Open up any of your social media apps, and you’re bound to be bombarded with intel about how to live your healthiest life. (Including, hopefully, lots of advice from yours truly.) The latest supercharged smoothie add-in, the alternative milk that’s truly the best, the new research finding that’s going to benefit your workout the most—all of it’s useful, but it can also be overwhelming. If you’re just starting to prioritize wellness, where do you even start?
I asked 10 wellness experts that very question—and, not surprisingly, their answers were all completely different. But by reading through the list, perhaps one will stand out to you as the habit to focus on first. Then, once you’ve mastered that one, you can move on to another. The most important thing to remember? There’s no wrong place to start when it comes to upgrading your health.
Keep reading for wellness experts’ advice on where to begin when you want to get healthier.
Work on your flexibility
Raise your hand if you spend the majority of your day hunched forward at your desk? There is a way to undo the damage, says physical therapist and Movement Vault founder Grayson Wickham, DPT, CSCS—and it’s as easy as incorporating 15 minutes of flexibility training into your day.
“Not only is it important to move every day, it’s important to move well,” he says. “When we move well, we perform well, feel awesome, and decrease our risk for future injury.” What does “moving well” mean, exactly? According to Wickham, a mobility workout or yoga are great places to start.
Add probiotics to your diet
The microbiome is the hottest topic in the wellness world right now. And for good reason—the bacteria in your gut affect everything, from your immune system to digestion, and even mood. This is why registered dietitian and Once Upon a Pumpkin founder Maggie Michalczyk, RDN, recommends eating lots of probiotics, as they help keep the microbiome strong.
“Pop a probiotic supplement or add more probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, or miso to your diet,” she says, noting that it’s a good ritual to adopt even if you don’t have digestive problems. “In my opinion, if an overall better mood is a byproduct of increased probiotics, that’s reason enough to keep this wellness habit up!”
Find a workout that you love
According to CityRow head trainer Lisa Niren, CPT, the “no pain, no gain” exercise mentality is outdated. The benefit to having so many options out there—seriously, boutique fitness has legit exploded—is that there’s bound to be a workout you actually enjoy.
“You won’t find me doing a workout I don’t love,” says Niren, who’s also the head of programing at Studio. “I love a good sweat and enjoy training hard, but my fitness regimen can’t feel like work.” If you’re having fun, you’re more likely to work out on the reg—which is linked to improved mood, better sleep, reduced stress, and tons of other major health benefits.
Make one meal for yourself a day
The perks to home cooking are twofold. “By cooking for yourself, you’re not only more aware of what’s in your food—which is usually healthier than eating out—but you’re also carving out a bit of time where you’re taking care of yourself,” says Byun. Any excuse for some extra self-care, right?
Give yourself a break
How many times have you heard a trainer preaching the importance of pushing through your workout—even if you’re exhausted? Or seen one of those “No days off” memes while scrolling through your social feeds?
Going hard in your workouts with no regard for recovery will just lead to burnout and injury—and it’s why Christi Marraccini, CPT and head coach at Tone House in New York City, preaches balance. She says that, at times, it’s more beneficial to give yourself a rest day from the gym and get a few extra hours of sleep or downtime with your girl gang, as this will help you come back stronger the next day. And this mindset doesn’t just apply to the gym. “[Balance] is important in your workout routine, diet, social life, and even in your sleep schedule,” Marraccini says. Break out the foam roller.
Create a morning routine
Research has shown that the key to making a habit stick is adding it to your a.m. routine. It’s why Nike trainer and FlowIntoStrong founder Alex Silver-Fagan, CPT, CFSC, says it’s so important to be intentional with how you start each day.
“I used to be one of those people who would wake up 10 minutes before I had to run out the door. Now, I take a full hour in the morning to sip a coffee while I read and journal, stretch, and then leave,” she says. “It’s dramatically decreased my anxiety and has also helped my digestion.” And it just might turn you into a (gasp) morning person.
People seek out dermatologist Marnie Nussbaum, MD, for a wide range of issues, but there’s one piece of advice she gives to everyone.
“The most important wellness habit is adding broadband sunscreen of at least SPF 30 into your morning routine every day, regardless of whether it’s winter or summer,” she says. Not only will it keep your skin looking healthy, but it just might save your life.
While the exact number of times you should refill your water glass is still up for debate, yoga instructor Alexandra Sheppard says hydration should be your number-one health priority for a lengthy list of reasons.
Take a 15-minute pause every day
Fitness influencer Chinae Alexander‘s most transformative tip: Make space in your schedule for you.
“Take a few solid moments to re-calibrate, express kindness to yourself, and clear your mind,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be meditation or a workout. It could be a bath, a face mask, a walk, or reading a book. It’s simply giving yourself what you need.” It’s the old oxygen-mask analogy—you have to take care of yourself before you can be there for other people.
Eat real food
“Our ancient predecessors recommended herbs, spices, and tonics to treat inflammation, chronic pain, cognitive health, and hormonal imbalances for a reason,” says Ancient Nutrition founder Josh Axe, DNM, CNS, DC. Cutting out processed junk in favor of whole foods is something that just about every wellness professional recommends, and doing so will result in all of the benefits above and more. One easy place to start: Steer clear of anything with a laundry list of ingredients you can’t pronounce—”quinoa” and “acai” not included.
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