25 Manageable Resolutions to Help Transform Your Health
Making major lifestyle changes your New Year’s resolutions is all well and good – if you manage to stick to them. Studies show four in ten of us ditch our promises we make to ourselves within two weeks!
Maybe it’s better to think small, as tiny modifications are easier to achieve. And if a healthy action becomes habit (which takes about 21 days to create a habit), it could last a lifetime.
Here are 25 easy resolutions (recommended by the Daily Mail) that could keep you fighting fit for years to come…
1 ) Put your toothbrush in the dishwasher
Toothbrushes can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Scientists at Manchester University found that the average toothbrush contains ten 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 dishwasher (top rack) every week.
2) Stop using armrests to get out of a chair
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.’
3)Eat a pot of yogurt every day
Studies suggest that dairy products could help protect against diabetes. A Cambridge University study last year showed that one small (125g) pot of low-fat probiotic yogurt five times a week was enough to cut diabetes risk by 28 per cent. The researchers believe beneficial bacteria and a special form of vitamin K in fermented dairy products may help to explain the results.
4) 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.
5)Open car windows
Reduce your risk of catching a cold or flu by opening a window when you are in a room or car with people who you suspect might be ill.
Research at Queensland University of Technology in Australia found that spending 90 minutes in a modern car (which tend to be well sealed) with someone who has flu gives you a 99.9 per cent chance of catching the virus. But your risk falls to 20 per cent if you open the windows.
Professor Lidia Morawska, an expert in air quality who led the study, said: ‘Infection rates are likely to be similarly reduced in buildings, too.’
Reduce your risk of catching a cold or flu by opening a window when you are in a room or car with people who you suspect might be ill
6) Turn the heating down by a degree
Being slightly chilly has been shown to increase levels of ‘healthy’ brown fat, a form of body fat that burns up calories and fat reserves, and helps keeps blood sugar levels stable.
A study published in June in the journal Diabetes showed that reducing room temperature to 66f as participants slept doubled their volume of brown fat and improved their insulin sensitivity compared with sleeping at 75f.
7) 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 Dr Guy Meadows, insomnia specialist at The Sleep School, London. ‘I always leave the smartphone in the kitchen at night.’
8) Swap ibuprofen for acetaminophen
‘Many people – particularly men – believe that ibuprofen is more powerful than acetaminophen, but there is no evidence to support this and acetaminophen is much kinder to your body,’ says Sultan Dajani of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.
He says that ibuprofen can damage the stomach lining. ‘Acetaminophen doesn’t damage the gut lining like ibuprofen does – and should always be the first line of attack.’
Ibuprofen can damage the stomach lining but acetaminophen doesn’t damage it
9) Count to seven while breathing in
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 practice 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.
10) Use the upstairs restroom
Trot up the escalator rather than riding it, get out of a lift one floor early or make a point of using the upstairs restroom. 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 per cent lower risk of premature death than those who climbed fewer than 20 flights a week.
11) Do the email tummy crunch
Let the ping of every received email or text be the trigger to tighten your tummy muscles and raise both feet off the floor for a few seconds.
This simple activity works the lower stomach muscles, vital for protecting the back from damage and easing back strain.
12) Eat a portion of leafy veg a day
Eating just one daily serving (around 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 per cent, 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 per cent. 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.
13) Watch an hour less TV each day
After the age of 25, every hour of TV you watch could potentially reduce your life by 22 minutes, say scientists at the U.S. 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.
14) Get regular kicks with a coffee
Drink up to four cups of coffee a day. Whether it’s instant, espresso or decaffeinated, experts believe the phytochemicals – or antioxidants – in 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.
15) Go to bed 15 minutes 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 behavior,’ he says.
16) Give up one-mile car journeys
Get a local map and draw a one-mile circle around your home, then put in place a family one-mile rule: If any destination is less than a mile away – walk it.
A mile walk burns 100 calories each way, and regular walking has been shown to prevent dementia, depression and heart problems.
Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California found that brisk walking reduces the risk of heart disease more effectively than running. Though walking isn’t as intense as running, the study authors say both target the same muscle groups, and walkers are usually able to keep going for longer.
17) Lose 5 per cent of your weight
Instead of worrying about the never-ending battle of the bulge, just calculate 5 per cent 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 per cent. The theory is that body fat increases levels of the hormone estrogen, 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 Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in the U.S.
18) But a ‘wobble cushion’
Putting a wobble cushion (an air-filled cushion that gives you the sense that you are sitting on an unstable surface) on your office chair will work your abdominal muscles, correcting postural problems and easing lower back pain.
The tiny movements your body has to perform to keep you stable is a good workout for your core muscles. The constant movement also burns an extra six calories per hour without you even noticing.
Darren Chandler recommends the Human Tool, which is like a bicycle saddle on a rubber ball (£119, back inaction.co.uk/humantool). ‘Start with five minutes a day and build up to one or two hours,’ he says.
19) Use the 5:2 rule for alcohol
The past few years have seen the rise of the 5:2 diet, where you restrict calories on just two days of the week. Now experts suggest the 5:2 rule could work for alcohol, too – with two booze-free days a week.
Studies show women drinking more than two units of alcohol per day have one-and-a-half times the risk of breast cancer compared with women who drink fewer than two units per week (alcohol may boost estrogen, which is known to stimulate the growth of breast cancers).
Cutting back on alcohol may therefore reduce risk.
But instead of banning alcohol for, say, an entire month, set small targets to establish two days a week when you never drink.
Guide to what a unit of alcohol is in drinks with daily…
20) 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.
21) Stand up on your commute
Standing for short periods throughout the day raises heart rate, reduces your risk of heart disease and diabetes, and burns calories. A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2012 showed that sitting down for more than three hours a day can cut two years off your life expectancy.
But stand for one extra hour every day – while commuting, if you happen to take public transportation – and you’ll burn an extra 300 calories a week. Do that all year and that’s 16,000 extra calories.
22) Add up your shopping bills
Each time you go shopping, keep a mental tally of your expenditure as you put items in your shopping basket.
This small but regular mental challenge activates the ‘working memory’ part of your brain, which is crucial for focus, concentration and planning.
Studies show working memory decreases 5 to 10 per cent each decade after 25. A Swedish trial at the Karolinska Institute in 2007 showed that training can improve working memory and attention span.
23) Start coughing at your desk
When sitting at your desk or in front of the TV, push two fingers gently next to your navel and then cough. ‘This will activate your abdominal muscles and help protect your back from injury,’ says orthopedic therapy consultant Darren Chandler.
Keep the muscles tense for a minute while you carry on working. Exercising your abdominal muscles at intervals throughout the day builds a stronger back.
‘It’s great for those people who miss their Pilates class,’ says Mr Chandler.
24) Drink cocoa at bedtime
Antioxidants in cocoa can improve memory by improving blood flow. 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 which has the highest proportion of cocoa solids.
25) Eat the same breakfast every day
One way to preserve mental energy is by not agonizing over needless decisions. The road to health is paved with good intentions. So why are we so easily diverted from the path of goodness by sugary snacks and lazy days on the sofa? The stark truth is that lack of willpower is often to blame. But new research shows why we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about our backsliding. Willpower is a limited resource, the research reveals – there is only so much you have at any time.
‘If we exert self-control and make a lot of willpower-related decisions, our self-control is lower and our capacity for making decisions drops,’ explains Professor Roy Baumeister, the author of the bestselling book, Willpower, and a world expert on the subject. ‘As you make decisions, you gradually deplete the energy you have available and your subsequent decisions are weaker.’ So eat the same breakfast everyday, and even add the same lunch and you will reserve your will to make decisions and stay strong!