Healthy living doesn’t have to be complicated. Small changes and little self-check-ins can make a huge difference in how you feel now and prevent big problems down the road — as we learned all throughout this year.
Here are eight of the best health hacks TODAY.com discovered in 2022. We hope they'll help you thrive in 2023!
Do the skin pinch test to see if you’re dehydrated
A quick skin pinch can be one way to find out if you’re losing more fluids than you’re taking in. That’s a danger not only on hot summer days, but in the winter as well. Studies have found cold weather increases the risk for dehydration because people don’t feel as thirsty when it’s chilly outside even though they’re still losing fluids.
For the skin pinch test, simply squeeze the skin on one of your finger knuckles for about 3 seconds, then let go.
If you’re well hydrated, the skin will return to its original position in a couple of seconds. But if you’re dehydrated, the skin loses its elasticity and will stay in a pinched position for a moment.
Take a quick walk after a meal to keep your blood sugar levels steady
Walking for just two to five minutes after a meal can help prevent a big blood sugar spike after eating, a review of studies found.
Standing can help, too, but light-intensity walking was the “superior physical activity break,” researchers reported in the journal Sports Medicine. It improved blood sugar metabolism after eating compared to prolonged sitting after a meal.
It may be especially important to walk after dinner, traditionally the biggest meal of the day and the meal after which people often watch TV for hours without moving much, then go to sleep.
Walk 10,000 steps a day to reduce your risk of dementia
This one habit can cut the risk of dementia in half. For those who can’t walk so far, just 4,000 daily steps can reduce dementia risk by a quarter, a study found.
Faster steps provide superior results, one of the authors pointed out, so brisk walking is your best bet.
Lose weight by getting enough sleep
Getting sufficient rest at night reduces the amount of food people eat during the day — about 270 fewer calories on average than adults who are chronically sleep deprived, research published in JAMA Internal Medicine found.
If maintained over three years, that would amount to a 26-pound weight loss — just by getting an adequate amount of sleep. The lead author called it a “game changer” in efforts to tackle the obesity epidemic.
That’s because the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night helps regulate our metabolism, leading to less hunger and fewer cravings, researchers say.
Try the 4-7-8 breathing exercise to sleep better
If you wake up in the middle of the night, this technique can help you relax and get back to sleep.
First, breathe in for the count of four. Then, hold your breath for a count of seven. Finally, breathe out while counting to eight.
Repeating this pattern lowers your heart rate, which provides a calming sensation that makes it easier to get back to sleep, experts say.
Read fiction to keep your memory sharp
Memory begins to decline in your 30s, says neurologist Dr. Richard Restak. He recommends reading novels to keep it sharp because non-fiction books don’t quite do the job: You can jump back and forth and read only the information that interests you, if you wanted to.
“You can’t do that in a work of fiction. You have to go from beginning to end. But most importantly, you have to remember the characters. You have to remember something about them,” Restak notes. “It’s really much more challenging in terms of the brain.”
Following cookbook recipes is a similar concept. There are steps to keep track of and various bowls or pots to coordinate. So baking Christmas cookies is a good workout for your memory!
Try the “internal shower” drink for constipation
The drink, which has been getting attention on TikTok, consists of 2 tablespoons chia seeds, the juice of half a lemon and a cup of water. To make it, mix all the ingredients together and let them sit for five minutes until the chia seeds start to form a gel.
The combo can potentially work because it’s supplying needed fiber and water, which helps alleviate constipation, registered dietitians confirm.
The soluble fiber in chia seeds may be especially beneficial for this purpose because it can help make stool softer. Water also helps move your bowel movements along.
If you’re new to this much fiber, begin slowly. Adjust the chia seeds so you’re starting with one to two teaspoons and see how you do.
Exercise to ease anxiety
January can be filled with anxiety and the desire to lose weight or improve fitness. One healthy habit can address all of those concerns: regular exercise.
When people diagnosed with anxiety disorders worked out three times a week, they improved their symptoms compared to those who were not physically active, a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found.
For best results, go for a combination of cardio and strength training done for at least 45-60 minutes, three times or more per week, for at least three months. This routine offered the maximum benefit when it came to reducing anxiety.
Exercise can be an effective treatment for people suffering from anxiety and could also offer an important option for people who don’t want therapy or anti-anxiety drugs, the authors wrote.