The 14 best things you can do for your body

Beyond working out and eating right, 14 habits that will improve your health.
© 2013 Weider Publications // © 2013 Weider Publications

Your quality of life is largely dictated by one factor: your physical health. And when it comes to building and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, we all know that eating right and working out are more or less the keys. But there’s more to being healthy than choosing brown rice over white and hitting the gym five days a week. To take your health to the next level, you’ve got to think details, like meditation, flossing and sex frequency (don't worry: research says the more, the better). If you’re ready to live to 100, start off with these 14 habits.

--By Tiffany Gagnon

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Meditation may seem like a passing trend, but the newly popular practice touts some serious health benefits. Om-ing is optional, but regularly taking 10-20 minutes to unwind and focus on yourself is one of the greatest secrets to longevity. “Meditation is going to help with stress reduction, better sleep, lower blood pressure, improved immunity and improved cardiovascular function," says Kerry Bajaj, a certified health coach at the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City. It’s also going to make you feel much better because you’re disconnecting from all the stimulation of life.”

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It’s no secret that most hard-working guys are sleep deprived, but just because it’s common does not mean it’s OK. Sleep makes or breaks a healthy lifestyle. All that time and effort you spend eating right and working out won’t be as effective—and your physique will actually be harder to maintain—if you’re not getting seven to eight hours a night. Catching up on sleep on the weekends won’t work either.

Research from Rochester University suggests that insufficient sleep disrupts our brain’s ability to flush toxins from the body and as a result, can impair brain function. So, when you show up for work after a bad night's sleep and you're unable to focus on anything—that’s why.

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Drink warm water with lemon

What you do in the morning sets the tone for the rest of your day, which is why many experts suggest starting off with a big breakfast that’s packed with satiating protein and fiber. Though that’s a great idea, the first thing you put in your mouth when you wake shouldn’t be a vegetable omelet and a side of chicken sausage. Drinking warm water with lemon upon rising delivers loads of benefits. “Warm water with lemon in the morning is very alkalizing. It supports detoxification and even helps to stimulate bowel movements,” says Bajaj. It will even give you a nice boost of energy sans caffeine.

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Drink tea

Drink more tea. Just do it. Aside from water, tea might be the best beverage for your body. Research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that regular consumption of green tea can improve memory and cognition in men. Green tea is also credited with a host of other health-boosting benefits, like firing up your metabolism, lowering blood pressure, preventing bad breath, boosting immunity, and acting as an anti-inflammatory agent.

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Flossing won’t just make your pearly whites brighter, the habit will improve your health on a much deeper level. “If your gums get infected, the bacteria in your mouth can enter the bloodstream and lead to inflammation throughout the body," says Bajaj.

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Take probiotics

Check in with your gut—a healthy digestive system is often seen as the window to your overall health. One way to boost good gut bacteria and keep things running smoothly: take a daily probiotic supplement. “Probiotics help with digestion, and they’re good for your immunity," says Bajaj. "Fixing the balance of good bacteria in the gut can even improve your mood. A lot of our serotonin is actually produced in the gut, so there’s a big connection between what’s happening in the gut and how we feel.”

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Warm up before workouts

Static stretching before a workout doesn’t do your body much good. In fact, research from Stephen F. Austin State University found that exercisers who did static stretching before lifting had impaired strength compared to those who performed a dynamic warm-up, a muscle-warming routine that includes moves like walking lunges and high skips. Get in the habit of performing a dynamic warm-up before any kind of workout and you'll not only enhance your performance, but also help prevent injury.

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Sweat with HIIT

According to research from Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Birmingham, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can result in the same benefits as those you get from endurance training—but you'll spend a hell of a lot less time in the gym. While breaking a sweat of any kind is vital, HIIT improves your fitness while also fighting heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.

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Avoid BPA

BPA stands for Bisphenol A, a chemical used to produce many common household products, like water bottles and food cans. In recent years, the compound's effects on health and human development have generated quite a bit of controversy, and for good reason. Research has found links between exposure to BPA and reproductive disorders, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. While the FDA reports evidence on both sides of the debate, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Purchase typically canned items, like tomatoes, in glass containers instead, and if you’re sticking with plastic containers, check for a recycle code of 3 or 7 on the bottom—those may be made with BPA.

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