Standing is better than sitting. Walking or moving around is better than standing still. Move. Just. Do. Something.

Each new year, millions of people optimistically set fitness goals for themselves. Unfortunately, usually within a matter of weeks, obligations and busy-ness typically increase while motivation and enthusiasm decrease at an equally fast rate. Feeling that life is too busy while also lacking motivation is a combination that has proven to derail even the best of intentions.  

A key barrier to being physically active is an all-or-nothing mindset. Unless there is time for a full workout, why bother to start it at all? What is the point of eating carrots for dinner if I ate two cupcakes at work today? It’s Friday and I didn’t get one workout in this week—why bother doing one now? I have forgotten to drink water all day—well, I might as well have another soda. This type of thinking subconsciously drives disengagement in positive behaviors.

Although it doesn’t work with everything, the idea of “something is better than nothing” nicely applies to healthy behaviors. In other words, it is better to do something good—however small or seemingly insignificant—for your health and well-being than nothing at all.

Not convinced? Consider, for example, that a five-minute exercise interval performed once an hour may improve glucose and insulin levels in obese individuals better than one single longer session (Holmstrup et al., 2014). Another study found that people who rode 10 minutes on a stationary bike had a sharper cognitive response to specific tests compared to individuals who read a magazine for the same amount of time (Samani and Heath, 2018). And immune function may be significantly enhanced with a 20-minute bout of exercise (Dimitrov, Huelton and Hong., 2017). As you can see from this small sample, the research confirming that something (in this case, a small amount of exercise) is better than nothing is encouraging.

Specifically, some movement is better than none. Standing is better than sitting. Walking or moving around is better than standing still. The same is true for other health behaviors that often feel challenging for some people. For example, drinking some water each day is better than drinking none. Eating some fruits and vegetables is better than eating none. Getting some sleep is better than getting none.

Here are some practical ideas for adding small doses of physical activity and movement into your daily life:

  • Walk around your house while you are brushing your teeth.

  • Every time the phone rings, go for a walk or do some wall-sits.

  • Stand up once every 30 minutes and breathe deeply for 2 minutes while doing standing squats.

  • Dance your way through household chores (it’s way more fun!).

  • Convert your work station into a standing/active station.

  • Make family time an active time.

  • Anytime you have to wait for something, do squats or calf raises.

  • Every time you have to use the restroom, do five push-ups (after might be best!).

  • Perform standing lunges while fueling up your car.

  • Go for a brisk 10-minute walk after dinner.

Adopting a few small healthy habits has the potential to progress into more healthy patterns over time and gives you the opportunity to experience what reaching your goal might feel like. Doing something rather than nothing also provides a sense of accomplishment, which initiates positive self-talk and self-empowerment.

Several “somethings” performed throughout the day will start to become “a lot” of things over time—and you may not even feel as though these things are taking much extra time. In fact, if you start integrating healthy behavioral patterns into your daily life, lack of time will likely cease to be an issue altogether.

Strategies For Achieving Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep

While you're fast asleep at night, your brain is working furiously to process information and update your memory. This phenomenon occurs during the rapid eye movement -- or REM -- phase of sleep. REM sleep happens every 60 to 90 minutes during sleep and lasts only about five minutes. As you continue sleeping, the length of time between REM cycles and the length of the actual REM cycle grows. REM is crucial to memory, relaxation and energy stores, so it's important to structure your bedtime routine for longer, better-quality REM cycles.

Step 1

Plan a bedtime routine that you follow every night to prepare both your mind and body for bed. The first REM cycle begins about 90 minutes from the time you fall asleep, which could be delayed if you're not properly ready for bed. A sleep routine should include activities that help you relax, such as reading a book, taking a bath or meditation. Avoid video screens for 30 to 60 minutes before bed, because the transmitted light can keep your brain active even after you turn out the lights.

Step 2

Arrange your home and your schedule to limit night waking. While some night waking, such as attending to a baby, is unavoidable, waking because of a cell phone alert, excessive noise or bright lights can be remedied. Night waking can interrupt your REM cycle so you don't get the rejuvenating effects of a proper night's sleep.

Step 3

Stop behaviors that are counterproductive to a good night's sleep. Drinking caffeine less than four hours or eating less than two to three hours before bed can actually generate energy and make it difficult for you to fall asleep and affect your REM sleep cycle.

Step 4

Sleep an extra hour. Because REM cycles occur every 60 to 90 minutes, tacking an extra 60 to 90 minutes onto your sleep time can ensure that you get at least one more REM sleep cycle than you currently experience now. A healthy adult needs anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Go to bed earlier or sleep an hour longer in the morning to make your sleep more restorative and beneficial.

Step 5

Indulge in a nap during the day. So long as a nap lasts from 60 to 90 minutes, you'll achieve a cycle of REM sleep during the short time. Imagine your sleep as a bank account; missing out on the optimum amount of sleep each night can put you into debt. Taking naps during the day can help you repay that debt to get back on track and continue to enjoy the benefits of REM sleep.

Four Ways to Maintain Balance When Life Gets Hectic

It seems as though the pace of life continues to gain speed. Constant events, deadlines, goals and to-do lists fill the calendar. This pace of life can become stressful. Unfortunately, stress is one of the primary causes of disease, unhappiness and anxiety. When you are really busy, it’s likely you don’t have time for a shower, much less a massage or a vacation. So, how do you make time for de-stressing? Let’s get right to the point, because time is of the essence. Try any of the following actions to improve your ability to reduce stress, maintain balance and enhance resiliency. Each idea can be implemented daily with little time commitment.

1. Change the way you think.

Shift your focus to abundance rather than lack. Focus on what you have rather than what you don’t. This simple mindset shift evokes gratitude and a sense of peace. We inherently fear failure and rejection. We worry about trying to control every outcome in our lives. We compare ourselves to other people, and we believe that we are always behind. As easy as it is to compare ourselves to others, it really is something to avoid. Each person has his or her own challenges, feelings of lack and bouts of unhappiness. We all have our own story, each is unique and different. It’s O.K. to be content with where you are right now and be grateful for what you have in the present.

Action: Start a gratitude journal.

For one week, each night before bed, write down three things for which you feel grateful, proud, happy or content. Note how these things came into your life. At the end of the week, assess how you feel. It’s likely a mood shift may have occurred, and you feel less stressed.

2. Take a break.

In the midst of an overwhelming schedule, a selfish break can feel irresponsible. However, a short five- to 10-minute break will clear the mind, help with fatigue and provide a much-needed pause during a busy day. If possible, go for a short walk outdoors. Nature provides grounding energy, and movement improves blood flow and produces mood-enhancing hormones. Better yet, pair regular breaks with a daily bout of exercise. Maintaining a consistent exercise program, even when life is hectic, will enhance your physical and emotional abilities to deal with stress.

Action: Walk in the present.

In the next hour, take a five-minute break for a walk. Notice your surroundings and pay attention to how your body feels. Take inventory of how you feel prior to the walk and again after the walk.

3. Be a superhero.

Physical activity, smiling, power postures and deep breathing are quick fixes for stress-related physical symptoms. Our bodies display stress in external ways—headaches, gastrointestinal issues, sleeplessness, general aches and pains can often be attributed to stress. Even if you don’t experience severe symptoms, it’s likely you have experienced fatigue, general tightness around the neck and shoulders, and a slouchy, tired posture. You can trick your body into feeling fewer physical symptoms of stress by changing your physical posture. Stand up straight, align the spine and smile. This power posture is an instant boost.

Action: Pose like a superhero.

During moments of stress or general tiredness, stand up and place your hands on your hips. Pretend you are a superhero and puff up your chest. Take five deep breaths. Fill your lungs and belly to capacity. Next, smile for 10 seconds. The simple act of smiling sends a positive signal to the brain and allows the body to relax a bit. This power posture can be helpful before presentations and difficult conversations, and for those times when you just feel overwhelmed.

4. Practice mindfulness.

When life is overwhelming, your mind naturally spins with multiple thoughts. Focusing your thoughts on the past can create feelings of regret and depression, and focusing on the future can foster feelings of anxiety. The only place we can be without worry is truly in the present. That means letting go of expectations of anything except what happens right now. Most of us have future deadlines, goals and ambitions. Being mindful in the moment does not mean that we let go of those things. It simply means we turn our attention to the task at hand, and really place our focus and energy with it. For some, mindfulness is being fully immersed in work. Taking the time to eat slowly, taste and enjoy food is a form of mindfulness. Paying attention to how your body feels during movement is mindfulness. Mindfulness might also take the shape of paying attention to the breath, something that occurs all day long without you giving it a second thought. Whatever form mindfulness takes for you, the point is that it can be done anytime, anywhere, and it provides immediate results. In as little as 60 seconds, your body and mind can become calm, and a sense of balance can be restored.

Action: Breathe.

Assume a comfortable position with a tall posture, standing or seated. Set a timer for one to three minutes. Close your eyes and pay attention to your breath. Follow the inhale, follow the exhale. Try to inhale for the same duration as you exhale. Notice how you feel before this exercise and after.

It takes conscious effort and commitment to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. These four ideas are quick and efficient ways to navigate stress and maintain balance when life gets hectic.

Starting a Home Yoga Practice

Do you love taking yoga classes? Learning from a skilled teacher is essential for any yoga student, but classes can be full and are sometimes fast-paced. A self-initiated, self-led home practice is an opportunity to enhance your body awareness and sensitivity, shedding light on misalignments or tight areas that might go unnoticed in the studio. Moments of awareness are important because they inform future yoga practice and enhance your knowledge of your body and yourself.

Sustaining a regular home yoga practice can be challenging even for the most loyal yoga enthusiasts. But practicing independently—as a complement to learning from a skilled teacher—offers a variety of advantages, like self-discovery and skill refinement, that make it well worth the effort. Dana Bender, MS, program manager for a corporate wellness and fitness center in Chicago, adjunct faculty professor for Rowan University and an E-RYT 200 level alignment yoga instructor, explains how to create the space for it and what will help you get on the mat every day.

Set the Space

A common barrier to home practice is the array of distractions that compete for your attention. These might be objects in the environment (like the TV, computers or dirty dishes) or even family members. To win the commitment struggle, make sure to “set the space” where you plan to practice. This could mean moving furniture to the side of a room, creating a permanent yoga space in your home, or using visual or auditory cues to make the environment more conducive to yoga. Remove any distracting objects from your line of vision: a laundry basket filled with clothes to be washed or pieces of mail on the counter, for instance. Ask family members to respect the space so that practice can unfold without verbal or behavioral interruptions.

Create a Schedule

You’ll need to figure out a routine that will work for you, whether that means practicing when you first get home, when you get up in the morning or during a lunch break at work. Avoiding conflict with mealtimes is best, but if you have to postpone a meal, eat snacks throughout the day to eliminate large gaps between meals. Negotiate with family members or housemates, asking them to play music more softly or take kids to another room until your session is over.

Let Go of Expectations

One barrier to adhering to a regular home yoga practice is pre-existing expectations about what the practice should look like: How many poses should it include? How challenging should they be? How long should it last? Allow yourself to be present to what feels right in the moment. A home yoga practice might be restorative poses one day and a more vigorous flow practice the next, and that’s okay. The practice can be different every time, since a regular yoga practice will ebb and flow based on energy levels, muscular tension, interpersonal stress, and nutritional and sleep habits.

USE THESE STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS:

  • Always practice on a mat. It will help you avoid slipping, especially while holding downward-facing dog or warrior poses.

  • Place your yoga mat on a hard, even surface. Practicing on carpet is not recommended, as it affects weight distribution in the hands during weight-bearing poses, and this can lead to wrist pain. Practicing on carpet can also affect balance in standing poses.

  • Have a minimum of two thicker yoga blocks (either cork or foam) to support yourself in seated or standing poses.

  • Aim to have at least one yoga strap. If a strap is not available, use a resistance band instead.

  • If possible, use a woven yoga blanket for support when needed (e.g., to cushion the knee in lunges). A thicker home blanket that’s easily folded provides a good alternative.

  • Start by practicing favorite poses first and then add in different or more challenging options over time. Yoga books, online videos or yoga websites might prompt ideas. Keep helpful resources near your mat while you practice so you can refer to them if you feel unsure about what to do next