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A new year is an opportunity to put a renewed focus on your health, yet many of us struggle to follow through by setting goals that are too vague. Perhaps, for instance, you want to eat better or exercise more, but don’t have a plan for how you’ll actually do that in your daily life. Or maybe you lose momentum toward your big, bold goals by not accounting for the interim steps — and time — it takes to reach them.

Here you’ll find eight factors that are essential to your whole health: nutrition, hydration, daily movement, fitness, sleep, stress, detoxification, and community. Within each one, you can identify where you want to start and then gather ideas for what to implement next to improve your health in that area. These are all positive actions to begin moving in the direction of your goal.

This list isn’t meant to be overwhelming, but rather offer ideas for tangible action you can take to improve your health. Don’t attempt to tackle too many at once; see which ones you may already be able to check off, and then focus on the areas that feel the most achievable, or where you’re most interested in making progress. Then, go from there — step-by-step.

Nutrition 

Start with one of these steps . . .

Then go here . . .

  • Eat at least five total servings of vegetables and fruit daily.
  • Read the ingredient list on all packaged foods and only buy those that have a short list of ingredients you can identify.
  • Include a protein with every meal or snack.

Continue to progress . . .

  • Aim for half of each of your meals to be composed of non-starchy vegetables.
  • Balance your meals by including protein, healthy fats, and vegetables.
  • Eat whole foods 80 percent of the time, prioritizing organic for animal products and produce whenever possible.

If you’re feeling great and want to strive for more . . .

Hydration

Start with one of these steps . . .

  • Drink water more than any other beverage throughout the day.
  • Cut back on the number of sugar-sweetened beverages you drink each week.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption.

Then go here . . .

  • Keep your caffeine intake in check throughout the day. For most healthy adults, 400 milligrams is the suggested limit. (One 8-ounce coffee has 95-165 milligrams, black tea has 25-48 milligrams, and green tea has 25-29 milligrams.)
  • Cut out all sugar-sweetened beverages, including those with artificial sweeteners.
  • Drink water from a filtered source and out of a non-plastic, reusable bottle or glass.

Continue to progress . . .

  • Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water every day, and even more on the days you’re active.
  • Swap sugar-sweetened beverages for healthier options such as kombucha, matcha, or herbal tea. 

If you’re feeling great and want to strive for more . . .

  • Eat vegetables and fruits that have a high water content, such as cucumbers, celery, and watermelon.

Daily Movement

Start with one of these steps . . .

  • Stay active with chores or activities before and after work.
  • Go for at least a 10-minute walk once during the day.

Then go here . . .

  • Try to walk at least 7,000 steps most days of the week.
  • Get up and out of your chair at least three times during the workday to go for a short walk. 

Continue to progress . . .

  • Walk at least 10,000 steps every day. Spread them out throughout the day, and get these in addition to other forms of more formal exercise.
  • Stretch for a few minutes on a daily basis. 

If you’re feeling great and want to strive for more . . .

  • Request a sit/stand desk at work and try to stand at least as much as you sit.
  • Stand during meetings or while you’re on phone calls, whenever possible.

Fitness

Start with one of these steps . . .

Then go here . . .

Continue to progress . . .

If you’re feeling great and want to strive for more . . .

  • Keep your workout routine fresh by changing up aspects of it every month or so. This will help you prevent overtraining and injury, and prevent boredom.

Sleep 

Start with one of these steps . . .

  • Try to get at get at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep on average per night.
  • Optimize your sleep environment: Make sure your room is dark and cool, noise is adjusted to your preference, and your sleep materials (sheets, pajamas, etc.) are breathable.

Then go here . . .

  • Avoid blue light (electronics) at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Keep smartphones and other electronic devices out of your bedroom to prevent scrolling first thing in the morning and last thing at night. 

Continue to progress . . .

  • Go to bed and wake up at about the same time every day, even on the weekends.
  • Aim to get 7 to 8.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night.
  • Prioritize and plan your day in ways that ensure you can get an ample amount of sleep at night.

If you’re feeling great and want to strive for more . . .

  • Keep kids pets out of your bed, to the best of your ability.
  • Wake up naturally, without an alarm, whenever possible.

 Stress

Start with one of these steps . . .

Then go here . . .

  • Adopt strategies that you can incorporate in to your daily life to decrease your stress, such as going for walks or meditating.
  • Prioritize time during your week to do activities that you know will help decrease your stress levels, such as reading a book, exercising, taking a bath, or spending time with your partner. 

Continue to progress . . .

  • Say “no” when your plate is full — and remember that you don’t need to offer reasons or excuses for your response.
  • Speak openly and honestly to your coworkers, family, and friends about the things that stress you out — and offer ideas for how they can best support you in those moments. 

If you’re feeling great and want to strive for more . . .

  • Notice your breath throughout the day. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or rushed, pause to take a few deep breaths before tackling your next to-do.
  • Understand that some stress is good for you and can challenge you in positive ways.

Detoxification

Start with one of these steps . . .

Then go here . . .

  • Swap out your cleaning products for safer formulas to minimize exposure to harmful chemicals.
  • Purchase glass containers to store your food.
  • Drink filtered water from a non-plastic, reusable bottle or glass.

Continue to progress . . .

  • Choose animal proteins that are organic and pasture-raised, wild-caught, and/or grass-fed.
  • Upgrade your beauty and personal-care products to avoid chemicals with unknown or suspected health effects. Avoid parabens, phthalates, nanoparticles, synthetic fragrances, and sodium lauryl/laureth sulfates (SLS), among others.
  • Use safer cookware, such as cast-iron, stainless steel, or ceramic pots and pans.

If you’re feeling great and want to strive for more . . .

  • Get your house tested for environmental toxins such as mold, lead, and radon.
  • Purchase additional air filters for the rooms in your home that are used most often, such as your bedroom.

Community

Start with one of these steps . . .

  • Communicate your goals to your spouse, family, and/or friends to rally their support, even if they don’t engage in those activities themselves.
  • Research opportunities for joining a group or club in your community that’s focused on a topic or hobby you’re passionate about.

Then go here . . .

  • Surround yourself with people who engage in healthy behaviors and encourage you to join them.
  • Explore ways to give back or connect to those in or around your community, such as volunteer work, starting a play group, or arranging a food swap.

Continue to progress . . .

  • Seek out trusted health professionals you can turn to for expert advice and opinions on all aspects of your health. 

If you’re feeling great and want to strive for more . . .

  • Learn how to distinguish between helpful, science-based resources and/or community groups and those that are not supportive or reputable.
Molly Schelper
Molly Schelper

Molly Schelper is the director of content strategy at Life Time.

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