Walk to the shops
Even if it’s only a ten-minute stroll it will make a difference. Researchers at Boston University, US, have found short bursts of activity are enough to help you lose weight, lower your cholesterol and boost your heart health. And the activity doesn’t need to be anything too strenuous – walking, housework and gardening all count. For the greatest impact, aim for 30 minutes of activity five days a week, but breaking this down into ten-minute chunks is just as effective as slogging it out at the gym.
It really is the most important meal of the day, according to research from the University of Bath, which found people who eat breakfast burn more calories. Scientists found that, contrary to popular belief, eating breakfast doesn’t stoke up your metabolism. But it does help lower the unhealthy form of cholesterol circulating in your blood, balance blood sugar levels and encourage you to be more active. And previous research has suggested having breakfast cuts your chances of heart disease, possibly because those who skip it tend to eat more later in the day.
Lunch on fibre-rich foods
“Fibre aids digestion, helps protect against cancer and can also lower cholesterol, cutting your risk of heart disease,” says nutrition therapist Ian Marber, co-author of Eat Your Way To Lower Cholesterol (Orion, £16.99). For a quick high-fibre lunch, make a salad with plenty of leaves, cherry tomatoes and grated carrots, sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and drizzle with olive oil, then top with tinned sardines and eat with a hunk of whole grain bread.
Catch the sun
Around ten to 15 minutes of sunlight on exposed skin (without suncream) allows your body to make the Vitamin D it needs to keep you healthy. And that could be particularly important at this time of year, with cold and flu season just around the corner. Danish research has found Vitamin D primes your body’s T-cells, which fight germs and other foreign bodies. So head outdoors and let the sun get to your skin. Once the weather gets cooler, get your D fix from a supplement instead – try BetterYou DLux 3000 (£7.95/15ml, from betteryou.com).
Have a laugh
It really can help you live longer! Pleasure is strongly linked with good health, according to a review of more than 160 studies by US scientists, probably because a positive mood reduces stress hormones and boosts immunity and healing. So call an old friend who always makes you chuckle.
Listen to jazz
Putting on a soothing jazz CD before bed could promote better sleep if you have trouble nodding off, say Taiwanese researchers. If jazz isn’t your thing try classical or folk music instead – any soft, slow music with around 60 to 80 beats per minute is ideal.
Enjoy a cuppa
Tea is high in substances called polyphenols, which may help suppress the genes linked to certain cancers, including breast, ovarian and bowel cancers, according to scientists. Green tea may be particularly rich in anti-cancer substances, but black tea has its benefits too.
Sip red wine
It’s rich in resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant substance found at high levels in grape skins. Studies have shown resveratrol could lead to positive changes in genes that control ageing and obesity. And drinking low to moderate amounts could help reduce cholesterol build-up, and might also make your blood less likely to clot, helping to cut your risk of heart attack and stroke. Stick to one or two glasses, though – if you drink too much you’ll do more harm than good as excess alcohol can damage your liver and is high in calories.
Try some yoga stretches. It’s the perfect exercise for women during and after menopause, plus it can help boost your self-esteem and body image, cut your risk of heart disease and improve your sleep. While another study from the University of California found regular yoga practice could lead to a 70 per cent improvement in urinary incontinence symptoms. Find beginner-friendly videos at www.doyoga withme.com/yoga_poses
Eat a curry
Curcumin, a component of turmeric, the orange-yellow spice used in curries, has been found to lower your risk of diseases including cancer, heart disease and dementia. Avoid takeaways, which are high in salt and saturated fat, and make your own instead. Visit www.yours.co.uk for some healthy curry ideas.
Whizz up a smoothie
We all know we should be eating at least five servings of fruit and veg daily, according to Government guidelines, and researchers from University College London claim this should be upped to a minimum of seven! Struggle to eat enough? A smoothie’s a great way to load up on several servings in one go. For a bigger nutrient hit, invest in a Nutribullet, £99.99, from Yours Shopping (0800 587 6133, shopping.yours.co.uk). Unlike a conventional blender, it completely blends fruit and veg, using every part including the skin and seeds, so you end up with a big hit of fibre and no waste. Try whizzing up four kale leaves with a couple of handfuls of frozen berries, a banana and a teaspoon of linseeds.
Smile at a stranger
Or, even better, strike up a conversation. A study from Washington State University, US, has found acting extroverted can boost your happiness levels. And happiness is good for your health and wellbeing, so chat to the bus driver or the cashier in a shop.
Snack on a yogurt
Choose yogurts with ‘live’ on the label, because this means they contain high levels of friendly bacteria. Recent research from Australia has shown foods containing these good bugs could help lower your blood pressure, particularly if yours is on the high side. And good bacteria can also boost digestion and immunity.
Sit comfortably for ten minutes, cross-legged or on a chair, and simply focus on your breathing, trying to clear your mind. When thoughts creep in just observe them and let them go. It may sound too simple to be effective, but doing this ‘mindfulness meditation’ for just ten minutes a day can reduce anxiety and depression. It may even cut your risk of heart disease and stroke. In one study in the journal Stroke, researchers found people who had meditated for six to nine months had a decrease in the thickness of their artery walls, lowering their chances of cardiovascular disease.