There's an optimal time for every health move, from eating breakfast and taking your allergy meds to quitting smoking and even having sex. Here's how to tune into those magic hours to boost your everyday well-being -- and your long-term health.
In the Morning
- Sleep an extra 20 minutes. There's no substitute for a solid night of z's, but research suggests that rising as late as you can get away with - even if it's just 20 or 30 minutes later than you usually do - can make you more relaxed during the day. For best results, try to go to bed and wake up at about the same times every day; this will keep your body clock running smoothly.
- Slather on sunscreen. For the best possible protection, apply it (year-round) a full 30 minutes before you head outdoors - that's how long it takes for the stuff to soak in and become effective.
- Eat breakfast if you're watching your weight. A hearty starter, ideally eaten within 15 to 30 minutes of waking and no later than 8 a.m., will help you stave off a gain. Go for whole grains with a serving of protein and some fruit to keep you alert and feeling full for longer. Aim for a meal of around 200 to 300 calories.
In the Afternoon
- Take a power nap. A midday snooze isn't just for babies! Instead of hitting the vending machine for a sugar high - and eventual crash - try succumbing to your sleepiness and indulging in a 10-minute siesta. Can't nap at work? Get off your duff for a 10-minute loop around the block. It's not as restorative, but it will clear your head and boost your circulation, energizing mind and body.
- Skip "lunch" in favor of two mini-meals (of about 300 calories each). Eat the first one three hours following breakfast and the second about three hours after that to keep your blood sugar steady and your metabolism fired up.
- Get moving. Late afternoon to early evening (5 to 6 p.m.) may be the best time to exercise, because that's when you're hottest, literally. Your body temperature reaches its daily peak (2 to 3 degrees warmer than in the morning), giving you maximum muscle strength, flexibility, agility, and stamina as well as faster reaction times. Even your lungs are using oxygen more efficiently at this time. You'll work out harder with less perceived effort and are less likely to injure yourself.
- Invite the night. Preparation for bedtime should start well before you brush your teeth. Wind down any exercise three hours before bed and close the kitchen (and the bar) two to four hours in advance. Aim for an undivided seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Because environmental factors can disrupt cues to your internal clock, it's best to keep the room dark.
- Slather on a sweat-stopper. Take a shower before bed, then dry off and apply the antiperspirant of your choice. At night, your body's temperature naturally lowers and you're less likely to sweat, which gives antiperspirant a chance to fully absorb and allows its active ingredients to go to work.
- Take your allergy meds. Both allergy symptoms and the pollen count are highest first thing in the morning, so take your long-acting antihistamines at night to avoid waking up to a sneeze-fest. Bonus: If the pills make you sleepy, taking them at bedtime might help you drop off.
Find other ways to take advantage of your body clock and discover the best time of day to schedule doctors appointments, dental procedures, and more!
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