O4 Dynamic Alert
Medically Approved

Quick and healthy habits you can fit into a busy schedule

People waking together

Making healthier choices doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Start with these simple everyday steps.

You can follow these tips to help maintain your health during even the busiest times.     

Quick habit #1: Sneak in a 5-minute kitchen workout

Staying active is one of the best things you can do for your health. Physical activity can help Iower your risk of heart disease and stroke, boost mood and sleep, and help you stay at a healthy weight.1

Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.2 That’s about 30 minutes a day, five days a week. But making time for exercise can feel overwhelming when you’re busy.

“A lot of people say, ‘Okay, I’ll exercise when I have time,’ and that time never materializes,” says Howard K. Bland, MD, an Optum family medicine physician in Seal Beach, California.

One quick way to get in some activity first thing in the morning? Do a mini-circuit in the kitchen while you wait for your coffee to brew. You can march in place to warm up. Then follow with squats and lunges, and do push-ups against the counter. These moves will get your heart pumping and build strength.

Here are a few more quick ways to keep yourself moving in short bursts throughout the day:

  • Do a lap around the grocery store before you start shopping.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Get off the bus a few stops early and walk.

Woman hugging her female doctor
Looking for a doctor who gets you?

We have more than 90,000 doctors at over 2,000 locations. Our team will help you get the care you need, when and where you need it.

Quick habit #2: Go to bed 15 minutes earlier

Do you go to bed too late? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least seven hours of good quality sleep per night for most healthy adults.3

Sleep plays a vital role in keeping the entire body healthy, from helping you think more clearly to reducing your risk of health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.4

But 1 in 3 adults get less than the suggested amount of sleep per night.5 “One of the most common complaints I hear from patients is fatigue,” Dr. Bland says.

So, how do you work toward a healthier night’s rest? If you tend to stay up too late, try going to bed just 15 minutes earlier at night.6 Repeat for a few nights until you reach that seven-hours-a-night goal. It’s a small change that can reap big results.

And try to keep your sleep area quiet, dark and at a comfortable temperature.6 Another helpful tool is to listen to a meditation or mindfulness track. Those may help you relax and shift your focus to bedtime.

Tracking your steps is another easy habit to help you be more active. Learn more on this episode of our Until It’s Fixed podcast.

Quick habit #3: Set a sip reminder on your phone

Drinking enough water is a simple yet often overlooked habit. It can help keep your brain, digestion and energy levels where they need to be when life gets busy.7

“There are no hard and fast rules to how much fluid you should drink, but if you’re thirsty, that means you’re already dehydrated,” Dr. Bland says. Even slight dehydration can affect your mood, memory and concentration.7

If you’re not sure how much water you should aim for each day, you can ask your doctor. Some people with certain health conditions may need to restrict their fluid intake.

A good way to tell if you’re dehydrated is by checking the color of your pee. “You want your urine to be light in color or clear, as opposed to darker or more concentrated,” Dr. Bland says. Darker urine may mean you need more water.8

To make sure you drink enough, use the timer on your phone. You can set it to remind you to hydrate every hour. (If you don’t want to use your timer, you can try an app. There are many free reminder or “to-do” apps available.)

And if you can’t make it through a day drinking just plain water, add some flavor. Try dropping in a cucumber slice, fresh fruit wedge or mint leaf.

Quick habit #4: Grab a quick mid-afternoon snack

You might have heard that some people get “hangry” (hungry and angry) when they wait too long to eat. Having a quick afternoon snack can provide much-needed energy in the middle of the day. Bonus: It can also keep you from overeating at dinner, since you won’t come to the table extra hungry.9

So give yourself a boost of energy with a healthy mid-afternoon snack. Here are a few quick and easy ideas, even if you’re on the go:9,10

  • Almond butter or peanut butter on apple slices
  • A handful of unsalted nuts
  • Hummus with grab-and-go veggies, like carrots or zucchini slices
  • Greek yogurt with berries
  • Whole-grain crackers with avocado slices

Get health tips you can trust delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for our health and wellness newsletter today.

Healthy habit #5: Put yourself in a 2-minute time out

Stress can show up in our lives when we least expect it, especially when life gets busy. And too much stress for a long period of time can have an effect on other health problems. Some of those include:11

Even a 2-minute break from reality can make a difference. So put down your phone, turn off your notifications, close your eyes, and take an adult time out.

Some fast ways to de-stress when you have a busy schedule, whether you’re on the road or at work, include:11

Bottom line: Life can get busy, fast. But that’s not a reason to set aside your health. The better you take care of yourself, the better you’ll feel in the long run. And that’s what’s most important.

Find mental health resources that fit with your life. Work one-on-one with a virtual coach or therapist from AbleTo. Find support.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Benefits of physical activity. Last reviewed June 16, 2022. Accessed May 22, 2023.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much physical activity do adults need? Last reviewed June 2, 2022. Accessed May 22, 2023.
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Get enough sleep. Last updated May 9, 2023. Accessed May 22, 2023.
  4. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. How sleep works: Why is sleep important? Last updated March 24, 2022. Accessed May 22, 2023.
  5. American Sleep Apnea Association. The state of sleep health in America 2023. Accessed May 22, 2023.
  6. Sleep Foundation. How to fix your sleep schedule. Updated March 31, 2023. Accessed June 5, 2023.
  7. National Council on Aging. 10 reasons why hydration is important. September 23, 2021. Accessed May 22, 2023.
  8. National Kidney Foundation. What the color of your urine means. Accessed May 22, 2023.
  9. National Library of Medicine. Snacks for adults. Last reviewed July 22, 2022. Accessed June 5, 2023.
  10. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Healthy snacking with MyPlate. Article accessed June 5, 2023.
  11. National Library of Medicine. Relaxation techniques for stress. Last reviewed August 11, 2022. Accessed May 22, 2023.

© 2024 Optum, Inc. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce, transmit or modify any information or content on this website in any form or by any means without the express written permission of Optum.

The information featured in this site is general in nature. The site provides health information designed to complement your personal health management. It does not provide medical advice or health services and is not meant to replace professional advice or imply coverage of specific clinical services or products. The inclusion of links to other web sites does not imply any endorsement of the material on such websites.

Consult your doctor prior to beginning an exercise program or making changes to your lifestyle or health care routine.

Stock photo. Posed by model.