Everyone knows how hard it can be to be healthy; every little thing somehow seems so drastic, so life-alteringly unattainable. Prevention and ABC News have teamed up to lower the bar on these life-changing habits, giving you, instead, nine guidelines that aren't rules, aren't the golden standard, but are, instead, just good enough.
"Trying to do everything right promotes an all-or-nothing attitude," says Martin Binks, a psychologist at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center in Durham, N.C.
So if you can't do something perfectly (i.e., work out an hour a day), you don't do anything at all (i.e., watch TV instead). A better mindset: Believe that every little bit counts. "It's small changes that are most effective," Binks says.
The first "change" on the list is to eat more fruits and vegetables. But instead of ordering the seemingly impossible nine services of fruits and veggies a day, they're recommending five. The message? Don't psych yourself out. You don't need the maximum to make changes.
[Five a day] was all it took for men and women to lower their stroke risk by 31 percent, according to a Harvard University study.
"Five servings provide significant antioxidants and fiber to reduce heart disease and cancer risk and keep your weight in check," says Rosa Mo, a nutrition professor at the University of New Haven. (One serving is equivalent to one medium piece of fresh fruit, 1/2 cup of cut fruit, a cup of raw leafy greens, or 1/2 cup of other cooked vegetables, such as broccoli.)
Next up is the oh-so-awful E-Word: Exercising. The usual "recommendation"? 30 minutes of cardio, five or more days a week. What do they say is good enough? 17 minutes a day, or 2 hours total, throughout the week.
A new study from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found that women who exercised just two hours a week (or 17 minutes daily) reduced their risk of heart disease and stroke by 27 percent.
"You don't even have to do it all at once. No fewer than 10 studies since 1995 show that breaking up physical activity into small segments of about 10 minutes is just as effective," says Barry Franklin, director of cardiac rehabilitation and exercise laboratories at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., and spokesperson for the American Heart Association's national "Start!" program.
Read the rest of their recommendations, including how much sunscreen, water, and sleep you really need, here.
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