While everyone wants to be healthy, many fall short on achieving long term health, wellness and performance. My friend and mentor Dr. John Rusin posted The 7 Habits of Highly Healthy People a while back, and it stuck with me and it has become something I use to gauge the success of my days, and the long term healthy habits of my clients.
These 7 healthy habits are massive game-changers to helping you take control of your health for the rest of your life. Because no matter what you want to change about your physical body right now, the true goal is longevity. Nothing is sexier than long-term success and not having to continually “start over”. Start looking at your body as a long-term periodized healthy investment.
What is a PERIODIZED Health Investment?
Periodization is defined as the “long-term cyclic structuring of training and practice to maximize performance to coincide with important competitions.” Simply put, it is the program design strategy that governs planned, systematic variations in training specificity, intensity, and volume.
Unless your job is to be a competitive lifter, we all have other aspects of our life that are going to affect our training and nutritional consistency. The key to being successful through all of these times in our lives is to periodize our life as much as possible. Plan for times in your life when you are unable to train 5x a week. Plan for times in your life when you can train more consistently and focus on reaching certain strength or physique goals.
When the time comes around that you may be unable to train consistently DO NOT just quit, modify your training to fit your lifestyle at the moment. Even if you can only do 20-minute workouts three times a week. It is better than you not doing anything at all. When life slows down you can go back to your regular training schedule and not be starting from scratch again.
The 7 habits listed below are massive keys to a successful long-term healthy lifestyle. The more consistent you can be with all seven, the more success you will have in your healthy living and quality of life. So here they are, The 7 Habits of Highly Healthy People broken down habit by habit for your health and longevity domination.
Healthy Habit #1 Consume High Quality Foods
Eat the highest quality food possible, choose local as much as you can. Organic is not as important as local. The second you pick a fruit or vegetable it starts to lose its nutrients. So skip the mangos from Peru, and get the best locally grown fruits and vegetables around you. If you live in the frozen armpit of the world (Canada) as I do, frozen fruits and veggies should be a staple in your freezer. Farmer’s markets are the best place to shop for local and high-quality products that you know have not spent a month on a container ship.
As for meat, the same goes, buy local. The price of meat in grocery stores is skyrocketing. I have done the price comparisons. It is cheaper to find a local farmer who sells beef/pork/lamb/chicken and buy direct from him. The quality of the meat is incomparable and you are supporting local business and regenerative agriculture. When you buy direct from the farmer you skip the middle man and save a ton of money.
High-quality protein is the most important aspect of your nutrition, whether you are cutting, bulking, or competing. Get the best animal protein you can afford. Spend more money on real quality protein instead of expensive mostly useless supplements.
Controlled nutrition is simply knowing how many calories you need to consume. You do not have to weigh and measure every single thing you eat, but if you do not know what is in the food you are eating, you must learn. You learn by tracking. Being able to not track is an advanced nutrition skill. Think of it as the barbell back squat of nutrition. If you don’t want to track what you eat forever, get good at knowing what is in the foods that you eat. You get good at that by tracking for long periods.
Keep your nutrition simple as well. Complexity kills consistency. You do not have to eat fancy meals every day. Eat the same meals multiple times a week. Find healthy nutrient-dense meals you can prepare and consume easily. Pick a protein source, a carb, and a vegetable. Done. Use spices over high-calorie sauces. Learn to read nutrition labels. They are sneaky. Do your research. Watch for portion sizes, a lot of processed foods use tiny portion sizes on their nutrition labels.
I would recommend using this calculator to find your daily calorie and macro numbers. There are many different ways to calculate your calorie intake but they all seem to come out pretty similar. This TDE Calculator is the most in-depth macronutrient calculator, it has multiple options available to show you how many calories to consume for whatever your goals are (fat loss, maintenance, or muscle gain).
Then once you have your calories and macronutrients figured out, you need to plan your nutrition for the week. Planning and preparation are key for reaching your goals. IF you do not plan and prepare you will not succeed.
I recommend finding 3-6 meals that you enjoy that fit your calorie goals. Eat them multiple times a week when you are busy or unprepared.
Healthy Habit #2 Sleep 8+ Hours Per Night
This is personally my weakest link, I will admit it fully. But I do my best and try to nap periodically a few days a week when I don’t get enough sleep. High-quality sleep will do more for your fat loss, and muscle gain than any supplement.
Sleep will do more for your fat loss, muscle gain, stress, and hormone optimization than any other aspect of your life. You must make it a priority. Do your best to get 8 hours of sleep every day. So many people make the mistake of looking at everything in their life except for sleep. But if you can never get a good night’s sleep I will almost guarantee you will have an extremely difficult time changing your body composition.
If you are not sleeping you are not recovering, which means you are not burning fat or building muscle. Remember your body doesn’t want to build muscle or burn fat, your body will only allow this to happen when everything is right in your body.
If you have trouble getting enough sleep try disconnecting from electronics a couple of hours before bed and do things to help you relax and start to shut off. Don’t eat right before bed, cut caffeine out 8 hours before going to bed, contrast showers are a great way to get your body to start to relax (30 seconds to 3 minutes of as cold as you can handle water, and then 3-5 minutes of hot water. Do this for 3-5 rounds).
Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day is also a great way to set your internal clock to go to sleep better. Our natural circadian rhythm is set to the sun’s rising and setting, so try and keep yours the same. Go outside first thing in the morning, this helps regulate our natural circadian rhythm. Keep your bedroom cool. We do not want to be sweating as we try and fall asleep. A cool body temperature is ideal for falling asleep.
Healthy Habit #3 Move Your Body Mindfully As Much As Possible Every Day
Learn how to move your body efficiently throughout your day. Use the foundational movement patterns. Be mindful of when you are bending at the spine instead of hinging at the hip to bend over for example. Most injuries come from the build-up of millions of little incorrect movements, not one big movement.
Instead of folding over to pick up your kid off the floor, hip hinge back using your glutes and hamstrings and grab your kid. When you are at work standing on a ladder make sure you are actively bracing your core and not going into spinal extension when you are working. Get in the right positions to maximize your daily efficiency. Just like you would in the gym when you are training.
Movement is movement whether you are in the gym, or at home, or work. If you move amazingly in the gym, but your movement the rest of the day is poor, you are not moving efficiently. The six foundational movement patterns are foundational because they are movements that we must dominate through the course of our entire day, not just in the gym.
How you sit, stand, squat, carry, bend, reach, climb or crawl must all be done with a mindful approach. You only get one body, why not make it work to the best of its capabilities. Do everything you can to move mindfully throughout the day. Think about how you are moving during the day. The more you can do this the better your movement will become.
Living an active lifestyle is about so much more than just hitting the gym 4x a week. That is the bare minimum amount of time you need to move mindfully. You now need to shift your focus to move mindfully all day. This one is tough for people to make a habit, mostly because a lot of our lives have become extremely sedentary. When we don’t regularly challenge our structure we lose the ability to challenge ourselves or at least we develop limitations, we have reduced mobility and stability, and we lack the foundational strength needed to move efficiently.
Healthy Habit #4 Invest 10+ Minutes A Day On Body Maintenance
This is your mobility, foam rolling, massage, yoga, physiotherapy, and stretching. Don’t waste this time, know where you have limitations and need more work. You want to make this time-efficient, so don’t waste it mindlessly rolling around on a ball or roller. Learn where your body is tight, or may need extra mobility, or self-myofascial release.
There are many tools you can use to do your bodywork, some are extremely expensive, some are dirt cheap. All you need is a foam roller and lacrosse ball. Work on full-body stretching and mobilizing. Just static stretching will not do much to improve your flexibility or mobility but when you pair some focused mobility into your routine along with a well-designed training plan, you will see added benefits from the combination of all the tools of movement.
Try these full body catch-all movements:
Dynamic Hip Flexor Stretch
Start in a strong, stable 90-90 position, with your downed leg, and forward leg perpendicular to the ground.
On your down leg side, drive your hip forward so you are in hip extension.
Now pull yourself into a deeper stretch by driving your front knee forward a couple of inches. Do these small oscillations 15-20x then hold the end range stretch for 30 seconds.
The World’s Greatest Stretch
In the first position, we want to be in as flat of a position as possible. A strong core brace, with your hips square. Every muscle in your body should be active here, from your dorsiflexed ankle to your upper back.
Rotate your arm that is nearest to your front leg, overhead, and maintain that position for 5 deep diaphragmatic exhales.
Return to the starting position. Push yourself back so your front leg is now straight out in front of you. Now fold your torso over your front leg. Perform 5 more deep diaphragmatic exhales.
Switch sides and repeat.
Single Leg Adductor Rock Back With Thoracic Spine Rotations
With one knee down, and one leg extended straight out to the side. Brace your torso, put one hand behind your head and extend your elbow to the sky.
Rotate through your thoracic spine, keeping a strong brace the entire time.
Try and extend a little further each time. But don’t compensate by losing your stable position at your core, and hips.
Perform 8-12 reps and switch sides.
Side Lying Thoracic Spine Rotations
Start by laying on your side with your top leg at 90 degrees with a foam roller underneath it.
Make sure that your shoulders are not shrugged up. Both arms should be extended out to the side that you are facing.
Reach your top arm forward and begin to rotate it overhead. Once you reach your overhead position bring your arm around your back without overcompensating by leaning past your torso.
Only take your shoulder through its natural range of motion. Do not lean back or overreach. Use your optimal range of motion.
Perform 8-12 reps and switch sides.
Make sure to breathe diaphragmatically through the entire movement.
90-90 Hip Mobility Shin Box Rotations
Sitting on the floor with one leg at 90 degrees in front of you, and one at 90 degrees to the side. One hip internally rotated and one externally rotated.
To make sure you are in the correct position, your front leg should be in line with the center of your sternum. Your side leg should be directly under your arm if you reach it out to the side.
Use your arm on your front leg side to push your torso to an upright position.
Now drive both of your knees into the ground, and try to breathe into your hips and lower back.
Sit in this position for 30 seconds to 3 minutes.
Then fold forward and reach. Breathe deeply here for 3-5 breaths.
Switch sides and repeat.
While this is not an exhaustive list of all types of catch-all mobility drills, this is a great starting point. And as we have learned, doing the simple things consistently (and extraordinary well) is where longevity is built.
Healthy Habit #5 Strength Train 3+ Times Per Week
Training 3x a week is the minimum prescription for keeping muscle late into your life. Even 45 minutes 3x a week will ensure you preserve and continue to build muscle. Use movements that you are competent in and can progress in. Base your training around the 6 foundational movement patterns. Use movements that fit your structure and that you can progress on consistently. There are no must-do exercises, but there are must-do movements. Everyone should be able to competently squat, hinge, lunge, carry, push, and pull. When you focus your training around getting better at movements, you can train forever.
If you have trouble being consistent, schedule your training sessions just like you would schedule anything else in your life. Make it a priority. After the age of 30, we lose 3-8% of our muscle every decade until we die. Now if you don’t have a lot of muscle mass, to begin with, you will not have much left when you hit your sixties and beyond. Be strong so you can be independent. Weak people are a liability in society.
The foundation to a long, happy life is strength. What happens when you do not have the strength to get up off the floor? Or carry your groceries in the house? Or get up off the toilet? Or get into a car? You are unable to be self-sufficient at that point. The longer you can stay strong in your life, the longer you can live life on your terms.
It is great to train to get big or to train for a sport, or train to look sexy. But the real reason we need to prioritize our strength over every other aspect of healthy training is that it allows us to live better, longer.
A huge key to making the most of your training is to learn how to increase the intensity of movements to force your body to adapt. This comes down to a few factors. Your technique must be excellent, poor technique leads to poor movement quality.
A three day a week full body long term training split that you could do forever would look something like this:
An ideal training split would be four days. Here is an example of how to set up your training for healthy pain-free performance for years to come.
Healthy Habit #6 Cardio 2x+ Per Week
This doesn’t need to be an hour-long run, but you do need to train the most important muscle in your body. Your heart. Elevate your heart rate to around 80% of your max heart rate and try and stay there for a little longer each time. Bike, hike, sprint, row, swim, circuit training, or any other activity that gets your heart rate up and gets you sweating.
Do cardio for your health, not for fat loss. A healthy strong heart will increase your training capacity as well as your lifespan.
This doesn’t need to be complicated. Walk a minimum of 30 minutes every day. Twice a week push yourself for a short period of time and get your heart rate elevated to near 80% of your max heart rate. To calculate your max heart rate take the number 220 and subtract your age from it.
Cardiovascular disease is a killer. One person dies from cardiovascular disease every 36 seconds. That should be all the motivation you need.
If you are limited for equipment, you can always get outside and move. Find a hill to run up, do sprints, carry a light kettlebell, or drag a light sled. Our heart is the most important muscle in our body.
Healthy Habit #7 Breathe, Meditate, Show Gratitude Daily
Breathing is an essential function of human life, and like many of the things we used to thrive on 100 years ago, breathing has been forgotten. Breathing nasally, deeply, and slowly will change your physiology.
Somewhere around 60% of Americans do not breathe correctly. The biggest aspect of proper breathing is your nose. That’s what you are supposed to use to breathe. Your nose is the filter for your lungs. Breathe slowly into your nose, breathe as if you were trying to blow up a balloon that was in the bottom of your ribcage. As you inhale your lower ribs should expand all-around your torso, with your chest rising at the end of the breath. Focus on exhaling longer than you inhale. This takes a lot of practice to get comfortable with but is well worth the effort. Just the simple practice of taking mindful slow breathes can completely change your mood, energy, and shift your body into a state of recovery.
Whether you meditate traditionally or not, some sort of meditation practice is an essential healthy habit to have in your toolbox. If you do not enjoy traditional meditation just find ten to twenty minutes of quiet each day. Go for a walk with no music, just sit in quiet and think, do some slow relaxing yoga movements while focusing on your breathe or use a meditation or breath work app to help you get the breathing patterns down. I recommend these:
Showing gratitude for the life you have is an instant mood enhancer. We all have so much to be thankful for even in these crazy times. This is as easy as writing down 3-5 things in your life you are grateful for every morning when you wake up. It may seem silly and trivial (I thought it was too at first) but it will seriously make a difference in your happiness. Don’t stop at just writing things down, take action on things that you are grateful for. Call those loved ones you don’t see, take the time to spend with your kids. Take your spouse on a date. Live a life of gratitude and your life will change exponentially.
Final Closing Thoughts
These 7 healthy habits are life changers. Don’t feel bad if none of these are part of your daily life. But instead, take action and start implementing them now. Pick two of them and focus on them every day. Once they become healthy habits, you can start to implement more of them into your life.
If we all could spend an hour a day working on improving ourselves and how we approach life, we would improve our lives and the lives around us exponentially. This would, in turn, improve the world. The biggest thing we are missing in the world right now is the majority of strong healthy people leading the way.
We are inundated with negativity and evil in the world these days. Nothing on the news or your IG feed is going to improve your life. Turn it off. Focus on what is right in front of you and make your life your highlight reel. Get outside, get moving, be grateful, and get stoked about life.
I think Joe Rogan said it best: “Be the hero of your own movie”.
About The Author
Jeff Andres is the owner of Revamp Strength. After a career in the construction trade, he became a coach to follow his passion for helping others transform their lives through lifestyle improvement and strength training. Jeff has been a personal trainer for 5 years. He works mainly with general population clients, helping them live strong, healthy, pain-free lives. Jeff is a certified personal trainer and pain-free performance coach as well as a PN1 Nutrition coach. Jeff lives in Winnipeg, Canada with his wife and two kids.