The Good Enough Guide to Health

Perfectionism may seem like a desirable trait, but to boost your health, aim for "just enough."

"Trying to do everything right promotes an all-or-nothing attitude," says Martin Binks, a psychologist at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center in Durham, N.C.

So if you can't do something perfectly (i.e., work out an hour a day), you don't do anything at all (i.e., watch TV instead). A better mindset: Believe that every little bit counts. "It's small changes that are most effective," Binks says.

So forget perfect! Here, the "good enough" guidelines for nine common get-fit recommendations that will ensure you're on your way to a longer, healthier life.

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Fruits & Vegetables

Gold Standard: Up to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day

Good Enough: Five a day

That's all it took for men and women to lower their stroke risk by 31 percent, according to a Harvard University study.

"Five servings provide significant antioxidants and fiber to reduce heart disease and cancer risk and keep your weight in check," says Rosa Mo, a nutrition professor at the University of New Haven. (One serving is equivalent to one medium piece of fresh fruit, 1/2 cup of cut fruit, a cup of raw leafy greens, or 1/2 cup of other cooked vegetables, such as broccoli.)



For more health tips, check out the latest issue of Prevention, on shelves now!

Boost the Benefit: Keep 'em cool and eat a rainbow of colors. Refrigerating berries, citrus, and fruit with edible skin (think apples), as well as veggies, preserves antioxidants. And aiming to eat from at least three different color groups (such as green, orange/yellow, red, white, and blue/purple) a day will ensure you get a wide variety of nutrients.

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Exercise

Gold Standard: 30 minutes of cardio, five or more days a week

Good Enough: 17 minutes a day

A new study from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found that women who exercised just two hours a week (or 17 minutes daily) reduced their risk of heart disease and stroke by 27 percent.



"You don't even have to do it all at once. No fewer than 10 studies since 1995 show that breaking up physical activity into small segments of about 10 minutes is just as effective," says Barry Franklin, director of cardiac rehabilitation and exercise laboratories at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., and spokesperson for the American Heart Association's national "Start!" program.

Boost the Benefit: Pick up your pace for 30 to 60 seconds several times during your workout. A study from McMaster University in Canada found that people who did a total of two to three minutes of high-intensity exercise in the form of 30-second all-out sprints improved their cardiovascular fitness and muscle endurance as much as those who did 40 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.

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More from Prevention:

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Sunscreen

Gold Standard: Apply SPF 30 or higher several times a day

Good Enough: Use SPF 15

"Most women don't put on any sunscreen, so this is a huge improvement that can decrease your risk of both skin cancer and skin damage," says Dr. Doris Day, a Manhattan-based dermatologist.



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