When many people start thinking about how to get fit, they imagine spending hours in the gym every day and limiting themselves to a diet better suited to a rabbit. Because of this, many people give up before they even get started. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Here are five things that you should do every day to stay healthy.

1. To stay healthy get enough sleep

Getting enough sleep is one of the best things you can do for your body when your concern is how to get fit and stay healthy. When you are overly tired, both your brain and body cannot function as well as they should. This can result in mistakes at work or injuries while working out. Your body also needs sleep to recover from all of the strain you put on it throughout the day.

The amount of sleep required is different for each person, although it is typically in the range of seven to nine hours for adults. If you have to get up early in the morning, start by going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until you wake up feeling refreshed and rested.

2. Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is an important part of health and performance. Even a small amount of dehydration can significantly impair mood, well being and ability to function. What’s important to understand is that optimal hydration is closely linked not only with fluid intake, but also with salt intake.

Adequate salt intake ensures that our cells retain fluid and remain hydrated. And in fact, if we drink too much water (as many do) we can end up driving salt out of our cells, and getting rid of it (and the water) through urine. This may contribute to a constant cycle of dehydration. The best advice is to maintain adequate salt intake and listen to your body – drinking water only when thirsty, hot or during/after intense exercise. And don’t forget, many foods also have a high water content, which contributes to your overall fluid intake.

3. Have regular movement snacks

If you sit at a desk all day for work, it can have a negative impact on your body. Not only are you reducing overall physical activity, but prolonged sitting can also lead to poor posture, movement impairment and pain.

Therefore as a minimum measure to stay healthy, aim to stand up once an hour. When you have created this simple habit, add to it a short walk around your office, or do some light stretching. As you get used to these ‘movement snacks’, look for other options to move throughout your day. This may include taking the stairs, parking your car further away and walking to work, or even having a walking meeting with colleagues. The goal is to loosen up your muscles and get the blood flowing. You’ll find that your body feels much better throughout the day and that you are better able to focus on your work.

4. Breathe deeply

We take breathing for granted, and only take notice of it at times of exertion or stress. With each breath, we take in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. This process must remain in fine balance in order to survive. What’s important to understand is that it’s not how much oxygen we take in that influences our health – it’s the level of carbon dioxide in our body that drives oxygen usage by our cells. Therefore it’s important to maintain healthy levels of carbon dioxide. We can do this by practicing deeper breathing throughout the day. The focus should not only be on breathing in deeply, but also breathing out slowly.

When we are under stress, breathing becomes quick and shallow, and this causes us to release carbon dioxide quickly. If this becomes prolonged, it can lead to high levels of anxiety. Deeper breaths, with a focus on slower out-breath, will maintain adequate levels of carbon dioxide in the body, and can not only reduce stress, but also aid recovery, reduce inflammation and protect cells.

5. Eat whole foods

A balanced diet is crucial to stay healthy. Try to eat whole foods as much as possible, that is foods that are not processed and packaged. Fill up on lean proteins and get plenty of fruits and vegetables – the more colours the better.

Your body draws most of its nutrients from the foods that you eat, so it is important to eat a wide variety of foods to get the greatest nutritional benefits. If you can’t prepare meals for yourself, try to choose restaurants that offer healthy fare.