From mental health to physical fitness, healthy living doesn’t have to be complicated.
Small changes can make a big difference in how you feel, and simple tests can offer surprisingly big insights into your life as we’ve learned throughout the year.
Here are 10 of the best health hacks TODAY.com discovered in 2023. We hope they help you thrive in 2024!
Just 11 minutes of daily walking improves health
It doesn’t take a lot of time to get healthy. Just 11 minutes a day of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking, can reduce the risk of heart disease by 17% and cancer by 7%, a review of studies found. Daily exercise was associated with a 23% lower risk of premature death.
A separate study found that walking 8,000 steps just once or twice per week may be enough to significantly reduce the risk of death within 10 years.
Wall squats can lower blood pressure
Exercise can lower blood pressure without medication, so experts urge doctors to prescribe it for people with hypertension.
But what type of exercise is best? A review of studies suggests its isometric exercise, where you put tension on the muscle without contracting it, especially the wall squat.
It’s simple, but incredibly intense. The review’s lead author suggests doing four wall squats lasting 2 minutes each, separated by rest intervals of 1 to 4 minutes. This should be done three times per week to help lower blood pressure.
Try the sit-to-stand test to see how healthy you are
Start in a standing position, then sit cross-legged on the ground, and then stand again without using your hands.
This simple test is an effective indicator of health because you need to have strong cardiovascular health, good balance, agility, flexibility, and core and leg strength to complete it, says NBC News medical contributor Dr. Natalie Azar.
Sour cherry juice will help you fall asleep
After the remedy went viral on TikTok, experts told TODAY.com that sour cherry juice may be worth trying as a natural sleep aid but only after checking with your doctor.
Tart cherries contain melatonin and tryptophan, which aid sleep because they increase the amount of melatonin in the body, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Small studies have found that adults who drink tart cherry juice at night have increased sleep time.
Choose a brand with no added sugar and consume it with other foods that may induce sleep, such as cheese, high in tryptophan, or almonds, high in melatonin, advises Bonnie Taub-Dix, a registered dietitian nutritionist .
Try pickle juice to stop muscle cramps
Athletes sometimes drink pickle juice during intense exertion because it can make muscle cramps worse.
Pickle juice does not prevent the development of muscle cramps; instead, it prevents them from happening in the moment, researchers tell TODAY.com. The acid in the brine triggers a nerve reflex in the throat, which sends a signal down the spinal cord to stop the cramp.
The next time you have a muscle cramp, try drinking a spoonful of juice from a jar of vinegar-based pickles for relief.
A quiet walk will help you feel calmer
Mental health training involves walking alone in nature, without distractions and in a place where there are no people.
The idea is to be mindful of each breath and each step, listen to the sounds of nature around you, feel grateful for the sun kissing your skin, and use the time for reflection, Lalah Delia, author of thought book Vibrate Higher Daily, tells TODAY.com.
Zen Buddhist monks have long practiced silent walking under another name, meditation walking, he added.
Health benefits include reducing stress, having a deeper connection with yourself, and lowering blood pressure and heart rate.
Which alcohol is healthier?
There is no level of alcohol consumption that is safe for health, warns the World Health Organization. But if people choose to drink alcohol in moderation, there are some preferred options, experts say.
One of them is a glass of champagne or sparkling white wine, which has about 100 calories. Choose dry white wine, or dry sparkling wine, which has no added sugar like many other drinks, nutritionists say.
Stop midlife weight gain by simply changing your diet
When it comes to weight creep after 40, starch is a bigger problem than sugar, researchers have found.
They advise focusing on carbohydrate quality substituting some carbs for others.
People who eat more whole grains, fruits and non-starchy vegetables gain less weight in midlife than their peers who indulge in a sugary, starchy diet, a study has found.
The bird test can tell how long your relationship will last
The test, which went viral on TikTok, involves pointing a bird at your significant other and observing their reaction.
If they respond with genuine interest or are otherwise interested in why you’re paying attention to the bird, chances are good that you’re in for a solid, long-term relationship, bird test advocates say.
If your partner doesn’t forget the bird, however, the relationship seems less healthy.
Get rid of the clutter with Swedish death cleaning
The new year is about new beginnings and letting go of old habits and things that weigh you down.
That’s where Swedish death cleaning can help with a concept that Swedish author Margareta Magnusson introduced to the rest of the world. The idea is that we shouldn’t leave a mountain of crap behind for our loved ones to clean up when we die, he writes in his latest book.
When cleaning, people often struggle to get rid of things that should really be thrown away, but have sentimental value. If that’s the case, take a picture of the item, thank it, then let it go, she advises.
Keep it bare and neat. That’s the way of life. Don’t hoard things, Magnusson told TODAY.com.
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