9 Healthy Habits You Can Do in 1 Minute (Or Less)

Introduction

A woman sits at a computer with a toddler on her lap

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Some people think that good health takes a long time to achieve.

But there are plenty of good health habits that can be done in 60 seconds or less.

From buckling your seatbelt and washing your hands, to doing a breast or testicular self-exam and taking folic acid during pregnancy, getting healthier may take less time than you think.

"Health is really an aggregate of the choices you make in daily life," said Dr. Aditi Nerurkar, an integrative physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Both the positive and negative choices you make every day factor in, she said.

Doing something good for your health is better than doing nothing at all, Nerurkar explained. "Every little bit counts."

With this in mind, Nerurkar suggested some good health tips you can tackle in under a minute: Jumping rope to boost your heart rate. Standing up straight to prevent low back pain. Smiling or laughing to improve your mood. And expressing gratitude — by writing down five things you're grateful for each day — to build optimism and resilience.

For additional ideas, here are nine more healthy habits that don't require much time.

Leave your shoes at the door

Three pairs of shoes lie on a welcome mat

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The age-old Japanese custom of leaving your shoes at the front door of your home has a modern-day sensibility. This time-honored ritual meant as a way to honor a home's purity can also be a practical — and quick — way to keep the house cleaner and free from outdoor pollutants you could be traipsing inside.

When removing your shoes becomes part of your daily routine, it prevents everything from dirt and rocks to lawn chemicals and potential allergens from entering your house.

Besides, kicking off your shoes at the end of the day not only feels good, it may also help to leave behind some workday stress and mark your return home.

Brush your tongue

A couple stands in a bathroom brushing their teeth

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Preventing tooth decay and gum disease requires daily brushing and regular flossing. But brushing your tongue is another important step that may get overlooked in keeping your mouth clean.

The back of the tongue is a popular hangout for bacteria and other germs that can give you bad breath.

So after you've cleaned your choppers, gently brush the surface of your tongue from back to front. Doing this at least once a day helps to remove plaque-causing bacteria and food particles trapped in the tongue, and freshens your breath.

Be careful, though, if you're new to tongue brushing or tongue scraping —a specialized plastic tool found at drugstores can help, but the back of the tongue can be a sensitive spot triggering a gag reflex. But the more you brush this area, the less sensitive it will become.

Sneeze into your arm

A young woman sneezes into the crook of her elbow

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When you don't have a tissue handy to cover your mouth and nose, your best bet is to cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow, or upper arm, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The point is to avoid using your hands, which may not be that clean, and can also easily spread germs around. Covering up also prevents germ-laden droplets from getting launched into the air, where they can land on frequently touched surfaces and infect others.

This simple technique is not only good advice for adults and kids to remember during cold and flu season, but it's also a smart health move any time — when allergies strike, or a bug is going around.

Give water a new twist

Three glasses of water with fruit in them

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If drinking water seems boring, then put a little pizzazz into your glass or water bottle by adding some slices of lemon, lime or orange.

Or add a splash of color and taste by popping in a strawberry or a few raspberries.

Feeling adventurous? Put a mint leaf, sliver of kiwi or cucumber slice into your H20.

These refreshing twists on water may jazz up its taste, be a flavorful stand-in for sugary soft drinks and even encourage you to down more fluids.

Nerurkar said she is surprised at how many of her patients don't drink much water during the day, adding that people don't often recognize thirst. "Often when we're craving something sweet or salty, we're really thirsty instead," she said.

To stay hydrated, the Institute of Medicine suggests that women drink about nine cups (a cup is 8 ounces) of water a day, including water itself and other beverages it is found in, and men should aim for 13 cups daily.

Give your eyes a break

A man takes a break from his computer to look out the window

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Many workers and students spend countless hours a day staring at computer screens, where a combination of glare, slumped posture and poor lighting can all trigger eye strain and headaches. Known as "computer vision syndrome," these common symptoms will usually ease up once you log off.

To protect your peepers from the daily grind of screen time, build in frequent rest stops. Eye health experts recommend the "20-20-20 rule": For every 20 minutes you spend on the computer, glance away from the screen for at least 20 seconds by looking at something 20 feet away.

Giving your eyes a brief breather allows them to focus on something else, and reduces fatigue. It's also a good idea to stand up, put your hands in the air, and take a nice, long stretch, Nerurkar said, especially if you sit a lot. "Stretching promotes blood flow," she explained, which invigorates the body and mind.

Apply sunscreen year-round

Woman applying sunscreen

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A new study suggests that using sunscreen daily has a dual purpose: Putting on sunscreen on a regular basis can protect skin from the visible signs of aging, and it also helps to reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Researchers in Australia found that men and women who more frequently applied sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher had younger-looking skin than adults who used it only occasionally. They had fewer wrinkles and dark spots compared with people who wore sunscreen less often.

So if you're looking for an inexpensive way to slow down the hands of time, make sunscreen part of your morning routine — rain or shine.

Microwave the kitchen sponge

Doing dishes with a sponge

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The toilet seat may seem like the most germ-ridden item in the home, but studies have shown that the kitchen sponge tops the list. It beats out other germ-laden locations, such as the kitchen sink, pet bowl and shower drain.

A kitchen sponge's frequent use to mop up blood from raw meat, grime and spills, as well as its moist and porous texture, make it a perfect breeding ground for food-borne bacteria, mold and mildew.

To stop the spread of germs and sanitize your sponge, make sure it's wet, then zap it in the microwave for 30 seconds every evening, or place it in the dishwasher, the CDC recommends. Be careful when removing the sponge, because it will still be hot. 

Count to 10 (or beyond) when angry

woman meditates in city

To cool off a hot head, count to 10 and take a slow, deep breath between each number. This simple technique may help tame your temper and short-circuit a quick fuse.

Counting distracts your mind, which buys you a little time to distance your emotions from the person or situation that's ticking you off. Still fuming? Keep on counting and deep breathing until you feel calmer, more in control and less reactive.

"Breath is one of the most powerful tools we have, and it's one of the easiest ways to get present in the moment," Nerurkar said.

Taking slow, deep breaths helps to switch the nervous system from a "fight or flight" sympathetic system response, to a "rest and digest" parasympathetic system response instead, making you feel more mellow and relaxed, she said.

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