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When it Comes to Health, Something is Better Than Nothing

At the beginning of each new year, we optimistically set health and fitness goals for ourselves. Unfortunately, usually, within a matter of weeks or just a couple of months, obligations and busy-ness increase and our motivation and enthusiasm decrease at an equally fast rate.

I used to be guilty of the all-or-nothing mindset. Unless there was time for a full workout, why bother to start it at all? What was the point of eating veggies for dinner if I ate two cupcakes at work? This type of thinking subconsciously pushes away from positive behaviors.

Although not true for everything, the idea of something is better than nothing does apply to healthy behaviors. In other words, it is better to do something small but good for your health and well-being than nothing at all.

Not convinced? One study found 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.

Some movement is better than none. Standing is better than sitting. Walking or moving around is better than standing still. 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:

  • Every time the phone rings at home, 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 or move around (most smartwatches have an app for that!).
  • Dance your way through household chores (it’s way more fun!).
  • Make family time an active time.
  • Go for a brisk 10-minute walk after dinner.

Adopting a few, small, healthy habits can lead to more healthy habits over time, because several “somethings” performed throughout the day will start to become “a lot” of things over time!