If your Lifestyle MOT test results revealed that you need to take more care of your overall wellness, read on for tips from Nuffield Health physiologist, Justin Jones, and independent PT, Jack Meeks, on how you can make healthier lifestyle choices in 2020.
This section of the Lifestyle MOT covered…
- How much water you drink every day
- If you have a healthy and balanced diet
- If you sleep for at least 7 hours every night
- If you consider your heart health in your lifestyle choice
- If you consider your overall health to be good
In a car, we know that the battery needs to be well charged for optimal performance and the same can be said for your body, with your lifestyle habits either replenishing or depleting your internal battery. If you spend too long depleting your battery and not enough time replenishing it, your health and wellbeing may suffer.
Justin Jones, Professional Head of Physiology at Nuffield Health explains: “To make sure you are looking after your overall wellbeing you need to make sure you focus on replenishing factors, such as good quality sleep, exercise, hydration and quality nutrition. Try to limit depleting factors such as alcohol, caffeine and leading a sedentary lifestyle.”
“Having a bad night’s sleep over a long period of time can have a dramatic effect on your health. But luckily, there are some simple changes you can make to improve your sleep, which will help contribute to overall wellbeing.”
- Follow a schedule all week
“Sleeping in” on weekends makes it harder to wake up early on Monday morning because it re-sets your sleep cycles for a later awakening. Try instead going to bed at a set time each night and setting your alarm for the same time each morning. This has the added bonus of giving you extra time to be productive at the weekend.
- Exercise daily
Try to exercise for 20 to 30 minutes every day. Daily exercise can help to use all of the energy you’ve stored from eating and so can help you sleep. This could be as simple as a brisk walk to the station or it could be 30 minutes of cardio at the gym. When you work out is equally important because exercise can also cause a spike in adrenaline, which keeps your body in an alert state. For maximum benefit, try to get your exercise about five to six hours before going to bed.
- Limit caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol
These are all stimulants which increase your blood pressure and heartrate, keeping you awake. Cutting out caffeine could in the long run remove the desire for that mid-afternoon pick-me-up cappuccino.
- Unwind before bed
Taking a warm bath, reading, or meditation before you go to bed can make it easier to fall sleep. Lavender is a naturally soothing scent which can be used to help lull you to sleep too. It’s possible to train yourself to associate certain restful activities and smells with sleep and make them part of your bedtime ritual.
- Control your room temperature
Extreme temperatures can disrupt sleep or prevent you from falling asleep in the first place, so try to maintain a comfortable temperature in the bedroom either by opening a window, using air conditioning or adapting the thermostat or heaters in your room.
- Sleep until sunlight
Sunlight helps the body’s internal biological clock to reset itself each day so if possible, wake up with the sun, or use very bright lights in the morning. There are even alarm clocks that mimic the effect of the sun rising to wake you up gently every day.
- Turn off all other lights
Light from under the door or electronic devices can be very disruptive to your sleep, particularly if the light is flashing. This is because your body is naturally programmed to wake up with light. So, if you have a light on your phone or any other device turn it off to give your body the best chance of uninterrupted sleep.
- Put down your phone
And your laptop. These devices emit blue light, which can be disruptive to sleep. Put them down at least an hour before bed and maybe pick up a book instead.
Jack Meeks, a personal trainer with over 10 years’ experience in the fitness industry, has helped countless people make the right choices when it comes to their overall fitness and wellbeing, including their heart health. He also shares his top tips for staying on top of your health and wellbeing.
- Add more fibre into your diet
A high-fibre diet is associated with a lower risk of stroke, heart disease, and bowel cancer. Eating plenty of fibre also helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer and normalises bowel movements. To add more fibre into your diet, add oats, fruit, unsalted nuts and vegetables to your shopping list!
- Be creative with your cooking to make it easier to get your ‘five a day’
Getting your ‘five a day’ can be made a lot easier if you aim to have vegetables with every meal. If you are looking for easier ways to get more vegetables into your diet, try blending leeks, carrots, peppers, courgettes and tomatoes together to make a delicious pasta sauce. When it comes to snack time, step away from the sugary treats and opt for fruit instead. An apple could provide you with the sweetness that you are craving.
- Step away from the salt
A lower sodium diet can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. A lot of the food that we buy from the supermarkets contains salt, so before you reach for it at the dinner table, taste your food first!
- Remember how important it is to drink plenty of water!
We’ve all heard that we need to drink more water. Water is vital for health and can help as part of any weight loss plan.
Water ensures your brain and body are functioning optimally. Dehydration slows down every cellular process in the body, and not consuming enough can impair your strength, power and performance output.
More specific to weight loss, not getting enough water means your liver will metabolise less fat as it has to step in and assume some of the functions of your kidneys when dehydration sets in. Water can also help to fill you up more and reduce hunger when losing weight.
A good daily water intake target to aim for is around 1 litre per 20kg of bodyweight. A useful tip anyone can use is drinking a glass or two of water 10 minutes before you eat a meal – it really helps with dietary adherence and curtails overeating.
- Know your numbers (blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol)
Your heart health numbers could literally save your life, so make sure you know them! Healthy numbers mean a healthy heart, but that isn’t to say that bad numbers can’t be turned around. Exercising regularly, eating healthily and quitting smoking will all help to do so. Visit your GP for a check-up and ask for your numbers. Then, if they are high, you can work together on a plan to get them down to the right levels.
- Look after your mental health
From meditation to a change of scene, there are many ways to look after your mental health. What might suit one person may not necessarily suit another, so it is important to play around to find out what works for you. Hiking, listening to music, writing down your thoughts and feelings or talking to a loved one can all be valuable.
Keeping a gratitude diary is extremely helpful – writing down your 3 daily wins at the end of the day helps you to stay positive. It could be something as simple as, ‘today I helped an old lady with her bags’, or ‘I walked to work instead of taking the car’. I also find writing down 3 things I am looking forward to at the start of the day is beneficial. For example, ‘I can’t wait to train with my friend later’, or ‘I am looking forward to having dinner with my family’.
- Try something new
It’s never too late to start exercising or try a new sport. When you have a passion for something you are more likely to stick to it, so don’t be afraid to have a go at different sports until you find the one you love. Sign up to that fitness class or join that judo club – you certainly won’t regret it. Getting out of your comfort zone and doing something new could lead to so many more opportunities, such as meeting new friends or winning new business through someone you met at that first spin class.
- Make time for rest and recovery
Rest is crucial, so aim for at least 7 hours of sleep each night. To unwind before bed, change into comfortable clothing and avoid playing on your phone 1 hour before you plan to sleep. If you’ve been training extra hard, or work has been particularly manic, it’s okay to have that well-deserved day off. When you are invited out with friends, remember that you’re allowed to say no. ‘Me’ time is just as important as spending time with others.