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Health and fitness may be her Laura Rooney's job as vice president of healthy living for the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee. But you don’t have to be an expert to get results.

Photo by Anna Sparks.

Photo by Anna Sparks.

When your job is helping the community get fit and stay healthy, you tend to take your work home with you. We caught up with Laura Rooney, vice president of healthy living for the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee, and asked her to share seven daily habits that help her live up to that title.

1. Keep it Simple
The path toward a healthier lifestyle requires small steps toward simple goals. “I catch myself running down paths of complexity and having to remind myself to keep it super simple,” Rooney says. That means weaving healthy habits into her daily routine. The simpler the habits — and smaller the steps — the more likely those habits will last.

2. Make time to breathe
We may take about 25,920 breaths a day. But that doesn’t mean we’re doing it right. “A lot of research shows we are not very good at breathing in a full, healthy way. So every day, for five to 15 minutes, I intentionally carve out time to breathe,” says Rooney. “It helps me to cultivate gratitude, mentally put things into perspective, and is really good for your physical health.”

3. Work exercise into life
It’s not unusual to see Rooney arrive at a business meeting on a bike. “I bicycle-commute every day I can,” she says. Rethinking transportation is one of the most effective ways to make time for exercise. You have to get places anyway, so why not bike or walk instead of drive?

4. Plan intentional exercise, too
Rooney supplements spontaneous exercise sessions with a few planned activities throughout the week. “For me, that’s my yoga practice, walking and bicycling,” Rooney says. “Figure out what activity you really like and plan those things on a regular basis.”

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5. But don’t become too set in your ways
Favorite activities are great, but so is shaking up your routine. “I have my go-to things, but I also try to pick something that feels a little unnatural to force my body to move in a different way,” Rooney says. In the past, that’s been a hula-hooping class, belly dancing and a high-intensity group exercise class at the Y.

6. Use existing resources
“Make a map of where you live and map out existing resources available to you,” Rooney suggests. “Is there a running group that meets at a local coffeehouse on Saturday mornings? Will your workplace reimburse some or all of a gym membership? A lot of the time, we overlook the resources that already exist for us.”

7. Remember, something is always better than nothing
In a perfect world, we’d all eat right and get 30 minutes of daily exercise. But when starting out, realistic, attainable goals are best. If the goal is eating more fruits and vegetables, then fresh produce may be the ideal. But that bag of frozen green beans works fine, too. A brisk 10-minute walk is better than no movement at all. “We tend to have an all-or-nothing perspective,” Rooney says. “Something is always better than nothing when you’re trying to make that positive change.”

‘Laura Rooney’s 7 Daily Habits for Healthy Living’ appears in Milwaukee Health, a brand new addition to the Milwaukee Magazine family.

Find Milwaukee Health on newsstands Nov. 2

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