By Reisha Zang

“I don’t have time to breathe.” This is a feeling we can all relate to. With so many demands on our time, the days can get away from us, and we don’t even know where the hours went. When this happens, we neglect to take care of something very important – our health. Actually, there are 1,440 minutes in a day, and even if you subtract 480 minutes for sleeping, there are still 960 minutes left over. Here are a few health tips that you can do in five minutes or less to help improve life for you and your family, leaving plenty of minutes for the rest of your daily chores. So the next time you find yourself saying “I don’t have time,” think again.

“I don’t have time to eat right.” Actually, eating healthy doesn’t take a lot of extra time or effort. When you are in the supermarket, take a minute to read the food labels. See how much fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugars, protein and other ingredients are in the product. Pay attention to the serving size to make certain you aren’t eating more calories than you realize. Think twice about food choices. It is just as easy to make a turkey sandwich with mustard and a side of melon as it is to make a ham, cheese and mayonnaise sandwich with a side of potato chips. Eat more fruits and vegetables as meals, choose items with less saturated fat, and have healthy grab-and-go snacks ready at all times.

“I don’t have time to get sick.” You are right – getting sick can really put a crimp in your schedule. The best way to avoid a cold or the flu is to wash your hands. Washing for at least 20 seconds with soap and clean running water lowers the risk of spreading germs and getting sick. Don’t stop there, however. Make sure that your children also wash their hands regularly and clean their toys to remove dust and germs. Use a disinfectant wipe to quickly remove germs from surfaces. Disinfecting destroys germs and provides an extra level of protection. Keep a container of pre-moistened disinfecting cloths out on the counter for easy accessibility – pull one out on your way to the couch or the other end of the house and wipe down whatever you pass: tabletops, phones, door knobs, etc.

“I don’t have time to protect my skin.” This is one you really should find five minutes to do every day. Make applying sunscreen part of your morning routine to lower your risk for sunburn and skin cancer. Check your skin and body regularly for lumps, rashes, sores, discolorations and other changes. The National Agriculture Safety Database (NASD) recommends starting with checking moles and birthmarks for changes in size, shape, texture or color and looking for any new moles, skin discoloration or a sore that doesn’t heal. The perfect time to check is during and after bathing. The NASD reports that studies have shown that regular skin self-exams could save 4,500 lives every year. If you find anything suspicious, you should see a physician immediately.

“I don’t have time to quit smoking.” You don’t have the time to keep smoking. The Centers for Disease Control reports that smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causing many diseases and reducing the health of smokers in general. The adverse health effects from cigarette smoking account for nearly one of every five deaths in the United States every year. Fight the urge to smoke; it should pass in two to three minutes. When you feel the urge, do something else. Take a deep breath, walk around the block or drink a glass of water. Have an alternative to keep your mouth busy – chew gum or suck on a hard candy or toothpick. Smoking even a few cigarettes a day and being around secondhand smoke can hurt your health.

“I don’t have time to exercise.” Adults gain substantial health benefits from two hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic physical activity, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That’s only 20 minutes a day, and it is OK to break it up into 10-minute increments. Make it fun, but make certain that you raise your breathing and heart rates and work on strengthening your muscles. If you are riding a bike or using roller blades, always wear protective gear. Helmets, wrist guards and knee and elbow pads can reduce your risk for injury. Regular physical activity can lower the risk for gaining weight, heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

Neglecting your health and well-being can make it harder to accomplish all that you want and need to do during the day. We all have five minutes to improve our lives. The next time you find yourself racing around, take a moment, breathe and think about all you can do in five minutes.