Written by Erin Whitehead, Health and Fitness Writer
During the 40-day period of Lent, observers often choose to give up a vice or a less-than-appealing behavior, such as cursing. You probably know many people who use this time to give up unhealthy habits like sleeping in, eating sugar, or drinking too much coffee. While Lent is typically a Christian period of sacrifice, some Christians also use it as a time to "take on" positive habits instead of giving up bad ones.
People of any religion, and even the non-religious, can support the efforts of their Lent-observing friends by trying a 40-day challenge themselves along with their peers. What better time than spring to focus on improving your own health? Here are 14 things you could choose to give up or take on during Lent to aid your weight-loss and enhance your health.
In this day and age, it's impossible not to know that smoking is bad for you. Tobacco causes cancer, heart disease, stroke and other lung diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smokers die about 13 years earlier than non-smokers. So give up the habit this season. Your health (and your wallet!) will thank you. Smoking cessation is often associated with weight gain because smokers replace the nicotine fix with food, but you can prevent the post-quitting pounds with these smart ideas.
Why not get in the habit of walking, even if just for 10 minutes every day? Walking has so many benefits for your mind and body, and it's a great way to start a fitness program or add a little extra calorie burning to your day! Get more walking ideas (and workouts) in SparkPeople's Walking Guide.
If you reach for the cookie or candy jar a little too often, try giving those sweet treats up for Lent. Your sweet tooth may sob for a few days, but you'll start feeling better if you keep skipping that sugar rush. Learn how to break your sugar addiction here.
Eat fruit to get that sweet fix without cookies, candy or cake. There are so many fruits that will quell your sweet tooth--oranges, cherries, grapes, pineapple, kiwi--so rotate them out so you don't get bored with the same old apple every day. It's a great opportunity to get more nutrients into your diet, too!
It can be so tempting to hit that snooze button several times in the morning. Getting up with that first alarm can be a true sacrifice--with huge benefits to your health! You'll get more done in the day and will save yourself from the stress of morning traffic and rushing around.
The earlier you get up, the more time you have to make sure you eat a healthy breakfast. You might even have time to fit in a morning workout. Both are great options to start your day the healthy way!
If you find yourself staying up too late on a regular basis, give up that late-night vice for Lent. Whether it's a late show, that game on your phone that has you playing into the wee hours, or coffee that keeps you up, set a bedtime and stick with it for the month.
A nightly regimen can ease you into snoozeville more easily. Try a warm bath, a cup of decaf tea, and a good book--just not one that you can't put down.
There's nothing wrong with that occasional sweetened beverage, but if you drink soda regularly, those calories can add up. Soda and many other sweetened drinks are filled with empty calories and sugar that do nothing to serve your nutritional needs. So give up that daily soda machine break to cut calories.
Instead of your usual drink of choice, sip on water with lemon throughout the day. Or go crazy with a lime! Aim for 8 cups of water each day and you'll be really well hydrated (and will probably eat less, too).
It's so easy to zone out in front of the TV. But studies have shown that sedentary behaviors like watching the tube are associated with increased risk of obesity and other health problems. Give up the TV for Lent to reap healthy benefits (like more time to work out and cook healthy meals)!
If you're like many Americans, you watch a substantial amount of TV each day. So how do you fill those hours when you give it up? Exercise your brain with crossword puzzles, Sudoko, Scrabble with family or reading a mystery novel.
These days, the internet is probably a necessity to function at your job and to even live your daily life. But be honest with yourself: Do you "chat" more often with your friends and family via email and text messages than in real life, or even on the phone? Make it a daily habit to have one meaningful phone conversation (instead of a text) or face-to-face meeting with your friend, co-worker or mom each day. You'll be surprised by how much more connected you feel to the ones you care about.
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