By Sarah Mahoney
There's an inevitable rhythm to January 1 at my house. I take down the tree, vacuum up pine needles, and start making my New Year's resolutions. The list usually looks like this: Lose weight. Swear off TV and saturated fat. Eat salads. Call Dad more. Write that novel. Floss. By midday I'm worn out, intermittently dozing in front of a football game and swiping my husband's million-calorie nachos.
It's not that I totally lack discipline. It's just that I don't sufficiently appreciate...
a. Eating a vegetable at every meal. b. Eating two vegetables at every meal. c. Drinking a fruit smoothie for breakfast.
3. Which of these is a healthy activity?
a. Push-ups, sit-ups, or running the track. b. Walking the dog after dinner. c. Spending Saturday afternoon snoozing on the sofa.
Believe it or not, the correct answer to every question is A, B, and C -- even that Saturday afternoon snooze! According to the growing "Stealth Health" movement, sneaking healthy habits into our daily living is easier than we think.
"You can infuse your life with the power of prevention incrementally and fairly painlessly, and yes, doing something, no matter how small, is infinitely better for you than doing nothing," says David Katz, MD, MPH, director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center and of the Yale Preventive Medicine Center. Katz is also co-author of the book Stealth Health: How to Sneak Age-Defying, Disease-Fighting Habits into Your Life without Really Trying.
From your morning shower to the evening news, from your work commute to your household chores, Katz says, there are at least 2,400 ways to sneak healthy activities into daily living.
"If you let yourself make small changes, they will add up to meaningful changes in the quality of your diet, your physical activity pattern, your capacity to deal with stress, and in your sleep quality -- and those four things comprise an enormously powerful health promotion that can change your life," says Katz.
And yes, he says, a nap on the couch can be a health-giving opportunity -- particularly if you aren't getting enough sleep at night.
Nutritionist and diabetes educator Fran Grossman, RD, CDE, agrees. "You don't have to belong to a gym or live on wheat grass just to be healthy," says Grossman, a nutrition counselor at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York. "There are dozens of small things you can do every day that make a difference, and you don't always have to do a lot to gain a lot."