Amazing news! Research proves that doing simple exercises such as smiling, standing up, or tapping your toes significantly boosts health and happiness.
Jump-start joy by smiling.
Daydreaming about joyful times you’ve had — from a birthday celebration to a FaceTime chat with family members who live out of state — is a surefire way to boost your mood since it reignites the same positive emotions you felt when you first experienced them. Now, there’s an easy way to make daydreams spark delight even faster: Smile! This prompts pleasant memories to come flooding back 50 percent faster, according to a study at Virginia’s George Mason University. Facial expressions cue the brain to retrieve memories that match, instantly conjuring up that joyful feeling.
Petting a pup wards off colds and viruses!
Cuddling your dog or cat isn’t just a great way to bond with your furry friend, it also helps you stay sniffle-free. Researchers at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania found that folks who pet a pooch or kitty for 18 minutes experience a 33 percent surge in immunoglobulin A, an antibody that helps the immune system fight off invading viruses and bacteria. Credit goes to the flood of stress-busting brain chemicals (endorphins and oxytocin), which allows your immune system to function more robustly.
Erase aches by standing tall.
If sore knees, tender muscles or other aches are bothersome, simply stand up straight with your hands on your hips like a cheerleader about to rally the home team. In a study at Cornell University, folks who followed this easy advice experienced a drop in pain sensitivity within just 20 seconds. This kind of “power pose” strikes a double blow to aches: It boosts confidence, which makes you feel more in control of what’s causing your problem (a key factor for overcoming discomfort), and it prompts the body to churn out testosterone, a hormone that dampens pain signals.
Speed weight loss by tapping your toes.
Wish you could lose weight faster without going to a gym? Good news! All you need to do is tap your toes, bounce your leg or drum your fingers. Mayo Clinic investigators say “micro moves” are enough to help you burn about 100 calories per hour — that’s 30 percent more than if you didn’t fidget. Turns out, teeny-tiny movements keep your metabolism humming all day.
Outsmart falls by popping gum.
When the ground you’re walking on is slick or uneven (like due to slippery wet leaves), chew gum. Biting down makes you 77 percent steadier on your feet when on unstable surfaces, reducing your risk of slips and falls, a study in Functional Neurology found. Gently clenching jaw muscles activates the body’s internal system for maintaining balance, making it easier to stay upright.
Lower your blood pressure by squeezing a ball.
If you’re among the 43 percent of women with elevated blood pressure (BP), try squeezing a stress ball for 2 minutes a few times a day. West Virginia University research reveals doing this three days a week reduces systolic BP (top number) by about 13 points and diastolic BP (bottom number) by about 8 points in four weeks. Squeezing calms the sympathetic nervous system, plus improves blood flow to ease strain on the heart.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.