Implementing these basic lifestyle habits can lead to a happier life with less stress and more meaning.
At Smarter Sweat, we believe there is so much more to fitness than how it makes you look or the amount of weight you can lift. Although we aren’t opposed to looking good or lifting heavy, it’s too easy to get caught up in these superficial gains. Today, we’d like to shift your focus to how basic lifestyle habits can change your life for the better — mentally, physically, and spiritually (and it won’t even matter how heavy you can squat).
The importance of a healthy lifestyle
When it comes to reaching your health and fitness goals, fitness on its own is not the “fix” to all of your problems or the single answer to your goals. In fact, if you’re only using exercise to “erase” what you eat or make up for the drinks you consume on the weekends, you’re missing the point.
Whether your goal is to change your body composition, improve your mental health, find your purpose, increase strength, have better mobility, or increase energy, building a solid practice of movement, nourishment, and lifestyle factors will lay the foundation on which your results will be built — for now and for years to come!
It really all comes down to mastering the habits that promote longevity and stress management, which we discuss below. However, the main problem we see is that people build unsustainable habits, which lead to unsustainable results or a yo-yo lifestyle (mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally). We want to help you end that cycle.
How to build healthy habits
This is important.In order to build habits, you need a goal or a direction — just maybe not the kind you’re thinking of.
We realize most people set goals like “lose 20 pounds”, “be happier”, “get off of medication”, or be “x” pant size in their health and fitness journey. The thing is, those outcome goals are actually out of your control!
It’s important for you to know that there’s another kind of goal you can set that will save you loads of frustration. At Smarter Sweat, we believe in setting weekly or daily habit-building goals and behaviors.
A behavior is an action that you do consistently to lead to an outcome. Maybe we can’t control the outcome (like whether the weight on the scale budges this week or if you can throw out your meds), but we can control our actions, behaviors, and habits. Focus on what you can control, and the rest will come.
So what are the habits or behaviors most everyone, no matter how advanced, should be focused on building? We’re so glad you asked.
The 7 healthy habits you need to radically improve your life
We have got to stop compromising our sleep. When things get busy, it seems the first thing we are willing to cut down on is our sleep. You’ve got to understand that 5 hours is never enough. Eight to 8.5 hours is typically the sweet spot to maintain good energy levels, recover well from training, and remain cognitively sharp.
Because we live in a world that praises “hustle” and “grind,” we also often over supplement on caffeine and other stimulants to combat our lack of sleep (we’re guilty of this ourselves!). Over time, this lifestyle will ultimately lead to burn out, sickness, anxiety and other mental illness, and a sleep-deprived, low-functioning state.
If this is you, try adding in an extra half hour of sleep over time until you reach seven to nine hours per night.
Daily exercise The fitness industry tells us we have to sweat buckets and finish our workouts panting on the floor for our exercise to mean anything — that’s irrational and harmful.
When we say “daily exercise”, we mean daily movement or blood flow whether it be in or out of the gym. This could look like getting outside for a walk, hitting a daily step goal, enjoying a recreational activity like golf, or doing some light yoga or mobility.
In fact, it’s so important to have movement goals outside of the gym in order to support recovery from your workouts.
So yes, we believe you should move daily and you can start by incorporating some of these daily habits: Park further away from your destination, set a step goal, take the stairs, and stand up from your desk for “work breaks” every 60 to 90 minutes. It’s the little things done consistently that add up overtime.
When you think of “eating healthy” you may think of wanting to lose a few pounds or lose a few inches from your waist, but there is so much more to it than that.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is truly sad. We are overconsuming processed foods with high calories and low nutrient density. We are reaching for fast, convenient foods full of sodium, sugar, and fat, and it’s contributing to obesity, heart disease, and mental illness.
Take it from this scientist:
You don’t have to be perfect, but as the above study states, the key is in making small changes over time. You can start this process by adding a variety of fruits and vegetables to a couple of your meals each day.
About 60 percent of our bodies are made up of water and every living cell in our body needs water to function. When we’re dehydrated, it’s impossible to recover well from workouts or even function optimally in our day-to-day lives.
Here are some fun facts:
Start by being aware of what you are consuming for drinks. If you start your day with coffee, try adding in 12 to 16 ounces of water before. Make it a daily goal to drink at least 50 percent of your body weight in ounces each day and work up to 60 percent.
While a certain level of stress can drive us forward into action, high levels of stress left unmanaged can be extremely detrimental to your mental and physical well-being. Part of managing stress includes working on these seven habits (the things you can control).
We like to think of stress in the terms of a “stress bucket”. A bucket can only fill so much before it overflows and makes a mess. Things that fill up your stress bucket include your training, relationships, job, food choices, pain and injuries, poor sleep or lack of sleep, lack of movement, and so on.
We know that some form of stress will always be present, but in order to manage stress and thrive, we must manage the aspects we can control, such as our nourishment, hydration, and sleep so that our stress bucket does not overflow when we do a hard training session, have a minor incident with someone, or any other thing that could — but shouldn’t — tip you over the edge.
Spend time outside/unplug
This is a major necessity, especially for mental, emotional, and spiritual health. It’s easy to get caught up scrolling through social media and ending up in a rabbit hole of funny cat videos or obsessing over someone’s Instagram and wishing you had their body or life.
We can’t stress enough how important it is to get off of your phone, away from the TV, and get outside in nature or simply be present in the moment.
We need sunshine exposure daily (if not precluded by medical conditions). We also need moments where we are not doing, where we are not continuously ingesting, and where we are solely being. When we are constantly consuming and doing, it takes a toll on our mental health. And while this is part of life, we have to take time away each day to fill ourselves up.
Yes, we said every day. This could mean spending 15 to 30 minutes on an unplugged walk, meditating, or sitting outside and journaling. It could mean drinking your coffee outside in silence. It could mean taking a 20-minute power nap or spending 10 minutes playing with your pet.
Try starting with a few minutes each day over the next week. In these unplugged moments is often where you will find direction and purpose for your life as you take time to reflect.
Develop rhythm and routine
There are only 24 hours in a day; apply work and rest appropriately. When you don’t have a way to balance rest, work, health, and relationships, stress and busyness from each area can creep into places they don’t belong and have a negative impact on your health and relationships.
If you’re thinking about work while at home or your relationships while at work you’ll likely be less productive and more stressed. One way to combat this is having a weekly routine, including morning and evening routines, specific sleep and wake times, time for friends and family, and time for yourself and personal reflection. Start by working on one of these areas at a time. We suggest starting with a solid sleep and wake schedule.
Smarter Sweat takeaways
Whether you are an advanced athlete, a business person, a mom, or a grandfather, we can all benefit from mastering these seven habits. Start small and be consistent. Remember your success lies in the small, repetitive actions you do day in and day out.
If habit building is something you are struggling with, you may benefit from one of our Smarter Sweat programs. In addition to warm-ups, mobility work, and workouts, every Smarter Sweat program includes daily and weekly habit-building assistance, goal establishment, and reflection prompts.
By Ashley Pfantz
Ashley is the cofounder of Smarter Sweat, certified personal trainer and professional health and fitness coach. She also owns Pfancy Fitness, an individualized fitness, nourishment, and lifestyle coaching business where she coaches all of her clients remotely.
Walker, C., 2020. The Effects Of An American Diet On Health - CAS - Inquiro - Journal Of Undergrad. Research | UAB. [online] Uab.edu.
Chaput JP, Dutil C, Sampasa-Kanyinga H. Sleeping hours: what is the ideal number and how does age impact this?. Nat Sci Sleep. 2018;10:421-430. Published 2018 Nov 27. doi:10.2147/NSS.S163071
von Loeffelholz C, Birkenfeld A. The Role of Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis in Human Obesity. [Updated 2018 Apr 9]. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Boyce A, et al., editors. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com, Inc.; 2000-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279077/
Popkin BM, D'Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, hydration, and health. Nutr Rev. 2010;68(8):439-458. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x
About Smarter Sweat
Smarter Sweat is a fitness company built from the ground up by fitness experts Amanda Capritto and Ashley Phantz. Amanda and Ashley are both dead-set on cutting through the clutter of the fitness industry and providing raw, real, utterly honest information about fitness and wellness.