26 Ways to Spring Clean Your Body

We usually think of spring cleaning as housework, but the new season is the perfect time to refresh your mind and body as well.

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Use lawn maintenance as exercise

After a winter of being sedentary inside, warm spring weather is the perfect reason to get active outside. Besides its obvious positive physical effects, recent studies show exercise can have mental benefits as well. But if the idea of jogging makes you want to run back inside, that's okay. Simple tasks you probably need, or want, to do in your yard can have unexpected benefits. "Spring cleaning the lawn with weeding, mulching, and law moving can help you to increase the amount of walking you do each day," says fitness and nutrition expert Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies. "Planting and maintaining your garden is a great way to boost your overall step count as well as increase the amount of bending and lifting you do." According to fitness guru Jillian Michaels, gardening can burn up to 256 calories an hour, and lawn mowing 160 per half-hour. Here are 10 ways gardening is one of the healthiest things you can do.

Bring the outdoors inside

Once nice weather hits, we want to be outside as much as we can. Unfortunately, obligations at home and work keep us cooped up more than we want to be. Instead, hit up the garden center for plants or flowers that can thrive inside. "Adding plants and flowers works wonders for your well-being," says Deborah Serani, PsyD, award-winning author of Living with Depression and a psychology professor at Adelphi University. "Studies show that having greenery in your life reduces stress, reduces depressed mood, improves attention and concentration, reduces high blood pressure and creates an atmosphere of beauty." Plants can help reoxygenate your house and make it easier to breathe, and flowers add scents that can boost your mood. So if you can't get to nature, bring nature to you! Discover the 29 secrets your houseplants would tell you if they could.

Switch out unhealthy choices

Winter can find us gorging on less-than-nutritious foods. Research has shown that the tendency to load up on calories in cold weather is an evolutionary mechanism to survive harsh winters when food was scarce. Bounce back from your winter weight by making some simple switches for spring. "Cut salt by flavoring your food with seasonings such as cayenne, which may help reduce blood pressure, and cinnamon, which may help manage blood sugar levels," Palinski-Wade suggests. "If you are craving a sweet, try mixing together air popped popcorn with freeze dried fruit, nuts, and dark chocolate chips for a salty and sweet treat that's packed full of fiber. Cut soda by swapping it with seltzer water mixed with a splash of 100 percent fruit juice." Avoid the chips and instead look to fresh fruits or veggies for a natural crunch. "Leave a small bowl of veggies or fruit around—that way, if you get hungry you can reach for a healthful snack," adds Robert Ostfeld, MD, director of preventive cardiology at Montefiore Health System, and founder and director of the Montefiore-Einstein Cardiac Wellness Program. Find out the on-the-go snacks nutritionists always keep in their bags.

Check your medicine cabinet

Spring cleaning your health may also involve a bit of actual spring cleaning to purge your meds. "It's a great idea to make sure all your over-the-counter health products are not expired, and the same holds for your prescription medications," suggests Dr. Serani. It's important not to throw certain medications in the garbage or down the drain because it can poison animals or infiltrate the water tables in your area." If you have unused medications, vitamins supplements or health remedies, the FDA has guidelines for how to safely dispose of them. Here are more things to get rid of in your bathroom right now.

Rearrange your pantry

While you're in a spring-cleaning frame of mind, now's a good time to go through your pantry. This can help not only free up space, but get your eating habits on a better track. "The first foods you see are often the first foods you grab to eat," Palinski-Wade says. "Foods with little nutritional value, such as those filled with refined carbohydrates and added sugars like cookies or candy, should be tossed or moved to the back of the pantry where they are less visible. Rearrange the cabinet so that healthy options like air-popped popcorn, whole grain crackers, nuts, and seeds are the first thing you see when reaching for a snack." In addition, get rid of any expired food in the pantry, fridge, and freezer. Here are eight zones every organized pantry should have.

Rethink your storage

Now that you've tackled medicines and food, consider new storage options that might work for you. Chances are you've got a stack of bins in the closet or basement with no clue what's in them—out of sight, out of mind, right? These giant bins can fool us by thinking we're organized, when really we're just keeping a bunch of junk we don't need. Instead, clean everything out and redo with simpler, easy-to-see storage to help you realize what you really have. "It's much better to keep things simple, and predictable, and then storage becomes not only routine, but a healthy habit," says professional organizer Marie Kondo, creator of the KonMari method and author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. "Designating a space for each item means not only that you will be able to find what you need as quickly as possible, but you will be less likely to buy more than you really need." You need these 75 storage ideas.

Try a new outdoor activity

If the thought of running doesn't interest you, the new season offers the perfect time to find a new way to get moving. "Hiking is a great way to build strength and endurance, burn calories, and enjoy nature at the same time," Palinski-Wade says. The new trend of forest bathing has been actually shown to improve our mind as well as body. If that's not your thing, try biking. "This exercise provides less impact on the joints and can be a great activity for the whole family," she says. "The combination of the cardiovascular and strength benefits make this a good workout for improving health and boosting metabolism." Still not into it? Try a low-impact sport like golf. "Playing 18 holes is the equivalent of walking 10,000 steps, so not only is it a fun way to enjoy the weather, but it is a great way to fit in exercise as well," she says. These are the workouts that burn the most calories.

Create an outdoor socializing space

Research from the University of Michigan has found that socializing actually improves your cognitive function, and the warm weather of spring is the perfect time to start hosting outdoor get-togethers with friends. See what changes you might want to make to your outdoor space to make it more appealing to guests. "If you want to host outdoor parties, then having an all-weather patio space that is low-maintenance and ready to use will be an important feature of your home," says interior designer and design psychology coach Rebecca West. A new grill or outdoor oven might be just what you need, or a fire pit to gather around as the sun goes down. "If you want more social time in your life then the way you design your home can absolutely have a positive impact on that goal, and the time and money it takes to create that space will have been worthwhile," she says. Read about ways to sneak in workouts when out with friends.

Create new spring meals

If your meal routine is in a rut, take advantage of the fresh, local produce that spring brings to switch up your healthy options. "Head to your local farmer's market and pick up a new fruit or vegetable you may not have tried before," Palinski-Wade says. "Broiled asparagus mixed with balsamic vinegar and raisins can be a delicious spring side dish. Or, toss together a spring salad mixed with fresh spinach, sliced strawberries and slivered almonds for a refreshing start to a meal." Plus, planning ahead with fresh foods can help avoid those last-minute calls to the pizza place. These are the 9 spring superfoods you never tried but should.

Start a breathing practice

Believe it or not, simply breathing better can have health benefits by reducing stress levels and regulating cardiovascular function. Inhaling the fresh air of spring can be the first step to a new breathing practice. Try slowing your breathing and taking in more air to get more oxygen to your body. "Because breathing happens automatically, many of us don't give the breath as much attention as it deserves, nor have we learned to harness its full potential to calm our minds," says Stanford University psychologist Emma Seppala, PhD, author of The Happiness Track. "Although substantial studies of yogic breathing and the brain have yet to emerge, preliminary brain studies of meditation and the breath suggest that they activate brain areas involved in the control of the autonomic system." This, she says may activate brain regions that guide the parasympathetic, or "rest and digest," processes of the body, causing its calming effects. Here are 10 ways you can meditate each day without trying at all.

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