We've tried keto. We've done Whole30. We've tested plank, squat and burpee challenges. While it's all been lots of fun and very revealing, health and fitness trends come and go. Here's a radical thought: what if we stuck to the basic expert recommendations for a week? You know the ones I mean — the general rules for good health that we have endured for years, and are the basis of almost every trend that pops up. Drink enough water, get enough sleep, stay active. If you stick to the rules like we're supposed to (for more than a couple of days) how does it actually feel?
Of course in true POPSUGAR fashion, I put my hand up to find out. For seven days I committed to these classic health guidelines:
- 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous intensity exercise every week
- Drink 1.9 litres of water per day
- Get up out my chair and move once an hour during the working day
- Eat 8400kJ of clean, unprocessed food per day
- Get seven to nine hours of sleep every night
Seems simple enough, right? I tracked everything with Samsung's Gear Sport smartwatch — it easily measured all of the above (with even more health features that I didn’t get around to using in the seven days) and had the added bonus of telling me what to wear in the morning. Well, not quite, but it did give me a reliable weather update every morning and that's half the battle. The health data was all easily synced to my phone via Samsung's Health app, where I could inspect everything in more detail — you can download and use the app on both Android and iOS smartphones, so there really are no excuses. For one week I loaded my entire life into this one, nifty device and put my health in its tiny tech hands.
The day before the challenge I was excited and a little nervous. Would it be harder than I thought? Was I about to be the best version of myself? The shorter answer to both questions is yes and . . . well, kind of. But first, a little background.
My Health Background
I consider myself to be a healthy person. I prep 90 percent of my meals to ensure I'm eating clean, and limit indulgences to the weekend. During the week I try to fit in a run or two when I find the time, and on quiet weekends I enjoy boxing and going for long morning walks. But I admit that lately I've been quite stressed — nights are a coin flip between falling asleep on the couch by 8 p.m. or lying awake in bed for hours, unable to switch off. It's stirred up mild anxiety, comfort food cravings, and my old habit of drinking alcohol five or six days in the week. Not good. Still, just by looking at me you'd say I was overall in good health.
What I Learned
Exercise and Activity: The expert-recommended exercise targets are really achievable — schedule the time in your calendar each week and it's an easy item to tick off the to-do list. What's more interesting is whether your go-to activity is classified as moderate or vigorous activity. As a general rule, anything that gets your heart rate within 70 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate qualifies as vigorous. I was surprised to find out that only my weekend boxing sessions clocked a heart rate high enough on the Gear Sport; my weekday runs were squarely in the moderate activity range. Using heart rate to measure activity wasn't something I'd given much though to and now it might be time to step things up.
But the health ‘nudges’ on the smart watch were the real game changer. If you've been inactive for 50 minutes, both the Gear Sport and Gear Fit2 Pro (another smartwatch, in a sleek band design) will vibrate and flash on-screen reminders to get on your feet and move, even making recommendations for ergonomic stretches you can try. Let me tell you, by the end of the week I was ready to throw the thing out the window. That's not a mark against the tracker at all — I just didn't realise how long I spent sitting every day. It was mildly horrifying. When I listened to my little fitness pal's urges to get up and move, I felt much less restless and tired come 5 p.m. Lesson learned.
Diet: On day one, as I plugged my dinner kilojoules into the Gear Sport, it became really clear what was wrong with my diet: I don't eat enough food. Yes, I eat mostly clean but I fell short of the target by a whopping 3000kJ. I could have technically had three Krispy Kreme donuts for dessert (don't do this) and still not hit the expert recommended daily intake (RDI) for my age and weight. It explains why I'm starving when I get home from work every day. Confession time: I struggled to hit the RDI at all during the challenge, but on days I got close I felt less hungry (obviously), more focused and productive.
Water: Finally, something I'm good at! I'm happy to report that I blitzed this rule, drinking around 2.4 litres of water each day. Both devices make it easy to monitor your water intake — a simple tap and you can add another glass to your tally. When my hydration levels were a little low it was the easiest recommendation to play catch up on; if you need tips, we've got you covered with almost every water-drinking hack in the book.
Sleep: I've saved the best for last. Sticking to the expert-recommended seven to nine hours of sleep every night changed my week — and will likely continue to change my life. Going to bed earlier than I was used to on the first two nights seemed like a huge sacrifice . . . but waking up on day three felt incredible. I felt legitimately awake as opposed to half dead, and the feeling lasted right throughout the day. On day five, I was ready for bed by 9 p.m. That never happens. After just a week of getting a consistent eight hours sleep, I was falling asleep faster and waking up restored. It's not groundbreaking to note that getting a good amount of sleep will make you feel better, but I was genuinely shocked to realise just how much better I felt. It's a habit I'll be trying my best to continue now that my week of 'perfect health' is done.