If you’ve grown tired of going to the gym and eating salads, take a look at these healthy alternatives you can try to inject some fun into your usual diet and fitness routines.

1. Music

Listening to music is a popular pastime for many people and research has found that the activity brings a whole host of health benefits. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, discovered that listening to music improves your cardiovascular health and makes you feel better. Listening to music also supposedly improves pain relief, improves mental health and can also result in faster recovery from operations.

Another study from the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig and Sussex University found that 50 minutes of uplifting music lowered stress levels and increased levels of antibodies in the body. The addition of music to your workout can also improve your exercise endurance by 15 per cent, according to a study by Brunel University.

2. Popcorn

If you are bored of snacking on fruit between meals then reach for some popcorn, it’s a great diet alternative with many health benefits. Joe Vinson of the University of Scranton found that popcorn is the only snack that’s 100 per cent unprocessed whole grain. His research also found that the snack contains nearly twice the amount of antioxidant polyphenols per serving as fruits and vegetables. These antioxidants can protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

Popcorn also contains a lot of fibre (which will improve your digestion and help you feel full), B vitamins, is low in calories and can help lower cholesterol. Eaten in moderation, popcorn is a great alternative snack option. You can season the snack with herbs and spices, but to really retain the health benefits, stick to air popped popcorn.  

3. Sunshine

Maintaining a healthy diet can sometimes become quite costly, but one way you can get your daily dose of vitamin D for free is by spending some time outside in the sunlight. Our bodies produce vitamin D when we are exposed to sunlight - which is why it’s often referred to as the sunshine vitamin. Deficiencies in vitamin D can cause certain cancers, heart disease, mental illness and bone diseases such as osteoporosis.

The health risks of spending too much time in the sun are familiar to us all, but Robyn Lucas of Australian National University suggested in a study that more lives are lost to diseases that come as a result of too little sunlight, compared to those that come as a result of too much sunlight. Experts recommend that you spend 10 minutes in the sunlight each day without wearing sunblock, but make sure that you take the correct precautions if you are going to be exposed to the sunlight for extended amounts of time.

4. Laughter

Healthy living doesn’t always need to be boring, it turns out that laughter can actually give you some identical health benefits to a workout. Loma University’s Dr Lee Berk led research studies that discovered repeated bouts of ‘mirthful laughter’ have health effects similar to moderate exercise; reducing blood pressure, bad cholesterol, improving your immune system and improving your mood.

In addition to this, University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers found that laughing regularly could be as beneficial for your heart health as exercise is. According to their research, 15 minutes a day of laughter helps your blood vessels become more efficient. So the next time you skip a gym session in favour of watching a comedy movie, you don’t need to feel as guilty.

5. Chocolate

It’s the news chocoholics everywhere have been waiting for - scientists have found that eating small quantities of dark chocolate could benefit your health! Researchers at Wayne State University discovered that epicatechin (a plant compound present in chocolate) actually activated an identical muscle response as vigorous exercise.

Dark chocolate was also compared to the juices from ‘superfruits’ such as pomegranate and blueberries. The results found that dark chocolate contained more antioxidants (that are needed to fight against diseases and prevent wrinkles) than the fruits. It’s not recommended that you always choose chocolate over fruit, but snacking on a few squares of dark chocolate every so often is a great way to improve your health.