From ditching the GPS to meal prepping like a boss, here are five easy ways to transform your weekend and develop healthier habits
1. Go out without a plan
According to professors at the University of Hawaii and New York University, going out for a solo drive and turning off the GPS can be a healthy way to escape the daily stresses and restore your feeling of freedom. Going for a walk without a route can have the same effect, with all the added health benefits of walking.
Going ‘routeless’ increases your chance of discovering somewhere new and exciting – but even better, stepping out of your comfort zone and going off the beaten track means you’ll have an easier time dealing with new changes and be more productive when it’s time to go back to work, says business strategist and author Daniel H Pink.
2. Turn your fitness regime into a hobby
From Vogue’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour playing tennis for one hour every day to Richard Branson’s love of kite surfing and marathon running, the world’s most successful people don’t let their fitness routines stagnate at the weekend – they make it part of the fun and even incorporate it into their social lives.
Recent research by Loughborough University and the University of Sydney revealed those who had a relatively sedentary job but who did a ‘fitness blitz’ (two sessions of moderate or vigorous physical activity) on their days off could significantly lower their risk of cancer and heart disease. Try a brisk bike ride or hike with friends, or a swim at your local pool, to start making leisure time exercise time, too.
3. Make time to eat together
Swap you weekday ‘al desko’ lunch for a proper sit-down meal at the weekend and reap the healthy rewards. According to researchers at the University of Denver, the simple act of gathering round the table to enjoy a meal with family and friends increases our happiness and gives us a sense of belonging.
It can also help us make healthier eating choices: one study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Education and Behaviour found children who had family dinners together as opposed to eating on the go or separately ate more fruit and vegetables – and the same can be true for adults, too.
4. Stick to your usual sleep routine
Though many of us live for the weekend lie-in, dramatically changing your sleep pattern on your days off may have adverse affects. Researchers for the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that sleeping later at weekends can lower your levels of the ‘good’ type of cholesterol. The study also showed those who shifted their sleep time by a few hours were more prone to weight gain than those with consistent sleep patterns. This is because it alters our circadian rhythms (the 24-hour cycle that our body is used to) in a similar way to jet lag and can increase our levels of triglycerides, which are fats carried in the blood.
Of course, this doesn’t mean lying in is bad for us – striking a balance and getting enough sleep is still top priority, say professors at the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University. It’s more about getting a regular amount of sleep on a regular basis, rather than depriving ourselves during the week and playing catch up at the weekend.
5. Master food prep
Beloved by everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow to Joe Wicks, aka The Body Coach, prepping your meals for the week ahead is an instant way to kick-start healthier eating habits and save you valuable free time (and money). The American Journal of Preventative Medicine has scientifically proven that preparing and cooking your meals from scratch is linked to better dietary habits, with those who prepped for one to two hours a day eating less fast food and more veg.
Try cooking a batch of quinoa or brown rice and adding roast veg or cooked chicken, a batch of chilli (that will keep in the freezer) or veggie spaghetti bolognese for an easy-to-prep dish. For the ultimate prep-ahead breakfast, give overnight porridge oats a go.
Are you ready to make this weekend your healthiest yet? Read our fun and healthy active date ideas to do with your partner or friends.