30 Fitness Hacks to Keep You Healthy in Body and Mind

Fitness hacks are vital, not only for your physical health, but for your mental health, as well. The idea that physical exercise might do something really fundamental for mental health is less immediately obvious—especially given the Western distinction between "mind" and "body" that implies mental and physical health can be separated. 

In fact, increasingly robust evidence suggests that exercise is not only necessary for the maintenance of good mental health, but it can be used to treat even chronic mental illness. For example, it's now clear that exercise reduces the likelihood of depression and also maintains mental health as we age. On the treatment side, exercise appears to be as good as existing pharmacological interventions across a range of conditions, such as mild to moderate depression, dementia, and anxiety, and even reduces cognitive issues in schizophrenia.

Fitness Hacks:
Why care?

Put simply: Exercise directly affects the brain. Regular exercise increases the volume of certain brain regions—in part through better blood supply that improves neuronal health by improving the delivery of oxygen and nutrients; and through an increase in neurotrophic factors and neurohormones that support neuron signaling, growth, and connections. 

Of critical importance for mental health is the hippocampus—an area of the brain involved in memoryemotion regulation, and learning. 

Studies in other animals show convincingly that exercise leads to the creation of new hippocampal neurons (neurogenesis), with preliminary evidence suggesting this is also true in humans.  

Evidence is accumulating that many mental health conditions are associated with reduced neurogenesis in the hippocampus. The evidence is particularly strong for depression. Interestingly, many anti-depressants—that were once thought to work through their effects on the serotonin system—are now known to increase neurogenesis in the hippocampus.

What does this all mean? Theories suggest that newborn hippocampal neurons are likely to be particularly important for storing new memories and keeping old and new memories separate and distinct. Thus, neurogenesis allows a healthy level of flexibility in the use of existing memories, and in the flexible processing of new information.

Much mental illness is characterized by a cognitive inflexibility that keeps us repeating unhelpful behaviors, restricts our ability to process or even acknowledge new information, and reduces our ability to use what we already know to see new solutions or to change. It is therefore plausible that exercise leads to better mental health in general, through its effects on systems that increase the capacity for mental flexibility. ~parts adapted via PsychologyToday.com

Fitness Hacks:
30 quick tips to get started

1. Set an appointment and make it a date for fitness hacks  If you set up an ongoing appointment with a friend whose fitness levels is at the same level as yours then your mutual motivation will help each other make sure you both make the appointment. By having a dedicated workout partner you are more likely to stick with an exercise program.  

2. Have a Snack   If you are running low on fuel due to exercise you are doing then your body will slow down your metabolism to conserve energy. This is undesirable so by having a snack of complex carbohydrates and proteins you can keep your metabolism going.

3. Put your shoes on   By making baby steps you will be overcome the urge to stay at home and not make it past your front door. Once you’ve put on your shoes you will have started yourself on the path to getting out of the house to your workout or having a run.  

4. Eat more iron   Iron is essential for keeping your energy levels high because it helps convert food to energy. If you are dieting, having heavy menstrual periods or avoiding meat your levels of iron could be low. Some good sources of iron are lean meats, legumes, whole grains and leafy greens.  

5. Eat most of your food early in the day   By eating the bulk of your calories in the early part of your day you will be able to make it through your workouts throughout the day.  

6. Stay Hydrated   Dehydration can drag your energy down. Even 45 minutes of exercise can make you dehydrated. So don’t rely on thirst to provide you as a signal to drink water, take a sip every 15-20 minutes while you workout.  

7. Make it Fun with fitness hacks   If you’re bored of the same old routine try linking your exercise with an escape, social activity or happiness. An example could be trying inline skating or rock climbing.  

8. Make it Rewarding   If you make your goals behavior oriented and give yourself a reward after performing these behaviors you will be more likely to stick to your goal and achieve it. An example would be to set a goal of working out 3 times a week, and once you achieve it give yourself a reward like watching your favorite television show, or getting a massage.  

9. Look after a Dog or Toddler

Looking after a 3 year old can keep you running around the house without even realizing it. Also working out with a pet in the park can burn a lot of energy, too.  

10. Try Interval style exercise fitness hacks   Interval style exercise can burn more calories per minute when compared to steady state cardio.   It also requires less time making it a more effective and time-saving workout.

11. Create a music playlist   Listening to music while exercising will help you relax your muscles and encourage blood flow, distract you from fatigue and helps with your coordination.  

12. Cover all your bases fitness hacks   By covering these 3 areas of fitness - strength, cardiovascular and flexibility - you will be able to keep your energy level up, metabolism burning high and your body free from injury. Try mixing in different workout plans each week.

13. Try a new DVD program   Instead of purchasing DVDs you can save money by loaning workout DVDs from the local library. Use your loaning period to try new workouts, and change every 2 weeks if necessary to keep up the variety.  YouTube also has a bunch of workouts.

14. Change up your workout   If you are finding that your workout is no longer giving you benefits change any one of these things: the intensity of the exercise, the frequency of your exercise or the duration of your exercise. Try changing these once a month.  

15. Start changing your frequency first   If you are working out once a week, trying adding it more workouts during your week. Once you have made your exercise a habit you will be able to start increasing the intensity and duration of each workout.  

16. Develop realistic expectations fitness hacks   Within 3 days your heart should become more efficient, and you will find that running upstairs is no longer an exhausting effort. Other things such as changes in fat percentage, muscle development and weight might take a little longer, up to 2 months even.  

17. Do some chores the “old fashioned way” fitness hacks   Instead of putting your washed clothes into the dryer try hanging them out on the clothesline. Instead of using the remote, get up and switch the channels on the TV itself. Open your garage door manually instead. The amount of labor saving devices have lowered the amount of calories we burn each week.  

18. Invest in a trainer You will be able to have fine tuned workouts that produce extra results without wasting your own time and effort if you hire a personal trainer. They will be able to schedule follow up visits and keep you accountable.  

19. Weight training fitness hacks   By weight training you could start to see health benefits even before you start cardio. By being stronger, you will be less likely to get injured in an aerobics class. It helps develop strength in important areas such as the trunk, lower back and hip area.  

20. Move at every chance   You might be lulled into thinking “I’ve already done my workout today. I don’t need to exert any more effort”. Consider challenging that reasoning by using all opportunities to work your body. At the grocery store use a basket instead of a shopping cart. Move some object by hand instead of using a wheelbarrow.  

21. Taking care of injuries   If you have an injury it is important to seek medical help, if you continue to train with an injury it could put you out of action for longer. This will setback your fitness goals.  

22. Get a health check up   If you’re going to be at the doctor’s anyway, get your blood work done. You will be able to see if your exercise efforts have helped with your cholesterol, blood sugar and triglycerides level. By tracking this data you will be able to track your progress in the future.

23. Get a referral   If you’ve been injured and been told to rest and recover, ask your doctor for a referral to a physical therapist. They might be able to show you alternative exercises you can do in the meantime that could include appropriate stretches, alternative weight exercises or even yoga.  

24. Reclaim control fitness hacks   If you’ve been injured and unable to workout you can still control your eating. By having a strong focus and mindset with your eating habits, this will translate into your workout habits once you have recovered from injury.  

25. Create journal after every workout   Write down how you feel after every workout, and anytime you feel that you don’t have the motivation to workout have a look at your journals. They will remind you of the amazing feeling and help you get over your motivation issues.

26. Remember why you started

If you remember the original goals of why you are working out in the first place it will help you stay on track. Whether it is to fit in to a certain pair of jeans or whatever reason, it will get you into the gym and working out.


27. Try group fitness

By being in a group the energy of the other people in your group will keep you from quitting and also help you stay accountable. You don’t want to be that person who quits early right?


28. Get Addicted to the post-exercise endorphin rush

By knowing that after a good workout you will have an amazing endorphin rush afterwards is sometimes all the motivation you will need!


29. Make your exercise your favorite thing

If you are doing your favorite activity as your form of exercise you will never need to motivate yourself. This can be anything from playing tennis, rock climbing or yoga.


30. Enjoy the journey

Sometimes the destination isn’t the best part of the journey. Learn to enjoy the process of getting fit and into good health. Enjoy the journey and before you know it peak health will be yours.

Please check out my Free Stuff page for some quick tools to get you feeling better right away.

Also, if you take a look in the Self-Help Shop, you'll see all the programs and tools I use myself and that I recommend. Many of these programs offer free samples - you know I love free! While implementing your fitness hacks, be gentle with yourself and care about yourself. Expect to feel better. It is absolutely possible, but you have to be willing to do something to change your brain's programming. 


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