00 a.m. rolls around, just go home and go to sleep." - Ted Mosby, How I Met Your Mother
#3 Gallons to the rescue
The best gift you can give your body even when you’re not working out regularly is treating it to enough water. Different scientists have different recommendations on how much water should healthy adults drink every day, but they all agree on one thing: insufficient water intake is the root of multiple health and skin problems.
Personally, I feel satisfied if I can refill four 1-liter bottles everyday.
- Feel satiated through the day and enjoy an enhanced metabolic rate.
- Save yourself from headaches and migraines.
- Enjoy better skin elasticity and embrace healthy, glowing skin.
#4 Include colors on your plate
People often go bonkers over maintaining a healthy diet as if it’s the toughest thing on the planet. But if you plan well and prepare ahead, healthy eating can become the most intuitive and easy thing in your routine.
Some tips to eat healthy without going on a strict diet:
- Have portions of carbs, protein, fiber, and healthy fat for every meal.
- When you feel like snacking, drink some water and munch on a few walnuts or almonds.
- Avoid sugar, but eat at least three portions of fruits every day.
- No matter how hungry you are, avoid snacking post-dinner.
- Start your day with a protein and fiber-rich breakfast to avoid hunger pangs until lunch. My go-to breakfast is peanut butter sandwich with a portion of dragonfruit and hibiscus tea on the side.
#5 Get enough outdoors time
I underestimated the poewr of spending time outdoors until I did a full-body checkup a few months ago and found I had dangerously low levels of Vitamin D, a group of fat-soluble secosteroids responsible for increasing intestinal absorption of
- magnesium, and
Vitamin D is needed for many other biological effects, like boosting muscle recovery and keeping your mental health in check.
You can get Vitamin D through tablets, but the healthiest natural source is sunlight. As my doctor advised, spending an hour between 9 AM to 10 AM outdoors is enough to get your body all the vitamin D it needs.
You can make the most of this “doing nothing” time by keeping your phone away and actively using your brain to think. You can also carry a journal with you and take note of all the brilliant ideas crossing your head.
As I keep telling my friends all the time, “Fitness is not a hobby. It’s a lifestyle change.”
And to stay fit, you don’t even have to exercise every day. If you follow the five habits mentioned below, you can start your fitness journey today:
- Walk around whenever you get a chance. Aim for 10k steps daily.
- Sleep for 7–9 hours every night.
- Drink a gallon of water each day.
- Have balanced meals and avoid eating too much sugar.
- Spend an hour every morning in the sunlight.
You’ll notice that these habits don’t require you to be strictly discipline or make time for in your schedule. No matter what stage of life you’re at and how demanding your job is, you can still make room for these habits in your routine.
It’s like flipping a switch in your brain. When you realize your body is the only permanent home you have on this planet, you’ve got to take better care of it. And that care starts with your mindset.
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