Is there never enough time to improve your health? Now there is – these health boosters take just a matter of minutes
Do some eye yoga
Relax and refresh tired eyes with this simple routine. Keep your head still throughout the moves and close your eyes for five seconds after each one:
✤ Sit quietly and focus on your breathing for five calming breaths.
✤ Look up and down five times.
✤ Look to the right and left five times.
✤ Look to the upper right and lower left five times.
✤ Look to the upper left and lower right five times.
It’s a great way to get moving. Studies link excessive sitting to an increased risk of diseases, such as obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
It may even give you a ‘younger’ brain, according to recent research in Canada, which found that for every flight climbed daily, brain age was reduced by six months.
Learn a phrase in a foreign language
Even if it’s just ‘thank you’ in Japanese, activating the part of your brain used when learning a second language is one of the best ways to increase your brain’s neuroplasticity – its ability to form new neural connections throughout life, and so helping to slow the signs of ageing.
Spice up breakfast
Sprinkle a teaspoon of cinnamon on to your cerealor coffee. Nutritionist Shona Wilkinson (nutricentre.com) says, ‘Not only does it improve digestion but helps to balance blood-sugar levels, as it contains an agent that assists in breaking up intestinal gas.’
This increases your blood circulation, which feeds extra oxygen to your brain and body, boosting energy levels and alertness.
Most of us spend too much time sitting, so next time you do something such as making a phone call or sending a text, simply stand up to do it.
Listen to birdsong, sow some seeds or smell some flowers. Connecting with nature is consistently shown to be good for our mental health.
Latest research by the University of Derby shows that people who did something ‘wild’ every day for a month reported improvements in their physical,as well as mental, wellbeing.
Pick your teeth
Brushing only cleans 60% of your tooth’s surface so floss to clean the sides of your teeth and remove lodged pieces of food, which can cause dental decay. Try Dentek Floss Picks (£3, Waitrose).
Plan your meals for the week
Forward plan and you’ll eat healthier and avoid food waste, saving you money. Add healthy snacks, such as oat cakes, unsalted nuts, dried fruit and seeds to your list to stop you diving into the biscuit tin when you’re feeling peckish.
Treat your feet
Skin here often gets dry or cracked, so rub in cream to help alleviate this while enjoying the benefits of a mini foot massage.
It improves circulation, bringing oxygen and nutrients to muscles, joints and bone, and therefore reducing stiffness and soreness. Try Outdoor Hands Skin Therapy Cream (£6.95 for 100ml, Amazon.co.uk), which is also great for feet and free from parabens, the preservatives often used in cosmetics.
Fresh air is a great mood booster and sunshine is important for your daily dose of vitamin D – vital for healthy bones and teeth.
Levels decline with age, and current advice is to get 10-15 minutes a day of sun on unprotected skin. So get out for two or three five-minute bursts to pull a few weeds, hang the washing out or sweep the patio.
Clean your teeth with your other hand
Switch your knife and fork. Or walk backwards around your home if you can do so safely.
Changing the way you do a regular activity provides great brain stimulus. Retro-walking (as they call reverse walking in China, where they do a lot of it!) has the added benefit of improving posture and lessening the impact on knees.
Make a mint tea
It’s great for your digestion. Grow spearmint or peppermint in your garden, or in a pot, and simply add a few leaves to freshly boiled water.
Or buy some mint teabags. Nutritionist Cassandra Barns says, ‘Mint tea will slow the movement of your stomach muscles and prevent spasms.’
Grab a handful of almonds
They’re the perfect on-the-go snack, with protein and fibre to help keep you feeling fuller for longer. They’re also one of the best sources of immune-boosting vitamin E, crucial for healthy skin and eyes.
Avoid the blanched variety as most of the nutrients are in the brown skin.
Seek out a supplement
A daily multivitamin may be a good idea if you are not getting all your nutritional requirements from food alone.
If you’re feeling a bit lethargic, try Pharmaton Vitality Capsules (£9.45 for 30 tablets, Boots), which has B vitamins, minerals and ginseng G115.
Taking one tablet a day, it will gradually build energy over the first few weeks of use, and then sustain it by taking one a week.
Stub it out and never light another
It only takes a second but if you’re a smoker who sticks to quitting, it’s the single most important thing you can do for your health. Smokers die 10 years earlier than non-smokers, according to a recent study of one million UK women.
Quitting benefits your heart, breathing and mood, and reduces risk of stroke, diabetes, cancer and circulation problems. Visit nhs.uk/smokefree for free NHS support.
Munch on a raw carrot
They’re nature’s own superfood, packed with fibre for good digestion and vitamins A (immunity and eyesight) and K (healthy blood). They also have heart-friendly potassium, anti-ageing and disease-fighting antioxidants and are just 25 calories – what’s not to like?
Pay someone a compliment
Giving, as well as receiving, praise boosts feel-good chemicals in our brains, lifting the mood of giver and receiver. It will also help build trust in a relationship, leading to the wellbeing chemical oxytocin being released into your bloodstream.
Tie string around your waist
‘Yes, really,’ says physiotherapist Sammy Margo (sammymargo physiotherapy.com).
‘It’s a quick, easy way to help improve your abdominal tone in five minutes.’ Strengthening your core will improve your posture and help prevent back and neck pain. Take a piece of string. While standing up, draw your abdominal muscles in all the way. Release by 50% and tie that piece of string at this 50% contraction.
Sammy says, ‘The pressure of the string will act as a reminder to tense the muscles. Try bringing this into your day, when you’re walking, sitting, standing, working and at home.’