15 Minutes to Better Health
March 7, 2012 12:04 PM   Subscribe

What can I be doing for 10-15 minutes a day to increase (or even simply maintain) my long-term health and well-being?

I'd like to add something, preferably simple, to my day that will yield long term dividends to my health or well-being. What would be the best possible use of that time? It can be a single task or a combination of different things.

Some initial thoughts:
+ Brushing and flossing my teeth
+ Stretching
+ Basic exercises (e.g., pushups and pullups)
+ Meditation

I'm a med student in my mid-20s, and after seeing a lot of preventable injuries and conditions that are simply due to neglect of one's health maintenance. I'd like to try to come up with some basic things to add to my daily schedule to keep myself healthy over the long haul. Detailed responses and/or links to supporting research appreciated. Thanks!
posted by sciencemandan to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 128 users marked this as a favorite
If you don't already floss your teeth once a day and brush twice (preferably using something like a Sonicare brush) -- that should be on the top of list. Depending on the basic strength of your teeth, something you can't do anything about by your age, you may not need to get your teeth professionally cleaned more often than once every few years. But basic, DAILY maintenance is the best thing you can do for your long term health maintenance.

If I were your Good Fairy, that's the wish I would bestow on you. Take care of your teeth and gums. Before you're forced to start fighting a rearguard action.
posted by kestralwing at 12:11 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Do a tabata interval of a cardio execise.

A tabata interval is 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, done 8 times. Your 20 seconds on are to be done as intense as you can physically muster. If you don't occasionally find that you're questioning your sanity on #5 and 6 you aren't going hard enough.

Tabata intervals train your recovery capability and will increase your aerobic fitness, despite working primarily on your anaerobic pathways. A much better payoff than sitting on an elliptical.
posted by bfranklin at 12:12 PM on March 7, 2012 [16 favorites]

Response by poster: Probably should have mentioned that I'm already brushing and flossing. :) Just figured that was a good example of something simple and beneficial for the long term.
posted by sciencemandan at 12:12 PM on March 7, 2012

I'd like to try to come up with some basic things to add to my daily schedule to keep myself healthy over the long haul.

Find out which vitamins you need and start taking them. I suggest you talk to your doctor about your diet and have them suggest a regimen rather than just popping a multivitamin.
posted by griphus at 12:12 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wear sunscreen all. the. time.
posted by HotPatatta at 12:13 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also, a couple hard learned lessons for me:
- spend 15 minutes a day cleaning up your living space
- if ever you are curious about something or don't know something, google it when you are next in front of a computer. Be ruthless in eliminating your ignorance about the world.
posted by bfranklin at 12:15 PM on March 7, 2012 [13 favorites]

Honestly? Sleep. I've found that once my quality and length of sleep improved, a lot of other things did too.

Other thoughts:

- talk to other people IN PERSON. We're so used to communicating via artificial, electronic means that something definitely gets lost in translation.
- do a hobby that you enjoy. Even 15 minutes of quilting or knitting reduces my blood pressure and stress
-get out and enjoy nature
- plan your meals ahead of time. You'll be more likely to stick with them and not throw up your hands and go out to eat.
posted by Leezie at 12:18 PM on March 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

1. Put on sunscreen.
2. Take care of your teeth.
3. Put on your seatbelt every single time.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:19 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

There's some evidence that short bursts of exercise could be beneficial (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17177251)

So, if you've got an exercise bike handy, you might try the HIT workouts listed in the article. Or jump rope, calisthenics, or just about anything that really gets your heart rate up, even if only briefly.
posted by jeffch at 12:20 PM on March 7, 2012

Prepare and eat a fresh salad full of a variety of colorful raw ingredients. Include kale. Dress it with mashed avocado and lemon juice.

yikes, I know it's bad but I hardly ever wear sunscreen . . .
posted by tr33hggr at 12:27 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not necessarily "healthy" per se, but for my well being I spend 10 -15 minutes cleaning the kitchen when I get home from work, everyday, without fail. Turn on the radio, clean off the countertops, unload the dishwasher, load dishwasher, think about dinner.

Once the family comes home we start dinner in a clean kitchen. Really, it's awesome to have a clean kitchen.
posted by lstanley at 12:34 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: 5BX (about).
posted by bentley at 12:39 PM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

Everyone – male and female – would do well to do fifteen minutes' worth of Kegel exercises every day.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 12:51 PM on March 7, 2012

Unless you're at an already decent shape right now, I would advise you to re-think tabata training. There is a reason why they suggest only 3-4 minutes a week. It is extremely taxing.

You can also do it with other exercises other than biking, such as running. Do bear in mind that muscles get stronger and adapt faster than bones and joints - a recipe for injuries if you push yourself harder too fast before giving time for your bones and joints to catch up.
posted by 7life at 12:57 PM on March 7, 2012

Best answer: Being outside.
Not necessarily in the uber-outdoorsy, scaling-the-mountains! sense, but in the puttering-around-town or hanging-out sense. Not only because there something to be said for getting some sun and vitamin D (which helps alleviate SAD or the general mopes), but because frequently walking around, or hanging out in, your neighborhood can help create social bonds, friendships, and a general sense of connection to your community. This connection often is correlated with higher levels of social contact, which has a connection to feelings of contentment and belonging, and can open you up to social networking that has a real, positive impact on your life. This is why proponents of new urbanism are super excited about traditional neighborhood design.

Naturally, the issue is a lot more complicated and complex than that, and there are plenty of confounding factors, but you are probably going to live a happier (and potentially healthier life) if you actually go out into your community, meet people, establish relationships, and generally relax in public environments.

So...feel free to run errands on foot, or to go read in a book in park.
posted by vivid postcard at 1:14 PM on March 7, 2012 [9 favorites]

A related question I asked last year.
posted by greta simone at 1:18 PM on March 7, 2012

Wear sun protection - sunscreen and a hat with a good brim.

2 brisk 15 minute walks each day. You don't even need to jog to reap the protective benefit.

Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Drink more water and less caffeine. Chew all of your food thoroughly, as a matter of habit. Don't eat in front of the television. Don't eat from containers, but instead put everything in a bowl or on a plate. Verify serving sizes. Drink less alcohol. Don't start smoking cigarettes.

Go get all of your blood work done. Get a baseline for everything, even if you do one thing this year, and another thing next year. Collect as much information about "healthy you" as is possible. If you have something running in your family, such as an autoimmune condition begin to address it now. Get your thyroid levels checked, etc.

Sure, that's not a daily thing, but spread that few hours out over the course of a year and it's a golden investment.

I'm having some serious health problems and the historical bloodwork I had was not enough. Do it all. Please. Seriously, everything that I am experiencing looks just exactly like Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, but my results are "normal, absolutely unequivocably normal" so we're playing wild goose chase while we wait to retest. For a minute the best guess was something really horrible. Now I'm waiting to schedule a transvaginal ultrasound because maybe my crazy uterus is trying to kill me. If that's not it we'll peek in at my bowels with a scope. If I'd had a thyroid panel 5 years ago, this might be an easier process. And maybe we'd have caught my iron storage problem before I got so horribly low if I hadn't just been content with a regular old CBC.
posted by tulip-socks at 1:46 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Everybody harps on about sunscreen, but forget about UV protecting sunglasses (especially high area coverage ones; sigh, I miss mirror shades with the leather side panels from the '80s SO HARD).
posted by porpoise at 3:07 PM on March 7, 2012

Jump rope. It's efficient exercise.
posted by maurreen at 3:10 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't waste your time on stretching. The latest research says that stretching is pretty much useless, though it can hurt you, so it can be a net negative. More important is warmup. So whatever time you put into stretching, go ahead and shift into warming up. For flexibility, yoga has a good track record, though there is a lot of varieties to yoga and some make more sense from a time/health point of view than others.
posted by VikingSword at 3:54 PM on March 7, 2012

Have sex. It's great exercise, it makes you feel goooood, and if you have it with someone you like, it helps your relationship.
posted by theora55 at 5:20 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Body squats, lowest possible with good form (butt jutting out and used with your hips to drive you up; knees track with toes; go down slow enough). Will help open up your adductors, etc.
posted by ifjuly at 7:07 PM on March 7, 2012

Sit up straight. Play with a dog or cat.
posted by tumid dahlia at 7:12 PM on March 7, 2012

anything that's stress reducing for you (hobby, relaxation, art, journal writing, taking a bath, ...) , and sleep :)
posted by kitsuloukos at 9:30 PM on March 7, 2012

Plz be real careful with yoga, pay close attn to what has been written* about these past couple of years, a few yoga poses that can potentially make you very, very unhappy indeed. Voice of experience. My understanding is that these poses can be done safely using blankets and/or other props and I'm sure that's the case; for me, for now, I'm just staying the heck away from them.
*That's just one link, tons more links out there if you're interested.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:26 PM on March 7, 2012

To add to your weekly or biweekly schedule instead of daily: get a massage. You especially need it leading the stressful life of a med student.
posted by parrot_person at 4:08 AM on March 8, 2012

Dance! Preferably with someone. Or maybe while you are brushing your teeth and putting on sun screen.
posted by trii at 3:16 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

There was a really interesting episode of the BBC science documentary series Horizon on this very subject recently, highlighting recent exercise physiology research demonstrating that very short periods of very high intensity exercise (a total of 3 minutes per week at extremely high intensity) can have significant heath benefits.

The presenter (a qualified doctor come science journalist) was pretty sceptical at the start but the data presented was both surprising and fascinating.

The trailer is here on YouTube. It is still available on BBC iPlayer in the UK. I'm not sure how easy it is to access this outside the UK.
posted by inbetweener at 2:11 AM on March 10, 2012

Count your calories consumed and burned.
posted by srboisvert at 1:32 PM on March 12, 2012

Take care of your mind, but doing some or all of the following:

-reconnect with old friends
-make new friends
-do something that makes you happy

I will tell you that video games are what helped me finish graduate school. (I know that sounds weird.) I would promise myself that if I finished x project or got y amount of studying done, I could play video games for a certain amount of time. The point I'm trying to make is that some of these mental health things are going to be extremely personal.
posted by emilynoa at 4:22 AM on March 14, 2012

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