Never before has information about fitness and health been so widely disseminated and easily accessible.
A quick internet search yields innumerable diet plans and workout routines with catchy titles like “Get Ripped Quick!” or “Overnight Six Pack Abs!” These are all well and good, but they seem to gloss over the basics: the fundamental, non-negotiable parts of a healthy, fit lifestyle.
There are a handful of essentials when it comes to fitness that, once implemented, can immediately improve every facet of life.
The ability to move without aches, build muscle and shed body fat, walk long distances, and avoid bloating are all basic fitness needs that everyone should aspire to — they shouldn’t be outlandish goals reserved for professional athletes.
These fundamentals should be the foundation you build your life upon, the rock that stabilizes all else in your life.
Circumstances in life change perpetually but with these fundamentals of fitness you can build a body and mind to weather any storm.
The following are the greatest fitness and health laws of all time. Take them seriously, treat them with respect, and in turn they will take care of you like nothing else ever has before.
1. Walk 10,000 steps per day
If you ignore all the rules on this list except one, make it this one.
The number of steps per day is directly correlated to mortality — the more you walk, the greater the likelihood you will live a longer life.
Walking is something that should be prioritized because, in reality, your very life depends on it. The National Institute of Health found the following result in a study:
“Compared with people who took 4,000 steps a day, those who took 8,000 steps a day had a 50% lower risk of dying from any cause during follow-up. People who took 12,000 steps a day had a 65% lower risk of dying than those who took only 4,000.”
The number of steps, as in the total volume of walking, was also found to be more important than the intensity of those steps. For example, walking 12,000 steps at a slow or moderate pace had more long-term benefits than running or sprinting only 2,000 steps per day.
Whether you are only just getting back into shape or if you frequent gyms daily, walking 10,000 steps per day should be a priority.
Start walking after each meal, or before bed every evening. Or maybe you can walk first thing in the morning, or walk somewhere instead of driving there.
Make walking a normal part of your day and your body will thank you.
2. Stop buying processed foods
Out of sight, out of mind.
If you don’t buy it, you will not have any in your cabinets or refrigerator and therefore you will not be able to eat it.
If you have grown accustomed to snacking throughout the day, this is a difficult habit to try and break abruptly. If you do break this habit at first, it likely will not last long.
Rather than trying to break the habit of snacking, instead focus on the type of snacks you have access to.
Swap out those chips and pretzels for fruit and nuts. Stop buying cereal and granola and instead buy hummus and carrot sticks.
Don’t let soda and fruit juices cross the threshold of your house — opt for nut milks or flavored sparkling waters instead.
By eliminating the option to snack on processed junk foods, you will have no choice but to eat healthier.
It is far easier to remove yourself from a deleterious environment as opposed to changing many habits all at once.
3. Break a sweat
This could be as simple as getting in your 10,000 steps per day, or maybe doing some bodyweight calisthenics first thing in the morning.
Start with a basic goal of breaking a sweat. This is easier and more manageable than other goals such as lifting weights every single day, or running a 5K every day.
There is a time and place for those loftier goals, but the basic idea should be to break a sweat.
Working out or moving just enough to get your blood flowing, muscles warmed up, and sweat streaming down your face is a win. Getting this win every single day will change your life.
Gradually, once breaking a sweat becomes routine and expected, higher intensity and longer workouts can be integrated. Things such as lifting weights or running or biking.
Start with the basics: break a sweat. Get stronger and fitter. Then increase intensity, duration, and effort to get even stronger and even fitter.
4. Drink 1 gallon of water per day
This may sound ambitious or ridiculous, but it is not.
The vast majority of people do not drink enough water. It simply escapes our day to day thoughts and hydration becomes a forgotten concept.
Every single system in our physiology depends on water to run efficiently and productively — dehydration is one of the very worst things that can happen.
Without adequate amounts of water, it becomes harder to think, lose weight, and build muscle.
One reason many people do not drink enough water is because they do not measure how much water they drink in the first place.
What gets measured gets managed.
What gets measured gets managed — water is no exception. Once you start measuring just how much water you drink (or do not drink) per day, it will serve as a wake up call which you will benefit from.
In reality, one gallon really is not that much water over the course of an entire day.
Drink first thing in the morning upon rising; have a big glass every hour and with every meal — by the end of the day you will have had just about one gallon.
For me, I use a refillable 1-gallon jug to measure how much I drink. I refill it every night, and the next day I simply make sure to finish the entire jug. It is simple and effective, and it measures exactly how much water I drink every single day.
There are many positive effects including an increased metabolic rate, improved workouts, concentration, and your appetite will be more in control.
Drinking more water means you will be able to build muscle more effectively, lose fat more effectively, and perform better in every avenue of life.
5. Make sleep a priority
Sleeping an adequate amount every single night is just as important to your fitness as exercising and eating well.
Without enough sleep, your body loses efficiency and your mind dulls. Lethargy and heavy eyelids creep in and your health and productivity pay the price.
Waking up at 5AM to get in a workout can be ineffectual in the long-run if you are not getting enough sleep.
To wake up early, one must be disciplined and wise enough to go to bed early too. One cannot happen without the other.
For many people, 7–8 hours of sleep is a good and healthy amount. Reverse-engineer your sleep schedule by starting with what hour you wish to wake up at each day, and then subtract 7–8 hours to set your bedtime.
(Every fitness guru and professional athlete has a specified bedtime — it isn’t just something for little kids to complain about to their parents).
Set a bedtime and an hour to wake up at each day and try your best to avoid straying from this routine. Once you establish a sleep habit, it will become easier and easier to fall asleep at the same time each night, as well as wake up at the same time each morning.
Sleep should be measured and prioritized because it has a dramatic impact on your health and fitness.
Without enough sleep you cannot exercise as effectively as you would otherwise, and you cannot perform intellectually in school or work.
Make sleep a priority and measure it (and thus manage it) to, quite literally, improve your fitness overnight.
Ultimately, fitness is about leading a better life, one that integrates positive habits and intention rather than one where your actions are but a consequence of your environment.
The other day someone asked me if it was okay if they took a “break” from their diet and exercise for awhile.
I replied that a diet and exercise “break” means that their diet and exercise routine is the wrong one for them.
I found this question directly relevant to the above five laws of fitness, and I thought I’d include it here as an aside. Let me explain.
To start, rarely should anyone strive to follow a “diet” in the first place.
Diets are short-term fixes for long-term lives. Your health is not a side hustle that you can address only every now and then.
Instead of focusing on what diet to pick, it would be better to eat in a way that is sustainable long-term and conducive to a healthy lifestyle. Like all things, practice moderation.
The same thing goes for exercise — it should not be treated as a short-term prescription of arbitrary movements that will help you get a six pack or toned arms. This is the wrong approach. Exercise should be built into your life as a non-negotiable piece of the puzzle.
Find something you enjoy doing — then do it often. Make it sustainable over the course of years and decades.
Similar to what I said above, my advice to this person was to stop following a specific “diet” and instead focus on buying more whole foods and minimizing processed foods.
If you only stock your fridge and cabinets with good, healthy choices, then you won’t have to make any decisions when it comes to eating healthy each day — it becomes automatic.
The notion of automating healthy habits into your life to such an extent that they become second-nature, inseparable from your very character and life, is the philosophy that will help you arrive at a better, fitter life.