The long, hot summer is behind us, there’s a distinct nip in the air and already, thoughts are turning to cosy nights in by the fireside and settling in for some pre-Christmas hibernation.
Before you get too comfortable, spare a thought for your body which needs some basic TLC if you’re to get through the winter, never mind the coming years, without suffering too much.
Here are our top tips for staying in tip-top condition.
The food we put in our bodies is fundamental to being healthy and it’s not just about avoiding piling on weight. Eating a diet that’s high in fats and sugar and low in fruit and veg means your body isn’t getting the essential nutrients and vitamins it needs to function properly. If you suspect you’re consuming to much salt, sugar and fat, easing your way towards healthier habits will not only leave you looking and feeling better, but will also make you less likely to end up obese or with serious and life altering diseases like diabetes or even life threatening illnesses like heart disease and cancer. A good diet means starting the day with breakfast and cutting out sweet stuff at bedtime. We need at least five portions of fruit or veg a day to make sure we are getting the vitamins and minerals we need. A healthy meal should comprise one third starchy foods such as bread, potatoes, rice or pasta and adding in some dairy or dairy substitue and a source of protein, such as beans, meat or fish.
Sitting around all day is one sure-fire way of shortening your life span – by about two years, studies have found. A lack of exercise is also particularly troublesome for people as they get older as loss of muscle tone can cause all sorts of problems. Small changes like parking a bit further than you normally would from work, taking the stairs instead of the lift really do make a difference to overall fitness levels. Health experts recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise such as brisk walking or cycling on five days a week for adults, more for children. They also recommend doing strength exercises at least twice a week such as weights, sit ups or yoga. Weight bearing exercise like walking can help women over 50 maintain their bone strength after menopause. As well as helping you stay fit, upping the level of exercise to the government’s recommended levels is reckoned to cut the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes by up to 50%.
3. Mind your head
Modern life can take its toll on our mental health, no matter what age we are. Whether it’s teenagers becoming anxious over school work or the pressures of social media, an elderly person who’s finding their social circle shrinking and feeling isolated, parents or carers for older parents, or families struggling to pay the bills with the price of everything from food to fuel rising, it’s hard to avoid stress. Be aware of your own stress levels as well as those of your loved ones and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. If you think you or someone you know is becoming depressed, speak to your GP first of all. If things aren’t that bad, introducing some more time for relaxing, socialising and getting out and about can make a big difference. Exercise is a particularly good mood booster, and even better if you can do combine it with fresh air. The feel good pheronomes will have you coasting through the week.
4. Drink up
Dehydration can impact everything from our mood to our energy levels and our ability to absorb nutrients. Keeping our body hydrated also helps reduce the risk of some cancers, can help with weight loss and keeps the joints supple and the skin glowing. Health professionals recommend that people drink as many as eight glasses of water a day.
5. Get enough shut eye
People who don’t get enough sleep are more prone to illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes as well as obesity. Everyone should aim for 7-8 hours a night for optimum health for body and mind - sleep is great for your brain and memory function. People who suffer chronic pain feel it ease after a good night’s sleep too.
6. Makes sense
Sight, smell, hearing and taste are senses we take for granted – until something goes wrong. Keep them ticking over by attending your annual check up with the dentist and generally look after your oral hygiene. An eye test every two years can not only protect your vision but a whole raft of other health issues. Often, the first sign of problems with hearing is that other people complain that you have the TV or radio up full blast. Hearing loss can be terribly isolating but if you are concerned that you might end up with hearing aids, don’t be put off by preconceived ideas. Modern hearing aids are practically invisible.
If you smoke, take drugs or misuse alcohol, why not take an honest look at whether you are doing yourself long-term harm. Lots of substances can seriously affect one’s mood as well as being physically harmful, not to mention having an impact on family relationships. Smoking long term can shorten your life by a whopping 10 years but almost worse is the descent into ill health. The average 20 a day smoker now spends over £3,500 a year on cigarettes – more than the cost of a family holiday in the sun!