Healthy Habits Everyone Can Use

Eat well.

As Dan John says, “Eat like a grownup.” Colorful vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, unprocessed protein…

Get plenty of sleep.

Sounds lazy? It’s great for fat loss and your overall health and energy level.

Hang out with friends.

Create a supportive social network for yourself. Get together for dinner with a few friends online each week, or arrange a couple of regular calls to catch up.

help them too

Simple Standing Exercises You Can Do at Home with No Equipment

Two that I’ve been using consistently in my Zoom workouts are jumping jacks and squats. Both are simple, and infinitely variable. Note that I’m also writing a post discussing these, but you’re welcome to use them, too.

Non-Jumping Jacks

Jumping jacks are a classic callisthenic exercise. They are simple, and use tons of energy. But what if you can’t jump? They can be hard on troublesome ankles and knees. I’m recovering from a foot problem/surgery, and a wonky knee, so no jumping for me. That’s OK, there’s another way, and it offers lots of options.

I bounce on one foot (keeping it on the floor), and lift the other. You can do these big or small, fast or slow, straightforward or complicated. My 80+ y/o mom does these in our Zoom workouts, maybe with less bounce, but pretty high leg lifts!

The one-legged kind are low-impact, build balance, and can work for anyone who doesn’t want to wake their roommate or annoy the downstairs neighbors.

Non-Jumping Jack Variations

There are so many ways to do this simple exercise! You can adjust the energy level, balance challenge, and mental difficulty.

Get moving.

To warm up, try simple one-legged non-jumping jacks at at moderate pace. Start with eight on each side, two sets. Easy, simple, and you can adjust the difficulty to suit your fitness level.

Get your blood pumping!

After a short breather try a set of faster ones. Here’s a fun pattern: Do 10 on each side, then 9, 8, 7, etc. I do these a bit faster than Mom, so I start with two sets of ten, and then count down. This variation develops balance, and also requires a little more quick thinking, especially as you get down to 4, 3, 2, and 1.

Engage your brain, too.

Variations can include front-side-front-side, high kicks clapping hands under your knee, marching with jumping-jack arms, etc.

Engage your hips.

We often don’t get much side-to-side movement in our daily lives. Those sideways muscles help keep our hips sound and healthy.


Squats, same deal. Slow/fast, small/big, with or without weights. Mom does them with a chair behind her, but as I pointed out the other days she’s never actually needed it (like failing/falling). It’s just there for safety. A chair reminds people to get their butt back, too.

Squat Variations

Bodyweight, down (not touching the chair, if you’re using one) and back up at a moderate pace for an easy warmup. We do eight. To add a little power, down at a moderate pace, then spring up like you sat on a tack. To add more time under load we do slow ones – down for a count of four, hold (“porta-potty squat”) for four, up for four, rest for four. Those are pretty hard, and have practical applications for women in gross public restrooms. Another is down-and-hold, , sit on the chair, up and hold – hovering over the chair, then all the way up.

The Magic of Doing Quick Warmups, Whenever

We all know about warming up before a workout. We get our muscles warmed up (literally – our temperature increases), heart and lungs going, and joints moving a bit more freely. But we usually don’t think of doing warmups on their own, strictly for the benefits they offer during an ordinary day.

“I don’t feel like it!”

I don’t know about you, but the body (and attitude) I wake up with in the morning isn’t a very good one. I’m not at my physical or mental best. Everything feels heavy and lumbering. One hand or the other is usually numb. I can hardly bend down to pet the cats or pick up the clothes I tossed on the floor the night before.

In this state it’s hard to get moving, even to do basic chores like cleaning out my car or pulling weeds in the yard. Feats of strength, coordination, and fluid responsiveness – like squatting and deadlifting with my strength and conditioning coach, or dealing with multiple attackers at the dojo – seem like distant fantasies. There’s no way this body can accomplish those things.

But I know a simple process to change this body into the one that can do all those things easily and comfortably: Do my warm-ups.

Change your body, change your mind

I was reminded of this at last week’s Aiki Summer Retreat, a week-long Aikido camp. When I’d bow in for class at the last minute (or late!) my body wasn’t ready – I felt creaky and stiff. When I made a point of arriving early and going through my usual warm-up routine I felt strong, limber, and grounded. It makes a world of difference to warm up before we try to get active.

My routine starts with walking laps around the mat, then jogging for short bits, dropping back to a walk when I need to catch my breath. I progressively increase speed -walking faster, then running – as my body feels ready, until I am jogging laps, and sprinting one long side of the mat as fast as I can go. Once my muscles are warm I loosen up further with big range-of-motion exercises, and finally do some front and back rolls, and a few stretches. By the end I am breathing hard, sweating, and ready to train without feeling like I might shatter when I hit the mat. The whole process takes only about 10 minutes. When I lead warm-ups before class at the dojo – not as vigorous – they only take 5 minutes. It’s a small investment of time that has big pay-offs, including more energy, better focus, and fewer injuries.

Start early. Shine, then rise.

Have you ever leapt straight out of bed in the morning and twisted your ankle, or had your knee or hip give out on you? Then you have to limp around for a couple of hours before things are right again? Ouch.

Waking up your body before asking it to When I was a little kid my sister and I would sometimes sleep over at my grandparents’ house. They had a consistent routine each morning — they would do a short set of exercises before even putting their feet on the floor.

Simple warmups you can do whenever, wherever

Your warm-up process will likely not include sprinting and rolling. (Or maybe it will!) Find a routine that works for you. Start with big, fluid motions, or with simply walking. Get yourself breathing and sweating – you’re literally getting your body warm and getting your systems ready for physical challenges. Make that 5-10 minute investment in yourself, to become who you need to be to take on whatever challenges you have in your day.

The practice of doing warm-ups extends beyond the physical realm, too. They are what morning pages are to writers. Warm-ups give us an easy, small goal that gets us moving and prepares our bodies and minds for the real work. When the work you are facing seems insurmountable, forget about it for the moment, and just do your warm-ups. They will move you to a better level, and from there the work ahead doesn’t look so bad at all.

Don’t Rely on BMI (Body Mass Index)

A few years back my BMI, or “Body Mass Index,” was 26.9 – well into the “overweight” category. It was right there on my medical chart, and every time I visited the doctor they’d be sure to remind me that I was “overweight.” My weight tracking and food logging apps displayed it ominously in red to alert me that I was in trouble. Too heavy! Lose weight! I got nagged about it from several directions.

The only problem is BMI can’t be correctly used to determine whether a person needs to lose weight or not. In fact, “losing weight” is the wrong issue to be thinking about entirely. Instead, if we need to be thinking about losing anything, we should be thinking about fat, not weight. We need to think in terms of body composition — our relative percentages of muscle, fat, and bone.

During this same period I did a DEXA (or DXA) body composition scan – the most accurate kind of body composition test available. My results showed I had a perfectly healthy body fat percentage, excellent fat distribution (less belly, more hips/legs), and great Relative Skeletal Muscle Index (RSMI). My bone density was  right at the top of the chart — and not just “good considering your age,” it was outright excellent, and way out of range for my age group. As the gentleman explaining the charts and graphs on my printout said, “You got all A’s!”

I was training hard in Aikido six days a week, and working with a strength coach, lifting weights. I had no lifestyle-related health problems, and was in the best shape of my life.

So the BMI can go suck an egg.

People who have lots of muscle and sturdy bones will often have a high BMI, while they are actually quite healthy and fit. This is common among athletes. Remember, muscle weighs more than fat. So strong, athletic, healthy people are incorrectly being told they need to lose weight.

The opposite situation, and probably a more widespread problem, is that many people have low body weight, and a “healthy” BMI, but they have very little muscle. That’s called being “skinny-fat.” They are not healthy, fit, and lean, just small. Their doctors won’t pester them to lose weight, instead they incorrectly congratulate them for doing great because they “aren’t fat.” But in addition to making us stronger and more capable, muscle mass raises our metabolism and helps moderate blood sugar levels. It’s healthier to have more muscle.

Either way, don’t trust the BMI to tell you how you’re doing. Sure, it can indicate something that needs further investigation, but it cannot definitively determine whether you are “fat” or not.

That’s not even what it’s for – it’s being applied incorrectly. Here’s more about why you should not be relying on the BMI as a measure of your health or fitness:

Read or listen to “Top 10 Reasons Why The BMI Is Bogus,” from NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday, 4 July, 2009.