Health and fitness hacks are all the rage.
Books, blog posts, magazines – tips to hack your life and health are everywhere.
But what exactly is a lifehack?
When most people hear the term hack, like me, they likely think of a computer hacker. A person that exploits weaknesses in computer systems.
I was surprised to find the term “lifehack” in the Oxford online dictionary.
Lifehack – a strategy or technique adopted in order to manage one’s time and daily activities in a more efficient way
The term “hacking” can also be applied to health and fitness.
Let’s take a look at what a health and fitness hack is, how to approach them and why you should care.
Can One Really Hack Their Health?
Efficiency and lifehacking is generally reserved for daily tasks like paying the bills online or using innovative tools like IFTT to automate your online life.
But how can efficiency and working out be mentioned in the same sentence?
On the surface, the terms “working out” and “efficiency” mix like oil and water.
Working out is supposed to be hard. Hours on the treadmill or stairclimber, burning lungs, screaming muscles and dripping sweat – these are the things we associate ”real” workouts with.
But cutting down on workout time or workout effort is a surefire way to sabotage a workout.
It goes against everything you have learned about fitness and health, but there are simple ways to make your workouts eating more efficient – boosting your health in the process.
3 Examples of Health Hacks
I realize that for some of you, the term health hack is new. Here are 3 examples to give you an idea.
- High Intensity Interval Training – A 2012 research study reveals that one can obtain most of the healthy benefits from a long endurance based exercise session in a much shorter, more intense workout. I have written about interval training before here and here.
- Sleeping for weight loss – A 2010 research study looked at the effects of sleep on dieters. People on the same diet that slept less than 5.5 hours per night gained more fat and lost more muscle than those who slept for 8.5 hours per night. Sleep is important people, especially if you are on a diet looking to lose weight.
- Morning green smoothies – Want an easy way to fit more fruit and veggies into your diet? I use a morning smoothie help me do this. My favorite smoothie recipe is almond milk, spinach, frozen mangoes, chia seeds and low fat yogurt.
Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Body, elaborates on hacking principles and gives some more examples in the video below.
The Right Approach
Health and fitness hacks are not shortcuts. This is important.
Approaching your health in a more efficient manner through “hacks” however, can help build habits and move you towards your goals quicker.
Health hacks are productivity and efficiency tips that can help you get the most bang for your buck.
But they need to be approached correctly.
Let’s learn how.
Efficiency Alone Is Not Enough
I like to look my overall health in three pillars:
- mental state
To be worth it, a health or fitness hack must enhance one of these 3 things.
I don’t care how much time or effort I can save. If a hack does not improve one of my three pillars of heath, it’s wasting my time. Not saving it.
When reading about “The Best 31 Ways to Hack Your Health”, be sure that the hack you’re considering is both efficient and most importantly, effective.
Without helping you reach your desired outcome, efficiency is meaningless.
Is the health hack backed by real science?
Of course not all research studies are created equal, but evidence-based information that supports a health or fitness hack is generally a good thing.
I do sympathize with you though.
Newspapers and magazines don’t always extract the facts presented by the research. Do your best to differentiate between sensational marketing headlines and real world effects.
Habits are a huge component component and perhaps the most important for long term success in any fitness or nutrition endeavor.
Hacks that can help you stick to your routines, especially when your short on time, can keep you moving in the right direction – further towards your goals.
I view hacks as supplements. Here is an example.
I am a runner and enjoy going for 60-minute plus runs. I always will.
Could I get the same benefits from a shorter, more intense run. Of course!
When I don’t have time for 60-minute run, I perform an intense interval workout that lasts only 20-minutes.
In other words, I supplement the workouts and routines I love with a more time efficient workouts when I need to.
Set Your Mindset and Expectations
Hacks are only a good place to start if they are going help you adhere to your new exercise program or diet.
Don’t view hacking as a shortcut.
We all know that, while there are efficiencies, there are no shortcuts to health and fitness. You’ve got to do the work and build habits.
If you’re looking for a shortcut from the get-go, you’re in trouble.
Why Do Health Hacks Matter?
Being efficient and productive when it comes to my health is important for a few reasons.
Most importantly, I know that by being efficient with the way I approach my health and fitness, it leaves me with more time to spend with my family and friends.
Health hacks also provide me with peace of mind by knowing I can continue to improve my eating and fitness even when I am pressed for time or don’t have access to a gym.
What do the Experts Have to Say?
I reached out to a few super-smart and well known experts in the health and fitness hacking world.
Here are their thoughts on why health hacks matter:
“With the demand placed on us these days and the goals we want to achieve, we need every edge we can get in order to perform optimally. It’s so easy to track our personal metrics and actually do something about it, so you have nothing to loss and everything to gain. Survival of the fittest now includes self tracking and optimization.” – Ari Meisel (The Art of Less Doing)
“If you can figure out a way to speed up your pursuit of a better body, burn fat faster or build muscle by better living through science, then that frees up you time to simply sit back and have fun and enjoy life. For example, I work during the warm summer months while wearing an ice pack vest, chewing vitamin-B enriched gum and stopping every 30 minutes to do 5 pull-ups. This gives me free fat burning and muscle building that I don’t need to do later on, so I can spend time with my kids, go play guitar, or – yes – even drink an extra glass of red wine.” – Ben Greenfield (Ben Greenfield Fitness)
” Health hacks matter because they put you in charge of how your body and mind work. For too long, people have chosen to try to do “healthy” things that barely work or take a lot of willpower. Biohacking is all about choosing to do things that work quickly and dramatically and automatically.” – Dave Asprey (The Bulletproof Executive)
Don’t Forget to Enjoy The Process
Appreciate the process of working out and eating better. Take pride in your achievements.
Have you lost weight? Do you feel more energetic? Are you sleeping more soundly? These are all achievements to be proud of.
Getting the most out of your workouts and diet is great. I am all for it.
Just ensure the hacks you choose are effective, largely science-based and help maintain or create healthy habits.
Over to you. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.