Five Ways to Build Healthier Habits for the New Year

The M.D. behind SHIFT spills on how to live your best life

By Moira Lawler

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11 January 2017

You’ve got your gym. Your doctor’s office. Your physical therapist. Your nutritionist.

That’s a lot of crisscrossing around town in the name of staying healthy.

Exhausted yet?

Then it’s time you headed to SHIFT, a one-stop shop for all the above helmed by Ari Levy, M.D., a former team physician for the Blackhawks.

Part internal medicine practice, part fitness center and part meeting space for one-on-one coaching, the 14,000-square-foot facility (expected to open this month) will unite all aspects of healthy living under one roof. And that roof is on the corner of Chicago and Orleans — pretty convenient, eh?

“It’s about being proactive and prospective, because health today is earned more than ever before,” Levy says. And that earning becomes a helluva lot easier once you integrate a few good habits into your daily routine. Here are five that Levy says will set you right in 2017.

Shift (3 images)

Control your stress.
“Traditionally, for a lot of executives, it’s grin and bear the stress and move on. But stress is a legitimate thing. It’s not just something you feel emotionally. How we metabolize stress really impacts our overall quality of life and our quantity of life. Be really dialed into the emotions you’re having and the ways you can recover. It’s about physical intimacy, social intimacy and mild-to-moderate physical activity. When I say physical intimacy, everybody always goes to sex, but it’s about touching for a minimum of 20 seconds. You’re able to transfer your stress and create a neurochemical reaction that lowers your blood pressure and causes a whole physiologic and neurologic cascade that helps calm.”

Find balance in your exercise schedule.
We think about doing more with less — I have to get up earlier, I have to work out harder, I have to eat less. If we want our bodies to perform, we’ve got to make sure we’re really intentional in the way we’re giving our effort. If you think about exercise as medicine, you can overdose and underdose. If you exercise intensely five days in a row, it’s really hard on the body, and it can be doing more harm than good. I perform better, from a running standpoint, by focusing on my quality of outcome, running less and being more efficient with it.”

First-time gymgoer? Go for quantity before quality.
That said, quantity is more important if you’re a workout noob or just getting back into your routine: “It’s actually not about the intensity of the workout. It’s more about the habit. What you’re looking for are a number of streaks where you can get three days in a row, four days in a row. You’re building to a number of times in a week that you’re actually exercising. What you’re really trying to do is carve out the time and the space and the habit of exercising. It’s about getting back to being consistent.”

Give yourself a break — but then get back to it.
“Expect to stumble a little bit. If you have a good two weeks and then you have a crazy work week or you have a major deadline and you break that pattern, it’s OK. What you want to do is shorten that off-period. Get back up and into the gym or back into the meal plan you’re focused on.”

Psst … Pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you.
“Be really good at listening to your body. Whether it’s meditation or yoga or some activity that allows you to center the mind and the body, it’s extremely powerful from a scientific standpoint. It gives you time and space to slow down.” We can all use some of that, right?

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