Improve Your Health

Longer and busier days can mean our health suffers. But don’t panic – these simple tips can change all that

1 Stand on one foot

Every time you brush your teeth, do it standing on one leg. No, we haven’t gone mad – balance declines as we age, so balancing on one leg for a few minutes a day will keep your brain in gear and help strengthen your core muscles, plus hip and knee joints. If you can, close your eyes (not while spitting out the toothpaste). This removes your visual perception and forces your body to rely on signals being sent from receptors in your ankles, knees and hips to stay balanced.

2 Squeeze your legs

If you sit at a desk all day, stick a tennis ball between your knees and squeeze for one minute. Tim Allardyce of the Sports Injury Clinic says, ‘This trains the adductor muscles and works the core muscles that support you.

3 Tax your brain

By doing just one crossword or sudoku puzzle every day, you can improve your brain performance and keep it finely tuned for later years. According to Japanese neuroscientist Ryuta Kawashima, your brain begins to deteriorate from the age of 20. Michael Gelb, author of How To Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci: Seven Steps To Genius Every Day, says, ‘Just as you need to keep your body fit through regular exercise, your mind needs to work out as well. Stimulating your mind on a daily basis will help avoid brain stagnation and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s later on in life.’

4 Change your shoes

Swap your usual trainers for Masai Barefoot Technology (MBT) footwear to improve your posture and stability, as well as reducing impact on joints. These chunky shoes will give your back, backside and stomach a workout by engaging more muscles as you walk, improving your circulation and burning more calories. ‘They take a bit of getting used to because the shoes create a natural rolling foot movement as you walk,’ says Graeme Marsh, a strength and conditioning expert for MBT. ‘But wearing them will teach your nervous system to learn and adapt to new things. You’ll also see positive changes in the way you walk, move and stand.’ We’ve tried them – and we like them. Visit for more details.

5 Give your eyes a workout

Spending most of your day staring at a computer can take its toll on your eyes, so exercise them to relax eye muscles and optic nerves. Many people strain their eyes by keeping them in a fixed position, according to Dr William Bates, an ophthalmologist who devised some exercises to counter this. First, every day when you arrive at work choose a colour. Then, every so often throughout the day, look for this colour and take note of the shade. This teaches you to use your memory and imagination, improving co-ordination between the eyes and the brain.

6 Take a break

For those of you who sit at your desk throughout your entire lunch break, it’s time to get off your arse and get back to nature. Scientific research suggests that a stroll in the park can increase self-esteem in 90 per cent of us and cut depression by 71 per cent. Fresh air, plants and sunshine also help lower your heart rate and blood pressure.

Have some herbs

Mint, that is. Take a whiff of some peppermint before you hit the gym and you’ll be fully prepared for a great workout. Researchers from Wheeling Jesuit University found that the smell of the herb can improve your performance, speed, general alertness and decrease fatigue.

8 Eat ice cream

Yes, you heard it right – we’re giving you permission to break out the Ben & Jerry’s. Scientists have found a spoonful of the cold stuff lights up the same pleasure centre in the brain as winning money or listening to your favourite music. It’s still high in calories, though, so don’t go overboard and undo all your hard work from the gym.

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