3 health shortcuts that work

Kate PowersKate PowersDoing exactly the right thing can seem impossible. These quick methods come close.

Cardiovascular Activity

The ideal: Do 30 minutes most days of the week. The surgeon general advises this near-daily regimen will help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, raise HDL (good) cholesterol, and improve cardio health, reducing the risk for diabetes and heart disease.

The next best thing: Take three 10-minute walks each day. Short bursts have real health benefits, says Cris Slentz, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at Duke University Medical Center, in Durham, North Carolina. Assuming the intensity is identical to that of a 30-minute workout, you'll burn the same number of calories and get the heart-health benefits.

A few ideas:

  • Devote 10 minutes of your lunch hour to a brisk walk.
  • Climb a few flights of stairs several times a day instead of using the elevator.
  • Offer to take a friend's (energetic) dog for a walk.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

The ideal:
Have five to nine servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily. Eat such a bounty and you'll get a full array of nutrients, as well as plenty of fiber, says Claudia Gonzalez, a registered dietitian in Miami.

The next best thing: They may not be farmers' market-worthy, but sneak in servings this way:
  • Try vitamin-rich dried fruits and single-serving packs of applesauce (applesauce has less fiber than fresh apples but still contains some vitamin C).
  • Using frozen berries, whip up a fruit smoothie, which can hold up to three servings of fruit.
  • Try canned. Vegetable and bean soups are good sources of fiber and can be as nutritionally rich as fresh produce, says Gonzalez. Go ahead and take a multivitamin if you're still falling short. It may cover key nutrients. Find out how much of each nutrient you really need.


The ideal: Get at least seven hours each night. Skimping on sleep can have a major impact on your health. A 2007 study at the University of Warwick, in England, found that women who slept fewer than five hours a night were twice as likely to suffer from hypertension as women who got seven hours of sleep. Previous studies have linked lack of sleep to weight gain and a weakened immune system.

The next best thing:
If you've been short on sleep, take a nap. A recent study found that people who took a short daily nap had a lower rate of dying from heart disease than did those who never snoozed during the day.

Two suggestions:

  • Lie down for a 20-minute siesta in the afternoon to revive yourself.
  • Take a quick catnap when you get home from work to counteract the effects of lost sleep.

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