Got 15 minutes to spare between running errands, going to the gym, and the many other tasks that fill up your day? If so, then you've got time to improve your health, says Alena Baquet-Simpson, MD, senior director of medical health services for Aetna Medicare.
Whether you take 15 minutes to get active, de-stress, or simply refocus, it can make a big difference. "Spending time every day on your health is great for not just your physical health, but your overall well-being," says Dr. Baquet-Simpson.
To get started, try out these quick doc-approved ideas. And since most things tend to be more fun with a friend, invite a pal to try these out with you.
If you can spare more than 15 minutes, that's even better, Dr. Baquet-Simpson says. "Ideally, it's important to try to do more than just 15 minutes of healthy activities a day. So when time allows, do a few of these. And if you can, try to do up to 150 minutes of physical activity per week."
1. Meal prep
In just 15 minutes, you can make salad dressing, hummus, sweet potato chips, crunchy granola, and so much more. Just choose one of your favorite quick recipes and whip up enough for the whole week. You'll have a healthy snack or meal each day and save yourself time. There's no doubt you'll be thanking yourself at the end of a long day.
2. Dance to your favorite songs
Whether you shake it out, twist and shout, or simply bust whatever move comes to mind, dancing is a fun way to exercise. Just make sure you boogie safely. "It's a great way to get active," says Dr. Baquet-Simpson. "But if you have any underlying medical conditions, it's important to talk to your doctor about what types of activities are safe to do."
3. Go for the stretch
Sure, yoga can be challenging. But there are plenty of yoga stretches for all levels. And in just 15 minutes, yoga can help your flexibility and strength, and help you relax, too. Talk to your doctor about safe yoga stretches you can do. If your doctor says it's OK, find a class in your area. Yoga is much less intimidating when you do it with others, so why not call up a friend and do it together?
4. Get outside
The outdoors offers so many chances to be active. In warm weather, you can take a quick swim, hike a short trail, spend time in your garden, or go for a nature walk. Have a dog? Grab a leash and take them along. Just remember to protect your skin. "It's important to wear sunblock even on a cloudy day," says Dr. Baquet-Simpson. In cold weather, have some fun building a snowman with your grandkids.
5. Clear your mind
"As you get older, mindfulness is so important to your health," says Dr. Baquet-Simpson. Taking a 15-minute breather, whether that means meditating, resting, or even reading or writing, can help you de-stress and refocus.
6. Pump iron
"Weight exercises are great for building muscle and balance," says Dr. Baquet-Simpson. They can help strengthen your whole body, too, not just your arms. You'll want to talk to your doctor to see how heavy and what type of weights you should be using, as well as what exercises you should be doing.
7. Make a to-do list
Yep, writing down the things you need to do each day is, in fact, a health hack. Making a list not only keeps you organized, but can also help you reach goals and feel fulfilled at the end of each day. This can help boost your mood and overall happiness.
8. Play a memory game
Your brain is a muscle, and it needs exercise just like the rest of your body. Memory games are a fun way to keep your mind sharp, and you can play them with friends, your grandkids, or even by yourself. Dust off the classic flash-card memory games, or you can find some on your smartphone and online.
Remember, it's important to consult your doctor before doing any exercise. You want to make sure these activities are safe for you.
Rachel Quetti is a health care writer at Aetna with experience in senior wellness, Medicare, commercial health care, and consumer engagement. When Rachel isn't trying out new fitness classes, she is cooking up fun, (mostly) healthy recipes in the kitchen. Rachel lives in Watertown, Massachusetts and has a degree in journalism from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.