HEALTH Ten sim­ple ways to im­prove your well­be­ing

WANT TO MAKE A REAL DIF­FER­ENCE TO YOUR WELL­BE­ING THIS YEAR? THESE SIM­PLE AD­JUST­MENTS WILL HELP KEEP YOU ON TRACK EV­ERY DAY

Food - - Contents -

1 DO PELVIC FLOOR EX­ER­CISES

These are one of the eas­i­est forms of ex­er­cise and one of the most im­por­tant, es­pe­cially if you’re a mum. In­con­ti­nence af­fects an es­ti­mated 1.1 mil­lion New Zealan­ders, but 80 per cent of women with uri­nary stress in­con­ti­nence (the most com­mon type af­fect­ing women) can be cured with pelvic floor mus­cle train­ing.

“All women who have had a baby should be do­ing pelvic floor ex­er­cises ev­ery day for the rest of their lives,” says pelvic floor phys­io­ther­a­pist Liz Childs from Con­ti­nence NZ. “You should be able to build up to 10 x 10-se­cond holds. Ini­tially, if the mus­cles are weak, aim for short sets sev­eral times a day.”

2 COLOUR IN

Colour­ing books are child’s play, right? Not at the mo­ment. Adult colour­ing books are still fly­ing off the press as grown-ups get their pen­cils out to com­bat stress and aid re­lax­ation. Psy­chol­o­gists say colour­ing is a mind­ful ac­tiv­ity which helps us to fo­cus our at­ten­tion in much the same way as med­i­ta­tion. “This cre­ative ac­tiv­ity al­lows us to fo­cus on the present mo­ment in a sys­tem­atic way, which can be quite med­i­ta­tive and re­lax­ing,” says health psy­chol­o­gist Iris Fon­tanilla, from the New Zealand Psy­cho­log­i­cal So­ci­ety.

3 Vol­un­teer

Help­ing oth­ers will help you, too. “Vol­un­teer­ing can help you feel so­cially con­nected to oth­ers by form­ing new friend­ships and net­works,” says Iris. “It can im­prove your so­cial and re­la­tion­ships skills, and the act of be­ing of ser­vice and help­ing oth­ers can im­prove your self-es­teem, self-con­fi­dence and life sat­is­fac­tion. Vol­un­teer­ing can also give you a sense of pur­pose and can take your mind off your wor­ries.” If you’re short on time, then ‘mi­cro-vol­un­teer­ing’ al­lows you to give back in small chunks, often from the con­ve­nience of home with phone and in­ter­net-based tasks.

4 MEA­SURE WHAT YOU DRINK

Many of us tally our drinks by count­ing the glasses emp­tied, but glass sizes vary dra­mat­i­cally so it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to mon­i­tor this way. ‘Stan­dard drink’ glasses fea­tur­ing a sub­tle stan­dard­drink line can help you keep track. “Over time our por­tions have crept up with­out us re­al­is­ing it,” says di­eti­tian Sarah Han­ra­han from the New Zealand Nutri­tion Foun­da­tion. “When you look at one stan­dard serve of al­co­hol, it re­ally isn’t that much. Hav­ing that line there is a re­minder it’s very easy to slosh in half-aglass-full that’s equal to two stan­dard serves of al­co­hol.”

5 Eat more plants

The ev­i­dence is stack­ing up in favour of a plant-based diet, one that em­pha­sises fruits, veg­eta­bles, grains, beans, legumes and nuts. Why? Be­cause a plant-based diet is lower in calo­ries and fat and is as­so­ci­ated with a re­duced risk of heart dis­ease. How­ever, that doesn’t mean you need to give up meat al­to­gether, says di­eti­tian Sarah Han­ra­han.“it doesn’t mean a to­tally ve­gan or veg­e­tar­ian diet at all; rather, it means there’s an em­pha­sis on the plants. Look at the amount of meat you’re hav­ing and re­mem­ber you don’t need it ev­ery sin­gle night.”

6 Ex­er­cise in short bursts

Ex­perts rec­om­mend a min­i­mum of 150 min­utes of mod­er­atein­ten­sity ex­er­cise a week for bet­ter health. Brisk walk­ing, cy­cling, gar­den­ing or even house­hold chores count to­wards your to­tal. Even small in­cre­ments of 10 min­utes are ben­e­fi­cial. “There’s some ev­i­dence fre­quent short pe­ri­ods are bet­ter than a few long pe­ri­ods, as long as the to­tal time meets the guide­line,” says Dr James Stin­ear from the Uni­ver­sity of Auck­land’s Depart­ment of Sport and Ex­er­cise Sci­ence.

7 STAND MORE, SIT LESS

We all need to just sit qui­etly and re­lax from time to time, but it seems you can overdo it. Ac­cord­ing to a grow­ing body of ex­perts, sit­ting is the new smok­ing. Spend­ing too much time sit­ting – at work, in your car, or at home on the sofa – in­creases your risk of di­a­betes, cer­tain can­cers and heart dis­ease, and is also linked to an early death. “Any­thing you can do to in­ter­sperse your seden­tary daily life with short bouts of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity will have a huge im­pact on your health and well­be­ing,” says Dr James.

8 TURN OFF YOUR PHONE BE­FORE BED

Do you keep your phone by your bed? The blue light emit­ted from your smart­phone can af­fect your sleep qual­ity. “Light is some­thing that af­fects our sleep hor­mones,” says An­gela Camp­bell from the Aus­tralasian Sleep As­so­ci­a­tion. “It can sup­press one of the key hor­mones that helps us go to sleep: mela­tonin. If you’re us­ing your de­vice in the evening, the light from your screen may mean it’s harder to get off to sleep.”

9 Add a salad

Life is busy and it’s not al­ways easy to eat enough fruit and vege. In fact, only one in three Kiwi women eat the rec­om­mended three serves of veg­eta­bles and two of fruit ev­ery day. Adding a side salad to what­ever you’re eat­ing for lunch and din­ner is an easy way to up your in­take. “You’re re­duc­ing your calo­ries, you’re get­ting all the good things that come with the veg­eta­bles and it helps with sati­ety,” says Sarah.

10 Wear a mois­turiser with sun­screen

Skin cancer is the most com­mon cancer in New Zealand and the num­ber of peo­ple af­fected is among the high­est in the world. Re­search shows sun­screen dra­mat­i­cally re­duces the risk of skin cancer and us­ing it daily can re­duce skin age­ing by 24 per cent. Wear­ing a mois­turiser with sun­screen is an easy and prac­ti­cal way of pro­tect­ing your most sen­si­tive area – your face. “For sun pro­tec­tion, we rec­om­mend you choose UVA/UVB broad spec­trum prod­ucts with SPF30+ or higher,” says Shayne Nahu from the Cancer So­ci­ety of New Zealand.

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