15 revolutionary health resolutions
Manchester – Making major lifestyle changes in your new year’s resolutions is all well and good – if you manage to stick to them. But surveys suggest that most resolutions have bitten the dust by February.
It might be better to think small, as tiny modifications are easier to achieve.
And if a healthy action becomes habit, it could last a lifetime.
Try these easy resolutions that could keep you fighting fit for years to come…
Wash your toothbrush
Toothbrushes can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Scientists at Manchester University found that the average toothbrush contains 10 million germs, including a high percentage of potentially dangerous bacteria such as E coli.
To help kill these bugs, Dr Ron Cutler, a microbiologist at Queen Mary University of London, recommends rinsing the brush every few days under boiling water. Or you could make a habit of putting the family toothbrushes in the top rack of dishwasher every week.
Stop using armrests
This will strengthen your muscles and help protect you against falls in later years.
Place your feet firmly on the floor, tighten your stomach muscles, clench your buttocks and ease yourself slowly up to a standing position without using your hands for support.
Each lift equates to a squat – the perfect exercise to tone the major muscles in the thighs and buttocks. Double the effect by also lowering yourself into every chair without using your hands.
This is the single most effective muscle-strengthening exercise of all, says Darren Chandler, an orthopaedic therapy consultant. “It keeps stability in the hips and surrounding muscle.”
Eat yoghurt every day
Studies suggest that dairy products could help protect against diabetes. And a Cambridge University study last year showed that one small (125g) pot of low-fat probiotic yoghurt five times a week was enough to cut diabetes risk by 28 percent. The researchers believe this is due to a beneficial bacteria and a special form of vitamin K in fermented dairy products.
Blow one nostril at a time
Though it’s tempting to have a regular nasal clear-out if you are suffering from a cold, Dr Owen Hendley, an infectious diseases specialist at Virginia State University, says continually blowing your nose through both nostrils can push mucus back into your sinuses, triggering the possibility of a secondary infection.
“Either sniff (the mucus goes to the back of the throat and ultimately to the stomach) or, if you must blow, do it one nostril at a time,” he recommends.
Bin your digital alarm clock
Switching to an old-fashioned alarm clock could improve the quality of your sleep – and your overall health, says sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley. “In an ideal world, we would have sufficient sleep to allow us to wake naturally without an alarm clock, but if you do need to be woken, choose one with old-fashioned hands,” he says.
This is so you can’t check the time during the night – which just fuels anxiety, making it even more difficult to fall asleep.
Furthermore, the dim light from your digital alarm clock may alter levels of the hormone melatonin. This hormone triggers sleepiness, but unless your bedroom is completely dark you may not be releasing as much as you should.
For this reason, most people will sleep better if the bedroom is kept free of mobile phones and other electronic devices, says insomnia specialist Dr Guy Meadows“I always leave the smartphone in the kitchen at night.”
Swap Ibuprofen for paracetamol
“Many people – particularly men – believe that ibuprofen is more powerful than paracetamol, but there is no evidence to support this and paracetamol is much kinder to your body,” says Sultan Dajani of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.
He says ibuprofen can damage the stomach lining. “Paracetamol doesn’t damage the gut lining like ibuprofen does – and should always be the first line of attack.”
Count to seven
Mindfulness – a simple form of meditation that requires you to clear your head of clutter – has been shown to offer protection against stress and depression.
Brain scans show it can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Harvard neuroscientist Dr Sara Lazar has also found that mindfulness can boost the grey matter in the brain – specifically the areas involved in memory, learning and emotional regulation.
Few of us have time to take a course in mindfulness or practise it for the recommended 15 to 30 minutes daily. The 7-11 version takes less than 20 seconds a day: Breathe in for the count of seven and out for the count of 11.
Use the stairs
Trot up the escalator rather than riding it, get out of a lift one floor early and use the stairs. Each two-minute stair climb burns 21 calories, so you could be burning up to 500 in a typical week.
That’s the same sort of burn you’d get from a strenuous exercise class.
The small additional challenge to your leg muscles, lungs and heart could have a massive impact on your long-term health. One Harvard study found that men who climbed more than 70 flights of stairs a week had 18 percent lower risk of premature death than those who climbed fewer than 20 flights a week.
Eat leafy veg daily
Eating just one daily serving – about two tablespoons – of green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale or broccoli could be enough to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 14 percent, according to researchers at Leicester University. Increase that to one and a half servings per day and studies show you can double that reduction to 30 percent.
One theory is that green vegetables are a rich source of magnesium (along with some beans, peas, nuts and seeds), which appears to help regulate blood sugar.
Watch less TV
After the age of 25, every hour of TV you watch could potentially reduce your life by 22 minutes, say scientists at the US National Cancer Institute.
This is because long periods of inactivity cause muscles to weaken, as well as making the body less efficient at processing sugar and fats. This increases the risk of illness and even death. Just skipping an hour of TV a day for a year could, theoretically, extend your life by five days.
Drink up to four cups of coffee a day. Whether it’s instant, espresso or decaffeinated, experts believe the phytochemicals – or antioxidants – in cup of coffee offer some protection against diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
It also appears to improve cognitive function. The stimulating effect of caffeine can increase neuronal firing in the brain, improving reaction time, memory, mood and brain power.
Go to bed earlier
Over a month, the extra minutes could add up to seven and a half hours more sleep – a whole extra night – which gives more time for your body to repair and restore itself, says sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley.
“We spend a fortune on trying to feel better, but just 15 minutes more sleep a night could have a noticeable impact on your performance, mood and behaviour,” he says.
Instead of worrying about the never-ending battle of the bulge, just calculate 5 percent of your body weight, then aim to shift it – and keep it off.
Studies have shown this is enough to reduce most women’s risk of breast cancer by as much as 22 percent. The theory is that body fat increases levels of the hormone oestrogen, which fuels cancer.
“Women who have high levels of these hormones have at least twice the risk of getting breast cancer compared with women who have very low levels,” says Dr Anne McTiernan, director of the Prevention Centre at the US’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre.
Sneeze into your elbow
Coughs and colds are often transmitted via your hands after you politely sneeze into them. Break the chain of transmission by using your elbow instead, says Professor John Oxford, a virologist at Queen Mary Medical School in London.
Drink cocoa at bedtime
A recent study has shown that the antioxidants in cocoa can improve memory in older people by improving blood flow to certain parts of the brain.
Researchers at Columbia University Medical Centre found men and women aged 50 to 70 performed better – and faster – in memory tests after three months of drinking a brew rich in high doses of cocoa flavanols.
“If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months they had the memory of a typical 30- or 40-year-old,” says Professor Scott Small, a neurologist who led the research. Choose a brand that has the highest proportion of cocoa solids.