21 Shortcuts to Health
From micro-workouts to power poses, self-improvement can come with minimal effort – these insider tips and tricks reveal how
From micro-workouts to power poses, self-improvement on the road can come with minimal effort
The noughties was the decade we discovered less can be more when it comes to exercise. According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal, the key to getting results from a super-short workout is you need to be in pain (but not actually hurting yourself). Using just your body weight, you perform a series of 12 high-intensity exercises such as push-ups, lunges and tricep dips as hard and fast as you can – with correct form and no more than ten seconds rest between. There are numerous dedicated apps – search your app store for “seven-minute workout.”
2 FOCUS INTERVAL TRAINING
A wealth of studies show short, intense gym sessions can be more effective at increasing fitness levels and shifting body fat than longer, more moderate training. Now there’s a gym-free version – Focus T25 is a 25-minute, five day-a-week program delivered via 11 DVDs from the makers of the cult workout Insanity. It’s a mixture of compound strengthtraining moves with high-intensity cardio designed to shift fat and sculpt muscles. The only equipment you need is a pair of trainers (and sometimes a resistance band and mat). And it’s possible to do it in a moderate-sized hotel room. $119.70 beachbody.com.
3 30-DAY FITNESS CHALLENGE
“It’s a realistic goal and as effective as anything you can do on a machine. It doesn’t require any equipment so you carry it on when you travel,” says personal trainer Peter Lemon, founder of the Academy of Fitness Professionals. “For best results, be consistent – you have the best chance of sticking to a fitness routine if you do it at the same time every day. Early morning works for a lot of people. Motivate yourself by marking an X on a calendar every time you work out.”
4 TRAIN THE DNA WAY
We’re all genetically wired to respond to different types of exercise – do the wrong kind and you won’t see results no matter how long you spend in the gym. That’s the theory behind DNA Fit, which tests for dozens of gene variants scientifically linked to your body’s capacity to respond to training and nutrition. Swab the side of your cheek, send it off, and in about two weeks you’ll get an assessment of what type of exercise you’re genetically built for, whether that’s endurance, speed or stamina-based activities. From $159,
5 RUN LIGHT
If you lack the motivation or are wary of running in a strange city, invest in some wearable tech so you feel less alone. The super-light Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless earbuds combine rich Dolby sound with an in-ear biometric heart rate monitor (no need for a chest strap) and a voice coach that updates your speed and distance. It comes with an easy-to-use app, Sport Life, which provides maps of your runs and details of distance and speed. $199.99, jabra.com.
6 IMPROVE YOUR POSTURE
Walk with your head up and a spring in your step and, before long, your mood will lift, says a new study from Canadian researchers. They also found the opposite was true – walk with slumped shoulders, looking down, and your mood will dip. Research in the Health Psychology journal reveals slouching increases feelings of stress. Attach the Lumo Lift, a discreet sensor, to your shirt just below the collarbone and it will vibrate when your shoulders and chest start to slump. It also keeps tabs of your daily activity levels. $79.99 from Apple Stores and Amazon.
7 GET THERAPY WHILE JOGGING
London-based psychotherapist William Pullen provides dynamic running therapy (DRT) sessions while jogging around the capital city’s parks. The idea is less about getting fit than about talking through your problems with a therapist without being stuck in a more confrontational, face-to-face office environment.You can go at your own pace and take a break for a chat on a bench. It’s recommended for depression, trauma, addiction, anxiety and sadness, and teaches people to discover the power to change and overcome from within themselves. £150 ($230) per hour, dynamicrunningtherapy.co.uk
8 MEDITATE ON THE MOVE
Meditation app Buddhify 2 is ideal for plane journeys as it can use the names of your departure and destination cities to anchor you in the present. Created by Glasgow-based entrepreneur Rohan Gunatillake, there are 80 guided meditations from five to 30 minutes to choose from, with no upgrade costs. For Apple and Android users – $2.99 from Google Play; $4.99 from iTunes.
9 PERFORM A POWER POSE
Everyone knows how important body language is to interacting with others, but according to social psychologist Amy Cuddy, performing a “power pose” in private before a job interview or important presentation can physically boost your confidence. (Watch her talk on ted. com.) Standing tall with your hands on your hips for a couple of minutes will temporarily increase your testosterone levels and lower your cortisol levels, which are connected to stress.
10 BE KIND TO YOUR INSIDE
Friendly bacteria does more than keep your insides happy and boost your immunity. The latest research shows it may also play a role in staving off anxiety and depression. Keep the balance right when you travel by packing Ohso Belgian chocolate bars, fortified with more than a billion live lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. In tests, they delivered more live bacteria to the intestinal system than yogurts or probiotic drinks. As a bonus, the 70 percent cocoa content provides immunity-boosting antioxidants. $7.98 for a pack of seven from vitaminlife.com.
11 BOOST YOUR BRAIN
Green tea is more than just green liquid. Beat jet lag-induced mind fog by adding green tea extract to your favorite smoothies or hot drinks. According to a recent study, brain scans show that consuming the extract increases connections in the frontal and parietal regions of the brain, improving working memory. Try Bloom’s Supercharge powder, made from matcha, a type of green tea renowned for its high antioxidant content. It also contains guarana and maca root for caffeine-free energy. £17 ($26) from Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and bloomtea.co.uk
12 PROTECT YOUR SKIN
Take the guesswork out of sun protection with June from Netatmo. Designed by Camille Toupet, who has previously collaborated with Louis Vuitton, this feminine bracelet sends information to an iPhone app and tells you when to reapply sunscreen or seek shade, based on your location and skin type. $129, netatmo.com
13 CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS
Get a fast diagnosis at home or abroad from Isabel, an online symptom checker originally developed for healthcare professionals and now adapted for patient use. Simply type a brief description of your symptoms into a text box to get instant, evidence-based insight into what is wrong with you. In tests, it diagnosed conditions with 95 percent accuracy. Free for Apple and Android users and at symptomchecker.isabelhealthcare.com.
14 BRUSH FOR LONGER
Keeping gum disease at bay may reduce your risk of heart disease as dental plaque is linked to atherosclerosis. If you never brush for the recommended two minutes, download Brush DJ, an NHS-approved app developed by dentist Ben Underwood, and shortlisted for the AXA PPP Health Tech and You Awards 2015. It plays two minutes of music, selected at random or from your playlist, and reminds you to floss, rinse and see your hygienist. Free for Apple and Android users, brushdj.com.
15 SKIP BREAKFAST
If you want to lose weight, it’s largely a myth that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, says scientist David R Hack, author of The Back to Basics Diet ($16.99, amazon.com). “Eating first thing in the morning, especially carbohydrate-rich breakfast cereal, floods the bloodstream with insulin, which switches the body into fat-storage mode for several hours.” Instead, try to wait until lunchtime so that your body has to rely on fat stores and glycogen (energy stored in the liver) for fuel.
16 STAY COOL
Stripping off a layer so you feel slightly chilly (but not freezing) activates your stores of a metabolically-active type of fat called brown fat, burning off calories to raise your core body temperature, says sports nutritionist Peta Bee, author of The Ice Diet (from $8.75, amazon.com). If you can bear it, turn the temperature down in the shower as well. “Exposure to cold water is known to activate the sympathetic nervous system and to increase blood supplies of endorphins [feel-good hormones] to the brain,” Bee says. “Try a five-minute warm shower followed by two to three minutes of cool water.”
17 PHOTOGRAPH YOUR FOOD
Convinced you’re a healthy eater but can’t lose weight? Send pics of a typical week’s eating to your personal coach via the Hapi Coach app for an expert analysis of your food choices and portion sizes. Your coach will help you to set goals and advise on better options. The app works with a tracker to gauge your usual activity levels and work out your daily calorie needs. For Android and Apple users, £99.95 ($152) with tracker and 12-month subscription; hapi.com/hapicoach
18 GET TO BED EARLIER
According to a recent US study, going to bed late and skimping on sleep increases negative thinking, even among people who consider themselves night owls. Researchers found the later people went to bed, the more they ruminated and worried, increasing the risk of anxiety and depression.
19 SEE AN ONLINE SLEEP SHRINK
Sleepio is a personalized online course based on CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), which improved sleep in 75 percent of insomniacs in clinical trials. Codeveloped by sleep expert Professor Colin Espie, it’s based on the theory that many sleep problems, such as difficulty dropping off or night-time waking, can be caused by unhelpful beliefs about our ability to sleep. From $79.92 for a 12 week package, or pay as you go $9.99 a week, sleepio.com.
20 FAST WHEN YOU FLY
Skipping an evening meal can help you to stay awake and adjust to the time at your destination. Scientists from Harvard University think we may have a second “feeding clock” that can override our body clock, keeping us awake to look for food when we haven’t eaten for some time.
21 TRY LIGHT THERAPY
Developed by researchers at Flinders University in Adelaide, Re-Timer may look like a pair of diving goggles but the frame emits green LED light to help regulate your sleep patterns, improve the quality of your sleep and reduce tiredness. You wear them for 30 minutes first thing in the morning when you wake up. In studies, users found they were able to fall asleep earlier and sleep for longer. $299, re-timer.com. BT
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