Make movement enjoyable
We all know how important exercise is. But there’s little point forcing yourself to the gym if you find it a chore. The key to consistent exercise is to find something you enjoy. Aim for at least 150 minutes of movement per week. This can be split over several days. You would ideally do a mixture of cardiovascular exercise such as:
- playing football
And strength training exercise, including:
Many exercises, such as kettlebells and high intensity interval training can combine elements of both cardio and strength work.
Remember, movement also includes things such as surfing, dog walking, and digging in the garden so these activities all count towards your exercise goals. If you struggle to fit in longer sessions, why not consider some movement snacking? These are short sessions of star jumps, stair climbing, or press ups which can add up over the day.
It’s important not to over train though, so do remember to take rest days where you just take a gentle stroll, do some stretches or mobility work.
Reducing your stress levels can make a huge difference to your health and wellbeing. Sometimes we don’t notice how much stress is affecting us until we become unwell. Signs of stress can include:
- tense muscles
- a racing heart
- a restless mind
If you experience these symptoms, it might be time to take action. Remember that long term stress can affect your immune system, and put extra strain on your cardiovascular system. So, it’s a good idea to take steps to manage stress now to protect your health later on.
Everybody reacts differently to stress, and different things relax different people. But there’s good evidence to show that mind-body techniques such as yoga and meditation can lower your levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
These techniques work by switching on the ‘rest and digest’ state in your body – otherwise known as the parasympathetic nervous system.
Here, your heart and breathing rates reduce, and your muscles relax. This puts you into a more restful state. Even a few minutes of meditation each day can make a difference, as can pausing to breathe deeply.
Other strategies to reduce stress include:
- avoiding stressful news first thing in the morning and before bed
- reading – which can trigger the relaxation response
- cutting back on caffeine if you are sensitive to it
- regularly socialising – this can reduce stress and anxiety
A lack of quality sleep can make you more vulnerable to stress and less likely to exercise. It can also make you more likely to reach for high calorie processed foods. Also, when you sleep poorly, the extra stress you feel can make it harder to sleep the next day.
Occasional sleepless nights are normal and nothing to worry about. But if you’re sleeping poorly regularly it’s a good idea to address these issues straight away. Below are some tips to help you sleep better:
- get up at the same time every morning as this helps to regulate your body clock
- avoid strong exercise, caffeine, alcohol, and eating close to bedtime
- reduce screen time 90 mins before bed and read under low light instead
- practise deep breathing or write down any worries before you try to go to sleep
Eat for energy
Eating well will fuel your body during the day. It’s good to avoid blood sugar highs and lows. This is because it can leave you feeling fatigued and can even trigger anxiety. Instead aim for a steady supply of energy.
You can do this by including plenty of wholegrains which release energy slower than refined, white flour products. By including a source of protein with your carbohydrates (such as nuts, eggs, or Greek yoghurt) you can stay fuller for longer too.
As well as supporting your immune system in the short term, eating a wide range of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables can also help you to prevent chronic diseases in the future. Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants within these foods can help to reduce your risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and cognitive decline.
And remember to stock up on fibre. This is because fibre can help you with good digestion. Also prebiotics within foods such as oats, onions and green bananas also feed the good gut bacteria in your intestines. This can reduce your risk of bowel issues and can even lower your risk of depression and anxiety.
When thinking about your health it can be easy to forget just how important social contact is. Studies have shown that loneliness can have similarly harmful effects to smoking.
It’s easy to get caught up with day-to-day life and responsibilities. But prioritising time with friends can support your immune system, reduce your blood pressure, and reduce your future risk of cognitive decline. So, scheduling in social events as you would other important appointments could help you to stay connected and boost your health too.