30 Tips to Get Fitter in 30 Days
One month to a healthier you
The phrase “get fit” is often used to mean slim down or tone up, but this challenge is about so much more than looking better in your workout clothes. Think of it as a month-long endeavor to improve the quality of your life: The moves ahead are designed to help you prioritize your own self-care, one day at a time.
Day 1: Have a mission
On day one, lay the foundation for what you’d like to accomplish over the next month. Make a list of reasons you want to boost your health that have nothing to do with appearance. Are you seeking more energy, deeper sleep, improved digestive health, better immunity, stronger muscles? Try to identify at least three goals you can track. Doing so will help you keep up your motivation.
Day 2: Makeover your pantry
Take a look at the foods you have in stock. Toss any that are highly processed, or contain artificial additives or ingredients you don't recognize. Also ditch any products you truly dislike that you only bought because you think you "should" be eating them. Healthy eating is about enjoyment and nourishment—not deprivation and willpower.
Day 3: Consider the scale
Before you weigh yourself, check in with your emotions. Some people look at weight as a data point. For these folks, weighing in once a week may support healthy, sustainable weight loss or weight maintenance. But if the idea of stepping on the scale triggers feelings of anxiety, skip it and instead focus on how you feel. If you're on a weight-loss path, pay attention to how your clothes fit rather than a number.
Day 4: Get excited about getting active
Choose a physical activity you enjoy and devote 30 minutes to it. The activity might be walking, hiking, swimming, dancing, biking, roller skating—anything you look forward to. Rather than thinking of it as exercise, consider it much-needed “you time.”
Day 5: Find balance in the kitchen
If your eating habits have been a bit erratic, try adjusting your portion sizes naturally: Research shows that eating off smaller plates (try 9-inch ones) with smaller cutlery helps your brain perceive portions differently, so you feel satisfied without overdoing it.
Day 6: Devote some time to your core
Day 7: Trade butter for avocado
Good fats like avocado help reduce inflammation, improve circulation, and protect your heart. Avocado also happens to be delicious and satisfying! Substitute butter with ripe avocado on toast. You can also use it as a healthy swap in recipes liked baked goods to up your intake of nutrients and fiber. Replace each tablespoon of butter with 1/2 tablespoon of avocado.
Day 8: Identify your top treats
It's not realistic to go through life never eating your favorite goodies. And it's not necessary either, even if you're trying to lose or maintain your weight. Make a list of the treats you love, and plan healthy ways to enjoy them. For example, instead of buying a pint of ice cream to keep in the freezer, go out for a scoop with a friend. The goal isn’t to restrict yourself, but rather strike a healthy balance.
Day 9: Get up and move
Walk, stretch, even squat—every hour on the hour. Research has shown that sitting for long periods raises your chance of getting a chronic disease, even if you exercise. Here are six easy ways to sit less every day.
Day 10: Up your veggie game
Aiming for five cups (or about five tennis ball-sized portions) of veggies a day is one of the most impactful habits for overall health. In addition to supporting immunity and good digestive health, veggies help reduce inflammation, lower the risk of nearly every chronic disease, and even support better mental health. Today, fit in one extra serving. Opt for raw veggies with hummus or guac, oven-roasted veggies, veggies sautéed in EVOO, or salad dressed with extra virgin olive oil vinaigrette. When planning meals, think about veggies first—and build around them.
Day 11: Schedule a "play date"
Invite a buddy to join you in some type of fun activity. Try a new fitness class, indoor rock climbing, or a dance lesson. Or, gather a group to play a game of volleyball, dodge ball, softball, or basketball. Pairing exercise with social time has been shown to boost motivation, and yield even better fitness results.
Day 12: Tweak your lunch
Rather than cutting out carbs completely, try an open-faced sandwich, and add a side of veggies, slaw, or salad. Or, opt for a lettuce wrap, and add a side dish that provides nourishing carbs, like a baked sweet potato or fresh fruit.
Day 13: Add a hot ingredient to dinner
Foods like chili peppers and hot sauce have a thermogenic effect, meaning you quite literally burn extra calories while you chew. Try throwing a diced hot pepper into a salad or stir-fry. Research shows that incorporating hot peppers more often is also linked to better heart health, due to their ability to reduce "bad" LDL cholesterol and boost "good" HDL.
Day 14: Check in with your goals
You’re almost at the half-way mark. Take a moment to revisit the three outcomes you identified on Day 1. Think about how your daily habits tie into your goals. For example, if reducing stress was on your list, prioritize some activities that support how you want to feel. These may include getting an extra hour of sleep; or practicing a five-minute guided meditation in the morning. Remaining mindful about your outcomes can help you make choices that better support your goals.
Day 15: Crack an egg at breakfast
Starting the day with a protein-packed meal keeps you feeling full and satisfied longer. Whether you eat them scrambled, over-easy, or in a sandwich, eggs are one of the easiest (and most delicious) ways to up the protein in your morning meal. Try this healthy recipe for a Moroccan omelet. If you can’t or don’t eat eggs, opt for a veggie scramble made with mashed chickpeas instead.
Day 16: Don’t forget to stretch
Stretching is just as important as cardio and strength training for overall fitness. It reduces stiffness, broadens your range of motion, opens up circulation, relieves stress and tension, and improves posture, balance, and coordination. What’s more, you can gently stretch any time—no special equipment needed.
Day 17: Exercise at the right time for you
An early sweat session helps keep your metabolism humming all day. But, if you just aren't a morning exerciser, listen to your body, and find the time of day that feels best for you—so you’re more likely to stick with the habit.
Day 18: Try a bodyweight workout
Strength training is an important aspect of fitness. This form of exercise helps support a healthy metabolism, maintain muscle, reduce injury risk, and protect bone density, among other perks. But you don’t need weights to build your strength. You can rely on your own body weight, using moves like push-ups, dips, planks, and squats. Check out this 10-minute workout you can do anywhere.
Day 19: Eat more meatless meals
Trade meat, fish, or poultry for pulses, the umbrella term for beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas. In addition to packing the most plant protein of any whole food group, pulses are chock-full of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They're also naturally gluten-free, readily available, affordable, versatile, eco-friendly, and tied to a number of health benefits, including weight loss, and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
Day 20: Go for H2O
Day 21: Get outdoors
Spending time in nature is an important way to support health and wellness. Research shows that exposure to green space slashes the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and premature death. It also extends sleep duration, and improves opportunities for physical activity and socialization. Toda, head to a park, plan a hike, visit a community garden, or simply talk a walk outside and take in that fresh air.
Day 22: Take a lunch lap
Instead of taking your full lunch break in the kitchenette (or worse, at your desk), grab a co-worker and spend part of the hour on a brisk walk. Research shows that 15-minute strolls after meals can help normalize blood sugar levels for up to three hours and cut the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Day 23: Get fresh and fruity
If you hit an afternoon energy slump, reach for one cup or one piece of fresh fruit (about the size of a tennis ball) and one quarter cup (the size of a golf ball) of whole nuts. This duo provides nutrient-packed carbs, along with plant-based protein, fat, and fiber. The combo results in steady, sustained energy to power you through the remainder of the day.
Day 24: Take a dark chocolate break
Stock up on 70% dark chocolate. This satisfying treat has been shown to reduce stress hormone levels, lower blood pressure, improve circulation, boost brain activity, and trigger a sense of euphoria that’s similar to the feeling of being in love! Take a break and mindfully enjoy a square or two. Let it melt in your mouth and savor every morsel.
Day 25: Practice gratitude
Research has shown that spending 15 minutes writing down grateful sentiments before bed improves sleep length and quality. Other studies tie gratitude to increased feelings of happiness, a reduced risk of depression, fewer aches and pains, more empathy toward others, better self-esteem, and a greater ability to overcome challenging circumstances. That’s a pretty incredible wellness return for a fairly minimal investment of time.
Day 26: Curb your social media minutes
Too much social media time has been shown to increase the risk of depression and reduce happiness and life satisfaction. Spend those minutes doing something that makes you feel good, both physically and emotionally. FaceTime a loved one, cuddle with a pet, get outdoors, meditate, stretch, or take a nap. The options are endless.
Day 27: Have a laugh
Make an effort to enjoy some belly laughs today. Take a break to watch cute cat videos on YouTube, or call up your funniest friend. Laughter boosts hormones that elevate mood and support immunity. It’s also has also been shown to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, raise “good” HDL, and decrease blood pressure.
Day 28: Assess your strength
As the month comes to a close, select a few strength moves and evaluate your progress. Can you hold a plank longer, or complete more push-ups or burpees with good form, than you could at the start of this challenge? Take stock of how your body has responded to the shift in your routine. And continue to set realistic goals that feel right for you, even if that means maintaining, rather than increasing, your strength.
To get our top diet and nutrition stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Balanced Bites newsletter
Day 29: Expand your whole grain horizons
In addition to being providing fiber and nutrient rich slow-burning carbs for sustained energy, whole grains are incredibly health protective. Their consumption is tied to a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Incorporate more whole grains into your daily meals and snacks. Naturally gluten-free options include oats, brown or wild rice, quinoa, millet, and sorghum.
Day 30: Congratulations!
You’ve devoted 30 days to small changes that can snowball into huge rewards for your health. Take a few moments to revisit the goals you created on Day 1. Think through how you’ve progressed. What went well? What barriers did you face, if any? Moving forward, how can you set yourself up to maintain the progress you’ve made and continue to prioritize your personal wellness? The path to a fitter you is multi-layered. It involves not just how you move your body, but how you eat, hydrate, sleep, and prioritize your emotional health. It’s a lifestyle—and you’re living it!
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health's contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a private practice performance nutritionist who has consulted for five professional sports teams.