Welcome to the weekend! Saturdays and Sundays may mean relaxed diet and fitness rules during much of the year, but the timing of this specific weekend—right between Christmas and New Year’s Eve—may inspire you to get in a few final acts of health in 2013. If you’re feeling like you could use a health reboot right now, here are 10 ways to have a healthy weekend.
1. Limit your coffee intake. Inherently, coffee is full of all sorts of health-promoting properties. The beverage has been linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even some cancers. However, regularly loading up on caffeinated coffee can make you moody and dependent on its energy boosting effects; what started as one cup can quickly turn into three or four if you don’t keep your habit in check. So, if you need extra pep have a single cup, then switch to decaf, which has many of the same health-protecting properties but isn’t addictive.
2. Go to bed at a reasonable hour. We don’t need to tell you all the reasons sleep is good for your body and brain. But here’s one you may not know: Getting too little rest can cause cravings for donuts, french fries, and candy! Researchers suggest getting around 7 or 8 hours a night can help keep these cravings in check.
3. Keep some of your meals boring. Weekends feel like a fun opportunity to change eating routines, but if you overdo it at breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day, your waistline will feel it come Monday morning. To mix the new with the old, plan ahead. If you want to make a big family breakfast, you might opt for a salad for lunch. Or, if you eat healthily during the day, maybe you split a dessert after dinner. Following a sensible diet isn’t about complete restriction, just healthy moderation.
4. Stick with one alcoholic drink a day. A single alcoholic beverage per day brings the most health benefits—even more than no drinks. It’s the amount docs recommend to decrease risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. But if you regularly drink more than that you may reverse the trend—and you’ll also be taking in a ton of empty calories.
5. Get outside. Spending time in the outdoors has been proven to benefit mind and body. Moderate exposure to sunlight can deliver a healthy dose of vitamin D, fresh air, and new scenery can benefit your brain. Also, people who exercise in the outdoors tend to work out for longer than those who get their activity inside. So plan a hike, go on a bike ride, or shovel some snow—any sort of outdoor activity can be revitalizing.
6. Cross off a goal. If one of your 2013 goals was to try yoga—and you haven’t taken a class yet—you’ve still got time. Spend this weekend meeting any last-minute goals you’ve put off for the last 360-some days. Or, if you’ve already crossed off all of your small goals set a new one for this final weekend. Maybe you steer clear of sugar all day Sunday or run an end-of-year 5k.
7. Drink lots of water. Water can help with weight loss and it’ll also keep you hydrated, which will make your body and mind function better. It’s easy to get dehydrated this time of year, when temps are cold and indoor heaters are running on high, so aim for around a cup each hour you’re awake.
8. Take five minutes to slow down. Stretch, meditate, focus on your breath – whatever you want. Slowing down is good for your body and brain. Dedicated relaxation time can reduce stress, which helps speed up weight loss, improve sleep, and makes most of us more pleasant to be around!
9. Go Mediterranean. Olive oil, avocados, and fish are good for your memory and muscles, not to mention your waistline. So go Greek—or Italian—this weekend. Just remember to go light on the carbs. The Mediterranean Diet is touted for its balance of healthy fats, fiber, and protein, not the unlimited bread sticks!
10. Get together with friends. Socializing is one of the most effective and fun ways to improve your health. Numerous studies link social interactions and longevity, resilience, and better heath markers like lower blood pressure. No one in your circle free this weekend? Look for an opportunity to lend a hand. Volunteering creates the chance to connect with other individuals and it’s packed with a host of other health and happiness benefits, too.