Leading a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be a challenge. If you follow these 7 simple tips, you might find you can make a big difference to your health in a very small time.
Eating more fruit and vegetables is one of the simplest things you can do to enhance your health. However, a recent Nutrition and Diet Survey found that although our consumption has increased, we’re still averaging less than three portions per day.
A great way to get lots of fruit and vegetables in one go is to make a quick smoothie. Smoothie makers that double as travel cups are becoming increasingly popular – and you can pick one up for a really reasonable price if you look around.
Also, try not to have the same old things all the time. A good rule of thumb is to go for different coloured fruit and vegetables in your smoothies when you can. Include lots of berries, fruits and superfoods like spinach are another great addition to a smoothie. Also remember dried, canned or frozen fruit or vegetables can be part of your regular smoothies. It’s easy to have lots of frozen fruit in the freezer and throw a handful into your smoothie maker each morning.
Stretch it out
Feeling stiff? Then boost your flexibility with some gentle daily stretching. Circling, bending and extending movements will help keep you mobile, and you should make it an absolute rule to stretch after every workout. After a period of prolonged contraction, muscles can take up to two hours to be restored to their resting length — but just a few minutes of stretching will enable this to happen much more quickly.
Pilates and yoga are great ways of stretching out and keeping flexible – you could do this at a class or in the comfort of your own home through a DVD or even an app.
Sleep is key
According to the Sleep Council, roughly a third of us don’t get enough sleep. This means we spend the daytime feeling tired and lacking in energy and we function below par - both physically and mentally. While there’s no fixed amount that works for everyone, experts believe we need between seven and nine hours sleep per night.
You could even download a sleep monitoring app to check how well you're sleeping – you never know, you might find your nights aren’t as restful as you thought. Use the data from the app to make small lifestyle changes, like turning off the TV half an hour before bed or wearing a sleep mask so changes in light don’t affect your sleep.
Check the label
It’s important to think about what you’re eating and if it’s good for you. Get in the habit of reading food labels and try to restrict your intake of processed foods to a minimum.
Food companies are now required to include detailed information – and even handy colour coding – on their packaging. So there’s no excuse for not realising that what appears to be a healthy treat actually contains lots of salt or sugar. Also, beware of trans fatty acids - a particularly harmful type of fat that is often present in junk food and refined packaged products.
Respect the sun
It’s essential to protect yourself from its harmful ultraviolet rays. Think UVA for aging and UVB for burning — you need a sunscreen that protects against both.
Avoid sitting in the sun between 11am and 3pm and get into the habit of regularly applying sunscreen with a protection factor of at least 15. You don’t have to be lying on a beach to do damage - just walking around town is enough to have a detrimental effect.
Recent research by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society has shown that many people find sunscreen labelling confusing and lots of people did not know what the SPF rating displayed on each bottle stands for.Make sure you clearly read the labels and get a sunscreen that offers maximum protection for your skin type.
Preserve your brain
By the time you reach 45, your brain will be losing 50,000 cells a day from the cerebral cortex — but keeping your mind stimulated can help to preserve your cognitive function. So, whether it’s doing a Sudoku puzzle, a memory game or a quiz, or embarking on something more challenging such as learning a new language, always continue to give your brain fresh challenges.
Again, there are lots of great apps and trivia quizzes online that will help keep your mind active even when your body is having a rest.
Drink more water
Most of us, active or not, could do with drinking a little more water on a daily basis. Becoming even slightly dehydrated will mean that you’ll become sluggish, have impaired mental function and an increased risk of constipation.
So keep a bottle of water handy - on your desk, in your bag or in the car - and you’ll be surprised how often you take a sip from it. The daily recommended fluid intake is two litres a day but some of this can come from soft drinks, fruit juice, tea and coffee.
Lots of people use tracking apps to monitor what they eat each day. Get into the habit of recording your water intake too. You will quickly notice if you aren’t drinking enough and you might be surprised how much more you drink when you are making a conscious effort to note it down.