The Best Healthy Lifestyle Habits [Fitness & Diet] For Busy Adults In 2021
By: Zack Mathews
When I first started thinking about this guide, I thought it was going to be for the busy executive in corporate America who needed help on finding realistic ways to stay healthy. Quickly after I began developing the healthy lifestyle habits, I realized this doesn’t just apply to the busy executive in corporate America.
These healthy lifestyle habits can help…
- Executives in corporate America (duh Zack, you already said that).
- Entry level workers trying to find their way working long hours.
- Any working professional that has a lot on their plate.
- Students going to school full time.
- Entrepreneurs building a new business.
- Parents working hard to provide for their children.
We’re all busy and for most of us, seeing a workout and nutrition program that has you exercising 6x/week for 90 minutes and having to weigh and track all your food can be a daunting task.
Your health and fitness journey should compliment your life, not add more stress to it, and that’s my goal with these habits. These habits will be realistic and implementable right away.
Will you get shredded with 6% body fat following these habits? Most likely not. You’ll have to go to the extreme for that, but most of us don’t want to get there.
If you want to be healthier, have more energy, lose some weight, build muscle and strength, and move better and pain free, these habits are for you.
Let’s get rolling!
To better organize the 19 healthy lifestyle habits, they are broken up by fitness, nutrition, and overall wellness.
- Two Full Body Strength Workouts A Week Will Go A Long Way
- Focus On Compound Movements
- Keep Gym Sessions Under 60 Minutes
- Split Your Workouts In Half
- Make Your Workouts Easily Assessable
- Do At Least 1 Day Of Cardio A Week
- Walk As Often As You Can
- Focus On Minimally Processed Foods
- Eat Protein
- Six Ingredients Or Less Meals
- Be Smart When You Order Out
- Water Should Be The Primary Drink You Consume
- Meal Prep
- Alcohol In Moderation
- Prioritize Your Sleep
- Manage Your Stress
- Get Some Sun
- Stretch And Do Mobility
- Be Realistic With Your Goals
Healthy Lifestyle Habits - Fitness
Lifting weights is one of the most important factors for overall wellbeing and good health. You will get stronger and build muscle, which can help speed up your metabolism, and will improve your bone density that can be beneficial to you later in life.
If you are only able to lift weights 2 times a week, you want to get the best bang for your buck. That means you want to doing a full body workout where you will be working every muscle group twice in a week. If you can add a 3rd day in there that is awesome, but try and get in at least two days.
When it comes to what types of exercises to do with your workouts, this is another case of wanting to get the best bang for your buck. The exercises you focus on should be compound movements, which are the exercises that will work multiple muscles at one time.
For example, if you did a bicep curl, you would be working your biceps only. But if you did a pull-up, aka a compound movement, you’ll be working all the muscles in your upper and mid back, your core, and the good ole biceps!
Other examples of compound exercises would be variations of squats, deadlifts, chest press, rows, & shoulder press.
If the 2 times a week full body workout seem realistic with your schedule, here is a workout program that you can follow that will hit these first two points. You can click each exercise and get a nice video of yours truly if you need a demonstration of the movement!
Being able to incorporate these healthy lifestyle habits means you need to be efficient with your time. There is no reason why you should be in the gym for 2 hours doing your workout. Either you are getting distracted talking to others, on your phone watching cat videos (did I just call myself out?!), or you are following a poorly designed plan.
A well designed program where you follow the rest periods and prescribed movements should take anywhere between 30 - 60 minutes based on your experience.
Sometimes a 60 minute workout is not in the cards for you and that’s ok. That doesn’t mean you should do anything. Something is better than nothing so split up 2 60 minute workouts into 4 30 minute workouts in a week.
Have a really crazy day? Do part of a workout for 15 - 20 minutes. Again, something is better than nothing.
If you have to drive 45 minutes to get to your gym, you’re doing something wrong. Find ways to make getting to the gym as easy as possible.
- Use your work gym or a gym as close as possible to your house.
- Renovate your garage or a room and get some basic gym equipment.
- Perform body weight movements at home.
Cardio is amazing for you and not because of the reason most people do it. Most people do cardio because they are trying to burn calories to lose weight. And that is the wrong mindset to have. What’s the point of doing cardio for 60 minutes so you can burn 300 calories? You can eat 300 calories in 60 seconds! Gimme those Oreos!
No, do cardio for your overall health, to improve your cardiovascular health, and to improve mental clarity and mood. That’s what cardio should be used for! This one could also be in the wellness section because of the mood boosting benefit that cardio provides.
What type of cardio should you do? Do the one that you enjoy doing the most. If I told you to do the elliptical but you hated the elliptical, chances are you might skip that workout. Instead, do whatever it is you enjoy and get excited to do. This can be running outside, going on a hike, surfing, riding a bike, dancing, anything!
More than 1 day a week is fine if you want, but remember why this guide is being made. You’re busy! So if you can only fit 1 day of cardio in, count that as a win!
The absolute easiest form of exercise you can immediately implement is to start walking more. Some people, I hope not you, don’t consider walking a workout since they are not sweating or getting their heart rate up.
Those people are wrong. Walking is exercise and should be done as often as you can. Now, I know you’re busy so telling you to go for for a long walk everyday might be unrealistic so we want to find ways to fit walking into things you already do on a daily basis.
- Walk for 10 minutes after a meal. It will help digest your food and you just added 30 minutes of walking if you do it after every meal.
- Park as far away as you can at your job, stores, school. Those extra steps to and from your car can go a long way.
- If you are on a business call that doesn’t require you to be in front of a computer, pace around your house or go walk outside to get steps in.
- If you have dogs or young children, going on a daily walk is an amazing way to exercise, spend times with your loved ones, and get sunlight (which we’ll talk about later).
That wraps up our discussion on the healthy lifestyle habits for exercise section. To sum it up, if you can do at least 2 full body strength workouts a week, cardio 1 time a week, and try to get steps in whenever you can, you’re off to a great start!
Healthy Lifestyle Habits - Nutrition
The saying is true, abs are made in the kitchen. If you are trying to lose or gain weight, your nutrition will dictate if you are successful or not.
One of the absolute best habits when it comes to your nutrition will be to start focusing on minimally processed foods. In the busy world we live in now, people are resorting to foods in bags, wrappers, and fast food more than ever. This is a recipe for obesity and disease if you can’t get it under control.
If you had to focus on one thing, and you didn’t have to worry about ever being on a diet or calorie counting, making your diet consist of unprocessed foods is the best thing you can do.
If you can build your plates around the types of foods listed below + as many vegetables as you want, you are going to put yourself in a great spot.
Of the three macronutrients; proteins, carbs, and fats, protein is the most important. Unfortunately it is also the least consumed of the three. Most packaged foods are loaded with carbs, and most fast food is high in fat. That leaves protein on the outside.
Why is protein so important you might be wondering?
Thanks for asking.
- Protein is the most filling out the 3 macronutrients. More filling equals less cravings for other things later.
- Building and preserving muscle mass requires protein.
- You burn more calories eating protein then carbs or fats.
- It’s delicious. Am I right?
Reference the list from the last section for good protein sources.
We’ve all seen that delicious looking meal made from an influencer on social media.
You look at the ingredients and directions and see that there are 39 ingredients and it takes 4 hours to make.
Ummm…who has time for that?!
Instead, try to stick to the 6 ingredients or less rule when designing your meals at home.
It’s going to be easier to prepare your meals and the less ingredients you use, the healthier it becomes (most of the time). It makes it so you have to be deliberate with your choice of foods and usually this will lead to a balanced meal.
Thinking off the top of my head, here are 3 easy meals with 6 ingredients or less.
Breakfast - Protein shake with almond milk, protein powder, strawberries, blueberries, and spinach.
Lunch - Grilled chicken breast, sweet potato, broccoli. A side of an apple and a serving of almonds.
Dinner - Taco bowls with ground beef, black beans, rice, lettuce, onions, and avocado. Oh man, I have to say 7 because we can’t forget the salsa!
If you can stick to 6 ingredients or less, a lot of your plates will end up looking like this plate template. If you prefer, you can substitute the 1 serving of fruit and add a carbohydrate such as potatoes or rice.
I think it’s realistic to say that most people don’t eat at home for every meal 365 days a year. Eating out is a great way to spend time with family and friends, and the food can bring us together.
Now for the busy person who has to eat out often because of travel, kids schedules, business meetings, or class, you want to be making the right choices that will compliment the other good habits you have been building.
The best tips for eating out:
- Base your meal around what protein you want to have. Building around your protein will ensure you are eating the best macronutrient and hopefully will fill you up to where you will not over do it in other parts of the meal.
- Always have a vegetable on your plate. If you have to choose between the fries or a salad, save the calories and choose the salad.
- If you know it’s a heavy meal, ask for a box right away and pack up half of it. Portion control baby!
- Skip or share the appetizer or dessert to manage calories.
Additionally, one of the main points to understand with eating out is that you're not always going to be perfect. Don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad meal. Get right back on track with your next meal. Trust me, you'll be fine, and you aren't ruining all your progress.
That’s a healthy lifestyle habit. It becomes an unhealthy habit when that bad meal turns into a bad day, that bad day of eating turns into a weekend, and before you know it you have lost all your progress and momentum.
I’ve been shocked over the years by the lack of water consumption by some of my clients!
In today’s society people are replacing water with soda, sweet tea, coffee, juices, sports drinks, and unfortunately alcohol.
Your body thrives when you are consuming an adequate amount of water and it’s an easy habit to build on, so no excuses!
If you are someone who doesn’t drink enough water, try these two tricks.
First off, have a big glass of water by your nightstand. Immediately when you wake up, take a minute or two to drink the whole thing. You’ve been dehydrated from sleeping all night and it’s an easy way to get your water consumption up. Second, buy a hydro flask to fill up for the day and bring it with you every where.
So how much water should you drink? Some people will say a gallon, others say half a gallon.
I say this. Keep an eye on your pee throughout the day. It should be lightly yellow to an almost clear color. If it’s crystal clear you’re drinking too much water, if it’s dark yellow, you need to start drinking more. Don’t overcomplicate it!
When you are so busy during the week that you're running around like a chicken with its head cut off, it’s hard to find time to make meals. Spending an hour cooking, eating, and cleaning is just not possible.
That’s where it becomes easy to go get that fast food that has caused your unhealthy habits.
This is where meal prepping comes in handy. Pick one day on the weekend where you spend 2 hours and cook meals for 3 - 5 days. It can be as simple as cooking 2 - 3 different proteins and carbs, and cooking a bunch of vegetables. Add some snacks of fruit, protein shakes, or more vegetables and you have an easy prep for the week.
You knew it was coming at some point in this nutrition section right?!
Alcohol can be a positive or a negative on your health based on how you use it.
Occasionally having a glass of wine with family or friends is great, while drinking at happy hour when you get off work 3 times a week is not.
We are all adults here so I don’t think I need to sit here and tell you too much alcohol is bad. We know it is. It’s going to affect your workouts, sleep, nutrition and mood, so if your goal is to become healthier and have better habits, minimizing your alcohol consumption is best.
Healthy Lifestyle Habits - Wellness
With your hectic work schedule, loads of homework, or doing stuff for your kids, that doesn’t leave much time for recovery. Your body needs time to unwind and recover, and there’s no better time for that then with good sleep.
It used to be a cool thing to not sleep, remember #teamnosleep?! With newer research coming out about the benefits of sleep, now it’s the cool thing to get that 7 - 9 hours every night.
You want to make sure to maximize how good of rest you get. Try these helpful tips to get you to sleep better and deeper.
- Limit your exposure to blue light later in the evening. Turn off the tv and get off your phone. If you have to use something with blue light, invest in some blue blocker glasses.
- Sleep in a cool room. Research shows 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for deep sleep.
- Don’t eat too late at night. If you eat late, your body will still be working hard to digest your food and your sleep could suffer.
- Dim the lights and go by candle light if you can. Our bodies evolved to be on a rhythm with the sun coming up and going down. If you blast all the lights and electronics in your house, it’s harder for your body to keep that rhythm.
- Get sunlight during the day. This is another trick to help keep you circadian rhythm in line.
For the majority of human life, stress came in two forms, shelter and food. In today’s society, the amount of stress people endure is through the roof. Between juggling work, family, health, friendship, and side hustle commitments, it is easy for people to carry loads of stress. High levels of stress leads to the hormone cortisol being raised, which can cause many health problems.
You want to make time and have things, events, or places that help you destress. Everyone relives stress in different ways so it’s up to you to find what works best. This might be mediating, reading a book, taking a walk in nature, being with loved ones, exercising, knitting, watching Netflix.
Whatever it is, carve out time to make it a priority. It will make you a better and more productive person if you do.
I’m not saying you should go outside until you look like an Oompa Loompa. On a side note, I am REALLY surprised that autocorrect didn’t say I spelled that wrong. Does that mean it’s part of the dictionary?
As I mentioned in point #14, getting daily sunlight with help keep your circadian rhythm in sync, helping you sleep better. Also, the vitamin D that you get from sunlight is something that is very hard to match from foods. Good levels of vitamin D are going to help bone density and help keep your immune system strong. With a busy life, it’s important to stay healthy, and getting at least 10 - 15 minutes of sunlight a day can go a long way.
If you have little aches, pains, and tightness that you’ve been ignoring for however long, chances are you could make yourself feel much better by working on your flexibility and mobility.
A 60 minute yoga class would be great! You know what else would be great to? Taking 5-10 minutes while you watch TV at night to go through some basic movements and stretches. Remember, make these habits a part of your life, not your whole life.
Need a good routine? I post mobility movements pretty regularly on my Instagram. Here is a link to one. You better start following me too!
To wrap up, it’s important to be in the right mindset. If you want to be absolutely shredded, grow a big butt, or run a marathon next month, but you have very little time in your busy schedule, chances are you won't be able to juggle all things that would need to go into achieving that at this time.
Understand that this journey takes time and there isn’t a rush. Slowly building these habits over time are going to help engrain them in your schedule and you are more likely to stay with them long term.
It’s much more fun when you enjoy the journey so set a goal that you think is realistic to hit with your schedule and go along for the ride as you embark on your transformation!
That's All Folks!
Now you have 19 healthy lifestyle habits that you can start implementing into your life. Maybe you can start all of them at once, or maybe you want to pick 1 - 2 from each section. As long as you start, you’re going in the right direction to positive change!
If you have any questions, please leave a comment or reach out to me here.