5 Life-Altering Changes to Make in Under 5 Minutes per Day

5 Life-Altering Changes to Make in Under 5 Minutes per Day
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

December 6th, 2017

By Natalie Stein, BS Food Science, BS Nutritional Sciences, MS Human Nutrition, MPH Public Health

Finding out that you have pre-diabetes can make you wonder what you can do to prevent diabetes. The good news is that there is plenty that you can do, since making healthy lifestyle changes can cut your risk for diabetes by over 50%! Even better, these changes can be easy and quick, so they fit into your busy life. Here are a few places to start.

Choose whole grains. Research shows that swapping whole grains for refined grains can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes. It also helps you control your weight and prevent cardiovascular disease. The magic may come from the fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that are naturally present in whole grains, but are lost during processing when producing refined grains. A good goal is to get at least half your servings of grains from whole grains, not refined. Try:

  • Whole-grain bread instead of white bread

  • Brown rice instead of white rice

  • Whole-wheat pasta instead of white pasta

  • Oatmeal or whole-grain cereal, such as shredded wheat, instead of refined cereal

  • Farro, quinoa, whole-wheat couscous, and bulgur.


  1. Take the stairs. Too much sedentary time is linked to poorer blood sugar control and higher diabetes risk, while getting moving for even a minute can slash your risk. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator gives you benefits, and takes no extra time. You can also break up hours sitting at a desk by taking 1-minute breaks every hour to stand up and stretch, march in place, or do squats, calf raises, or arm swings
  2. Breathe. Too much stress can send your hormone levels out of whack and raise your blood sugar. Deep breathing exercises can help you relax and reduce stress. Try taking a deep breath, then slowly letting out as much air as you can. You can start by doing this for five breaths, and work up to more if you want. Other ways to relax include exercising, replacing negative thoughts with positive ones, and sitting out in the sun.
  3. Turn off electronics. The light from electronic devices, such as smartphones, iPads, and laptops, can stimulate your brain and make you more alert. Turning off your devices at least an hour before bed can help you fall asleep faster. Since sleep deprivation interferes with your body’s ability to control blood sugar levels, getting better sleep can only lower your diabetes risk. You can also enjoy the added bonus of extra energy during the day.
  4. Add intervals. Interval training can boost your calorie burn, which can increase weight loss and lower diabetes risk. It takes no extra time to sneak intervals into your workouts. Here is how you can do it.
  5. Warm up for 5 to 10 minutes, starting at an easy effort and ending with a little bit more effort.
  6. Add intervals: Add a harder-intensity “interval” that lasts about 15 to 60 seconds. Your intervals can consist of faster walking or jogging, walking at a higher incline on the treadmill, increasing the resistance or speed on an exercise bike or elliptical trainer, or doing jumping jacks, plyometrics, or push-ups in the middle of a weight-training session.
  7. Work up to doing about 10 intervals throughout your total workout.
  8. At the end, cool down for 5 to 10 minutes to let your heart rate drop.

Add olive oil. Adding healthy fats to high-carbohydrate foods, such as fruit, starchy vegetables, and grains, can lower their glycemic index so your blood sugar does not spike as much. You can mix peanut butter with oatmeal, mix nuts into a fruit salad, and spread avocado on your toast. Olive oil in particular has been linked to lower rates of diabetes, so consider using it on roasted vegetables, with vinegar and herbs on salads, and in pasta sauce. You can even use it as a substitute for butter when baking.

With simple changes like these, you can lower your diabetes risk and improve your health in other ways. These changes take no extra time, and they are easy to implement. Your Lark health coach can give you reminders on lifestyle changes like these, plus suggest other ways to stay at your healthiest. You can get started as soon as you are ready!