Ev­ery­day habits that boost your health

Lesotho Times - - Health -

WHEN it comes to your health, you al­ready know how im­por­tant it is to eat well and stay ac­tive. But other hob­bies and life­style changes — that have noth­ing to do with diet or ex­er­cise — can also of­fer a big pay­off for your well­be­ing. Try in­cor­po­rat­ing a few of these ac­tiv­i­ties into your rou­tine to ben­e­fit from re­duced stress lev­els, lesser risk of cer­tain dis­eases, lower blood pres­sure, and much more.

Knitting and cro­chet­ing It might be time to pick up that half-fin­ished crochet project again. Repet­i­tive ac­tiv­i­ties that put your hands to work can help re­lieve stress by get­ting you out of your head. Plus, a 2013 sur­vey of 3,500 knit­ters un­cov­ered a link be­tween knitting and cog­ni­tive func­tion: the more peo­ple knit­ted, the bet­ter brain func­tion they had.

Vol­un­teer­ing That warm, fuzzy feel­ing you get af­ter vol­un­teer­ing at the lo­cal soup kitchen or do­nat­ing to a good cause has tan­gi­ble health perks. Giv­ing back to oth­ers has been linked to lower blood pres­sure, re­duced stress, and even a longer life­span. In a re­cent study pub­lished in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Pub­lic Health, re­searchers dis­cov­ered that peo­ple who dis­played acts of gen­eros­ity seemed to be pro­tected against stress. Those who didn’t give back as fre­quently dur­ing the study had a 30 per­cent higher risk of dy­ing af­ter a stress­ful life event.

Gen­eros­ity also boosts your mood in the short term: A 2007 study found that do­nat­ing money ac­ti­vates the same plea­sure-re­lated cen­tres in the brain as spend­ing it does.

Play­ing with your pet Good news for those with furry friends: Car­ing for a pet has been shown to de­crease blood pres­sure, choles­terol lev­els, triglyc­eride lev­els, and re­duce feel­ings of lone­li­ness, ac­cord­ing to the CDC.

And dog own­ers might ex­pe­ri­ence ad­di­tional ben­e­fits, since walk­ing your pup is a good form of ex­er­cise and can pre­vent weight gain. Ac­cord­ing to a 2011 US Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health-funded study of 2 000 adults, peo­ple who reg­u­larly walked their dogs were more phys­i­cally ac­tive and less likely to be obese than those who did not.

Cook­ing It should come as no sur­prise that a home­cooked meal is health­ier than one you’d get at a restau­rant, where dishes are of­ten pre­pared with lots of salt, but­ter, and oil. Ac­cord­ing to a 2014 study, peo­ple who reg­u­larly eat at home con­sume about 130 fewer calo­ries daily than those who do not. And teach­ing chil­dren how to cook healthy meals with fresh in­gre­di­ents has been shown to help curb obe­sity.

Gar­den­ing Grow­ing your own fruits, veg­gies, and herbs does more than pro­vide fresh bounty for the din­ner ta­ble. Stud­ies have shown that gar­den­ing is bet­ter than other leisure ac­tiv­i­ties for fight­ing stress. It might im­prove de- pres­sion symp­toms, too, since the sights and smells of a gar­den pro­mote re­lax­ation.

Re­search also sug­gests that gar­den­ing can lower your risk of de­vel­op­ing de­men­tia. In two dif­fer­ent stud­ies, peo­ple in their 60s and 70s who reg­u­larly gar­dened had a 36 per­cent and 47 per­cent lower risk of de­vel­op­ing de­men­tia than non-gar­den­ers did.

You shouldn’t dis­count the phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity gar­den­ing en­tails, ei­ther: Ac­cord­ing to a 2013 study in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Health Pro­mo­tion, short stretches of mod­er­ate “life­style” ac­tiv­i­ties such as gar­den­ing can be just as ben­e­fi­cial as a trip to the gym.

Med­i­ta­tion There’s a rea­son why med­i­ta­tion has been around for thou­sands of years. The an­cient prac­tice has been linked to a slew of health ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing im­proved di­ges­tion, low­ered blood pres­sure, re­duced stress-in­duced in­flam­ma­tion, and the re­lease of mood-boost­ing chem­i­cals like sero­tonin and dopamine.

Med­i­ta­tion can also help ease pain. In a re­cent study pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Neu­ro­science, re­searchers con­cluded that med­i­ta­tion could al­le­vi­ate pain in­ten­sity by 27 per­cent and emo­tional pain by 44 per­cent. Shock­ingly, that’s more than the opi­oid mor­phine, which re­duces phys­i­cal pain by 22 per­cent.

Colour­ing As with knitting, crafty projects such as colour­ing, draw­ing, or painting can have pow­er­ful men­tal health ben­e­fits. Stud­ies have shown that art ther­apy can help you re­lax and ease stress and anx­i­ety. One study pub­lished in West­ern Jour­nal of Medicine con­cluded that art ther­apy might help treat de­pres­sion in trou­bled ado­les­cents, who can use it as a way to ex­press their feel­ings. An­other study found that cre­ative projects like art ther­apy, mu­sic, and ex­pres­sive writ­ing could have heal­ing ben­e­fits.

Trav­el­ling Let this be the push you needed to book that trip abroad: Tak­ing time off from work (yes, that means not check­ing your email) can re­duce your risk of heart at­tack and de­pres­sion. Ac­cord­ing to a 2010 study in the jour­nal Psy­cho­so­matic Medicine, en­gag­ing in leisure ac­tiv­i­ties such as time off and travel can lower blood pres­sure and stress hormones.

Plan­ning to visit one of the great won­ders of the world? Even bet­ter. Re­cent re­search sug­gests that peo­ple who reg­u­larly ex­pe­ri­ence feel­ings of awe might have re­duced risk of get­ting heart dis­ease or cancer. — Health. com

Gar­den­ing is bet­ter than other leisure ac­tiv­i­ties for fight­ing stress and low­er­ing your risk of de­men­tia.

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