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22 Live-Long Tricks


WebMD Feature from "Redbook" Magazine

By Nancy Rones

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It only takes a few minutes a day to dramatically improve your health. And with our list of fun and easy good-for-you habits, you'll want to get started right away.

Yeah, yeah — you know that exercising and eating right should be at the top of your daily to-do list. But let's face it: Some days there's barely enough time to sprint from the car to the pizza parlor to grab a pie to go. We're in no way suggesting you abandon those bigger long-term health goals, but we would like to help you by giving you these 22 simple, science-backed steps that you can take today— and every day — to live a longer, healthier, happier life. And don't let the small nature of these lifestyle tweaks fool you: They're proven to have a major impact on your health.

Buy a bouquet.

Looking at flowers can put you in a brighter mood, research from Rutgers suggests. In three different studies, receiving flowers was shown to have both immediate and long-term positive effects on emotional outlook.

Go overboard on sunscreen.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in this country, but it is largely preventable. While you definitely want to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen (which blocks both UVA and UVB rays) with an SPF of 15 or higher, slathering on enough sunscreen is actually the most important factor for determining how effectively a lotion works, according to a study published in The Lancet. If you're spending a full day on the beach, aim to go through a whole small 3- to 5-oz tube. In winter months when UV rays are weaker, applying an SPF moisturizer to your face and other exposed skin in the morning or before you head outdoors is probably enough. But know that there's no hard evidence that sunscreen protects against malignant melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer, so your best protection is to minimize direct sun exposure and wear protective clothing in addition to lubing up.

Have oatmeal for breakfast.

Why? For starters, it may help you shed unwanted pounds: In one study, participants who had oatmeal for breakfast ate 30 percent fewer calories at lunch compared to those who had cornflakes. Oats are complex carbs, so they digest slowly and keep blood sugar steady, which fends off hunger and may help control type 2 diabetes. Oatmeal also acts like a sponge during digestion by soaking up excess cholesterol for faster excretion, which can lower risk of heart disease, says Dee Sandquist, R.D., an American Dietetic Association spokesperson.

Play some head games.

Keeping your mind stimulated boosts memory and brainpower and slashes your risk of developing dementia nearly in half, according to a study conducted at the University of New South Wales in Australia. Look for fun ways to challenge your brain: Try to memorize the phone numbers programmed into your mobile phone and make calls without using speed dial; brush your teeth or try using chopsticks with your nondominant hand; mentally tally the total cost of your groceries as you put each item in the shopping cart; or start a monthly trivia game night with friends.

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