01 October 2010

30 steps to health

With our winning one-a-day plan, there's more than enough time to make a life-changing health transformation.

With our winning one-a-day plan, there's more than enough time to make a life-changing health transformation.

1. Start the day with a stretch. It'll wake you up by getting your muscles and circulation going, release any kinks from the night, and make you feel longer, stronger and more powerful to face the day ahead.

2. Get rid of the old bag. And when you buy a smaller one, resist stashing small change and loads of junk you don't need in it. Experts say the weight of our handbags has increased in the last few years, and it's putting pressure on our backs. Ideally your luggage shouldn't weigh more than 1.5kg. Weigh yours and upgrade as if you needed an excuse for a new handbag

3. Let there be darkness. Having lights on at night prevents our bodies from producing the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, which is also said to be one of the body's greatest natural defences against cancer, and an immune system booster.

4. Eat seasonal. Vegetables in season contain up to 50 percent more nutrients than out of season produce. Vitamins become degraded over time and with storage, and local fresh produce is also usually cheaper than imported, out-of season fare. In season now are beetroots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, turnips, spinach, carrots, peas and citrus fruit.

5. Scrub up well. 90% of the bacteria on our hands hides under our nails. Keep your nails clean with a good scrub morning and evening with an anti-bacterial soap.

6. Floss! Using dental floss in addition to your normal brushing routine is important not only to remove plaque and protect you from gum disease, but new research says it can help to prevent heart attacks. Bacteria from diseased gums can enter the bloodstream and affect the arteries.

7. Make your bed. It's the quickest way to bring calm into your happy place. Because it dominates the bedroom, everything looks better when the bed's tidy.

8. Fast for a day. Skipping meals for 24 hours each month reduces your risk of developing heart disease by up to 40 percent, researchers say. They think the food break could help reset your metabolism and increase its efficiency.

9. Bond and bod. Kill two birds with one stone and exercise with a friend. Not only will you get a better quality workout as you motivate each other, but you'll fit in some quality bonding time too. Arrange a hike, beach walk, yoga or spinning class.

10. Give someone a hug. Physical touch has enormous power to communicate a message of reassurance, emotional or physical support, and love.

11. Sit up straight. Posture has a huge impact on energy levels particularly when you're at your desk most of the day. Use your abdominal muscles to keep you upright and avoid slouching over and rounding your back.

12. Consider your loved one.Although you may be tired of washing his stinky rugby socks, a US study has found that partners who consider the other's needs and make kind gestures say they are happier with their relationships than those who don't. Kindness and consideration encourages reciprocal behaviour, and generally happier, healthier bonds.

13. Chat yourself smart. A University of Michigan study reveals that socialising is just as effective as brain-building puzzles like Sudoku and crosswords for improving intellectual performance. "Conversations are more complicated than they seem; they require a surprising amount of mental work," says author Prof Oscar Ybarra.

14. Cook your breakfast. It may sound indulgent, but that's what weekends are for. Eggs keep you full for longer because they're full of protein and loaded with other nutrients, and this can aid weight loss, researchers say. Think poached eggs; eggs florentine with spinach or ham; or scrambled eggs and fried halved cherry tomatoes on wholewheat rolls.

15. Send the junk mail packing. Clear backing once and for all, and then stop flyers and postal clutter from choking your living space by placing a recycling bin by the door. As soon as you enter, dump the junk. Aah that's better.

16. Plan a getaway. Choose a location that'll put some distance between you and everyday worries, and where you can experience some new scenery. Scientists say taking time off lowers your risk of heart disease by 30 percent.

17. Back yourself. Confidence is in the mind, so walk tall, and set-affirming thoughts and see how much further you get.

18. Get more oxygen. According to a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, rounding your shoulders may mean you take in less oxygen than you should, shortening your workouts. To get more air, stretch your chest for a minute several times a day, and do back strengthening exercise like rowing. Altogether now "Ahhhhhhh!"

19. Get light-tight jugs. Store your milk in containers that light cannot penetrate. Researchers from Ghent University in Belgium say that when milk is exposed to light, a chemical reaction reduces the potency of the B vitamin, riboflavin.

20. Give your brain a break. Take a five-minute mental holiday today by sitting quietly and concentrating on your breathing. Close your eyes and observe your in- and out breaths, focusing on, but not changing them. Bring wandering thoughts back. This basic meditation will calm, rest and refresh your mind.

21. Love in the tub. Research of the Rheingold institute in Germany suggest that couples who bath together manage to form a deeper connection and stronger bond than those who get soapy separately.

22. Add colour to your world by planting your own container herb garden. Any space that gets some sun and air will do. Fresh herbs will add scent to your living space and spice up your cooking. Plus you'll know they really are 100 percent organic.

23. Take a load off. Wearing heels every day can strain and weaken your calf muscles. Take your shoes off during the day when you can, and do some simple stretches, such as lowering your heels off a step, and then raising them so you stand on tiptoes. Five repetitions of both should sort you out!

24. Lighten your brows. For a rejuvenating effect, and a look that‘ll take years off your face, lighten your eyebrows and with a few strokes of a brow pencil or powder that’s one shade lighter than your hair colour, says make-up artist Kimara Ahnert.

25. Train like an athlete. "I train about two to four hours a day, with a hard workout with weights afterwards. Using weights when you are already fatigued gets the best results. That’s what promotes endurance ability,” says 60m hurdle world champion, Lolo Jones.

26. Sleep on it. Spending too much too impulsively? Janet Bodnar, author of Kiplinger’s Money Smart Women (Kaplan Business) suggests leaving the object of your desire at the shop overnight. If you still want it the next morning, go back for it.

27. Try a little tenderness. Be good to yourself and put aside the evening for a little pampering. Even an occasional indulgence like getting your nails done, a massage, or going out for dinner, is enough to decrease stress and improve health. And you feel cared for and revitalized until the next month.

28. Be a bookworm. Choose a book with a complicated layered plot and multi-dimensional characters. Researchers say this helps our memory retention. The more complex the novel, the more memory-saving neural branches we make.

29. Bake with avos. Sounds odd, but using avocados instead of fat in baking has benefits! Researchers at Hunter College in New York experimented by replacing half the butter with pureed avo in an oatmeal biscuit recipe. It not only cut the fat content by 35 percent, it also made the biscuits chewier.

30. Make it a date night. Invite your partner out for a romantic night for just the two of you. Plan something special and celebrate your partnership. Making time away from work, chores and kids will give you time to cement your bond- and have fun. See a live band, have a private moonlit picnic, see a movie, meet at a fancy hotel bar, have sundowners in the country.

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