30 days to a fitter, healthier you

To help you spring-clean your wellbeing, we’ve put together a month’s worth of great ideas for boosting fitness, nutrition, mindfulness and more.

Young lady doing yoga indoor

Day 1 Choose a health mantra

Having a mantra can sound a bit mystical but it’s actually just a short statement that you can use to guide your intentions for a day, a month or even a lifetime. So why not choose one to kickstart your 30-day health plan? A health mantra should be deeply connected to your own personal goals and short enough that you can easily remember and repeat it (either out loud or in your head) every day. The best mantras are said in the present tense, using “I am…” instead of “I will...”. 

Some examples of health mantras include: “I am calm and focused and my body is healthy”; “I am someone who nourishes my body by making healthier choices every day”; or “I enjoy exercising regularly because it gives me energy”. 

Day 2 Get cooking

According to Heart Foundation dietitian Sian Armstrong, cooking for yourself is one of the best steps you can take to improve your heart health. "When you cook at home, you’re in control of exactly what goes into your food. This means you can ensure your meals are full of fresh and delicious foods like vegetables, wholegrains, healthy proteins and healthy fats, and swap out less healthy ingredients for more wholesome options."

Day 3 Put it in your diary

It’s easy to put things off until ‘tomorrow’ – but it won’t make you fitter, healthier or happier. To make your health a daily priority, block out a dedicated time for exercise and mark in it your diary like any other appointment. Whether it’s a long walk, a morning home yoga session or a hit of tennis with a friend, putting it in your diary helps you plan your day around exercise instead of the other way around.

Day 4 Wind down before bed

Sleep is one of the essential pillars of good health and having a regular evening routine can mean the difference between getting a restful night’s sleep and tossing and turning for what feels like hours. 

Eliza Millsom, business manager at health company Swisse Wellness and a yoga teacher, suggests trying a form of meditation called yoga nidra. “It’s a deeply restorative practice involving guided meditation – I like to use the Insight Timer app. I set up a space with essential oils, candles, blankets and pillows and do 20-30 minutes of meditation just before bed.”

Day 5 Work out with a friend

Like many things in life, exercise is even more enjoyable when it’s done with a buddy. Plus, you and your friend will keep each other accountable to showing up and working out. If you’re serious about fitness, set big goals and encourage each other to meet them. Or just meet up weekly for a round of golf or a walk around the park.

Day 6 Ride the waves

One way to commit to exercising regularly is to choose something you actually enjoy doing – like surfing. Hitting the waves is not only great fun, it also provides a challenging cardio workout and it builds strength through the core, legs and upper body. 

Day 7 Don’t forget to floss

Here’s a fun fact: almost half the surface of your teeth is on each side against another tooth, where it’s practically impossible to reach with a toothbrush. That’s why the Australian Dental Association recommends flossing each day, before brushing your teeth. Gently slide the floss between each tooth, working up and down the side and just under the gums. 

Day 8 Load up on veggies

More than 90 per cent of Aussies don’t eat enough vegetables each day, says Heart Foundation dietitian Sian Armstrong. She suggests filling half your plate with vegetables at each main meal. “Vegetables contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre and antioxidants, and have been shown to help prevent heart disease. Variety is key when it comes to vegetables, so aim for different colours and types.”

Day 9 Listen to this

Plug into one of these podcasts when you need that extra push to get out and exercise. You’ll find them on your favourite podcast app. In Hurdle, host Emily Abbate speaks to athletes and others about overcoming obstacles to reach their goals. She also shares quick tips for training, nutrition and more.

Through interviews and insights, Power Hour host Adrienne Herbert makes a compelling case for getting up one hour earlier each day to work on your health and personal goals.

British GP Rangan Chatterjee is on a mission to simplify complicated health topics. In Feel Better, Live More, he speaks to experts about exercise, mindfulness and other areas of wellness.

Day 10 Bust your breakfast rut

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, so use it to fuel all your goals for the hours ahead. You don’t always need to stick to one type of food, either. Here’s how to get strategic with your brekkie of choice…

Need to boost your brainpower ahead of an important meeting or task? Eat a mix of protein and carbs, such as Greek yoghurt with natural untoasted muesli.

Planning a big workout later in the morning? Choose slow-release carbs, plus lean protein and some good fats. Two slices of wholegrain toast with avocado and a couple of boiled eggs is a winning combination. Of course, you should always wait a couple of hours after eating before you exercise.

Day 11 Move your meditation

Turn any walk into a moving meditation by simply observing each of your five senses as you walk. What can you feel beneath your feet and what do you see, hear, smell and even taste? 

Day 12 Run a bath

A soak in the tub is an ideal way to wind down at the end of a busy day. Plus, having a warm bath about 90 minutes before bedtime is a recipe for a better night’s sleep, as it lowers your body’s core temperature. 

Add Epsom salts if your muscles are feeling stiff or scented bath oil for a luxurious soak. 

Day 13 Sneak in extra exercise

More time spent at home means fewer opportunities for getting incidental exercise in your day. Boost your daily step count while working from home by taking a quick break every hour to walk up and down a staircase or around the backyard. If you can, leave the car at home and walk to the nearest supermarket. Even getting up to turn on the lights or change the volume on your music – instead of using a remote or smartphone – will get you moving. Every step counts!

Day 14 Pick a probiotic

Probiotics are a type of live bacteria that are not only safe, they’re great for keeping your gut healthy and your digestive system functioning well. These tiny wonders are naturally found in fermented foods like yoghurt, kombucha, sourdough bread and miso. Or look for them in snacks like Food For Health’s Mango & Coconut Probiotic Brekkie Balls. 

Day 15 Give yourself a pep talk

You’re at the halfway point of the month. Feeling unmotivated? Try this tip from Olympian and Coles ambassador Sally Pearson: “If I’m ever struggling with a training session or I’m anxious about a job opportunity coming up, I always try to talk myself into it rather than dwell on the scary thoughts that I’m having or the anxiety that I’m feeling,” she says.

Day 16 Go hard and fast

You’ve put exercise in your diary (see day 3) and planned workouts with your friends (day 5). But if you’re still struggling to find the time for fitness, consider a short, high-intensity (HIIT) workout. Sometimes, pushing yourself to exercise as hard as you can for 15 minutes can reap the same benefits as a longer workout.

Day 17 Prepare for success

Get a head start on your mornings by setting them up the night before. Struggling to exercise first thing? Leave your workout gear – including sneakers, socks and underwear – beside your bed so you can change into them the minute you roll out from under the covers. 

Want to start the day with a healthier breakfast? Pre-soak your oats for Bircher muesli or leave a saucepan of water on the stovetop so you’re ready to boil eggs. The easier you make something ahead of time, the more likely you’ll do it. 

Day 18 Jump rope

A simple skipping session provides a great cardio workout, boosts bone density and improves overall balance and coordination. Plus, you can do it almost anywhere.

Day 19 Fuel up with protein and fibre

If you snack consistently or you regularly feel hungry soon after a main meal, try adding more fibre and lean protein to your eating plan. Both keep you feeling fuller and more satisfied for longer. Veggies, fruit and legumes are all good sources of fibre, while eggs, lean meats, unsalted nuts and seeds are packed with protein.

Day 20 Celebrate the positives

Keeping a daily gratitude journal has been found to improve long-term happiness by as much as 10 per cent, according to mental health organisation Headspace. All you need to do is make a note each day of a few things you’re feeling grateful for that day. Perhaps it’s a friend who brightened your morning by sharing a video of her new puppy. Or it might be the first time you catch a whiff of your favourite spring flower. Write it down, snap a picture or even draw a sketch and watch your gratitude journal start to grow. 

Day 21 Make a bigger splash

Fatigue, headaches and trouble concentrating are all common signs that you might not be drinking enough water. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend drinking at least 2.1 litres for women and 2.6 litres for men each day*. If you’re struggling to sip this much, try adding berries, a few slices of lime, or some fresh herbs such as basil, rosemary or mint to your glass.

Day 22 Power up with antioxidant-rich foods

Antioxidants help protect the body against inflammation and free-radical damage – and the best way to get them is to load up your plate with a wide variety of fresh fruits and veggies. Perhaps the best known antioxidant is vitamin C, found in citrus, kiwifruit, capsicums and strawberries. There’s also lutein, found in green, leafy vegetables; lycopene in tomatoes and watermelon; and zinc in seafood and nuts. Green tea, pumpkin and soybeans are other top sources of antioxidants.

Day 23 try yoga breathing 

Here’s a trick for those times you’re feeling stressed or finding it hard to focus: stop where you are and do a few rounds of yoga breathing. Sit upright with your spine straight and feet flat on the floor. Slowly breathe in through your nose for a count of five, feeling the air expand your rib cage and belly. Pause while gently holding your breath. Exhale for a count of six. Repeat four times. Try to work your way up to repeating this breathing cycle for 10 to 20 minutes each day. 

Day 24 snack smart

If your goal is to eat more healthily, limiting convenience foods like pies, pastries, cakes, chocolate, fast food and sugary drinks is a quick win. “These unhealthy foods usually contain significant amounts of energy (kilojoules) and contribute excess added sugar, salt and saturated and trans fats, so they aren’t recommended in a heart-healthy eating pattern,” says Heart Foundation dietitian Sian Armstrong. Eat these foods only occasionally and instead, reach for good-for-you snacks that are high on flavour, like mixed berries and nuts; homemade bliss balls; or vegetable sticks with your favourite dip. 

Day 25 Think like a German

The German concept of ‘Feierabend’ refers to those end-of-day hours when we’ve clocked off from work and can relax and enjoy our downtime. Having this dedicated time for leisure is important not just in the moment, but also for promoting greater productivity and wellbeing in the days that follow. But it’s not always easy to do – especially if you work from home. Try these tips at knock-off time to bring Feierabend into your day…

Close the door to your home office and don’t return until the following morning. If your ‘office’ is a corner of your dining table or bedroom, pack away your computer and store it in a cupboard. Do a fake ‘commute’ – go for a walk or bicycle ride, just as you normally would if you were returning from your workplace. Sit in your backyard or on your balcony. Try to leave all gadgets inside if you can!

Day 26 Know your resting heart rate

Doctors say your resting heart rate can be an early indicator of certain medical conditions. It’s easy to keep track of it yourself: simply set a timer for 30 seconds and count your pulse, either at your wrist or on the side of your neck. Double the number of beats and you’ll get your resting heart rate. It should be somewhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute, say the experts, so chat to your doctor if yours is regularly above or below this range.

Day 27 Think in opposites

You’ve heard the expression ‘work smarter, not harder’? Apply it to strength-building by working opposite muscle groups in each set of exercises. Here’s how it works: pick a set of muscles that are opposite each other on the body – shoulders and back; quads and glutes; biceps and triceps. Now plan a workout around these pairs. For example, you could do a set of bicep curls followed by tricep dips; then repeat. Working each set of muscles gives the opposite ones just enough time to recover before you switch back to the start. 

Day 28 Inhale deeply 

Lavender essential oil has been used for centuries for its calming and relaxing properties. But a new study from Monash University in Melbourne adds scientific weight to its use. Researchers found that lavender has an antioxidant effect in the brain, leading to its renowned mood-boosting benefits. Add a few drops to an oil burner or lightly spray your pillow before bedtime. 

Day 29 Take a backstreet

If you spend time in or around big cities, pollution can seem unavoidable – but that’s not always the case. A 2017 study from the UK found that walking down a road with less traffic can cut your exposure to air pollution by half, compared to busier thoroughfaresˆ. 

Day 30 Have a rest day

Sticking to a regular workout routine is great, but your body also needs time to recover. Take the day off if you feel niggly muscle aches that just won’t go away, or you’ve upped the intensity for a couple of days in a row. If you really want to add some gentle movement on a rest day, go for a stroll or try a yin yoga class.