Making a major change to the way you live and work isn’t always possible or practical. Here are five immediate changes you can make that will improve your health and wellbeing without needing a drastic overhaul of your lifestyle.
Incorporate a little exercise into your working day….
Especially if you work full time, it can seem difficult to incorporate a good exercise routine into your working life – even more so if you have a longer commute and can’t factor in pre- or post-work trips to the gym. But it’s vital for health and well being.
The NHS recommends 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, five days a week, in order to stay healthy. Considering that moderate physical activity includes brisk walking, it’s surprisingly easy to work this level of exercise into your daily life.
If your commute is more than 30 minutes and involves brisk walking, it may well take care of most of your daily exercise needs. This is especially true if you commute via the Tube, where long walks and escalators are common. Or cut out the train or bus altogether and walk – your body will thank you for it.
If you have a commute that doesn’t require a vehicle, try to incorporate more vigorous activity, such as jogging, fast cycling or even scootering, to get to the office. You can hit the ground running, with the added bonus of getting up a little later.
… or into your commute
Even if you don’t have the option to forgo your train, bus or car, there are several easy ways to maximise your exercise when commuting on public transport. Avoid lifts – stick to stairs and walk up escalators wherever possible.
Standing burns twice as many calories as sitting, so stand on buses and trains and use the movements of the vehicle as a way to improve balance and muscle tone.
If you drive into work it can seem as though there’s no way to incorporate a workout into your commute, but this isn’t the case – there are plenty of exercises you can do at the wheel. Car workouts are increasing in popularity because they’re useful for alleviating joint stiffness and muscle tension that contributes to neck and lower back pain.
Swap your cigarettes for a vape
It’s widely known that smoking is an extremely dangerous habit. With smoking linked to an increased risk of strokes, heart attacks, coronary heart disease, infertility and a range of different types of cancer, every cigarette is thought to reduce your life expectancy by 13 minutes.
The good news is that, with vaping becoming increasingly widespread, kicking the habit is easier than ever. Not only are e-liquids better for the lungs, they’re also far cheaper. A pack a day habit can cost as much as £300 per month, which represents an enormous drain on your finances. By contrast, vaping generally costs around £30 a month.
Vaping is also an excellent means of weaning yourself away from cigarettes if you’re trying to quit. It’s a more effective way to replace a smoking habit than nicotine patches or gum because it mimics the pleasant sensation of smoking without the damaging effects of breathing in smoke.
Get a pet
Over the years countless scientists have claimed that pet ownership is good for both physical and mental health. So how exactly can acquiring a furry friend improve your wellbeing?
Stroking a pet triggers the release of oxytocin, the love or bonding hormone, which increases feelings of trust and generosity. Studies have also shown that just making affectionate eye contact with a dog triggers an oxytocin release in both you and them – and who doesn’t love to gaze into their dog’s big brown eyes?
Dogs in particular improve their owners’ health – and not just because they need walking. Studies by Harvard University show that dog owners experience lower cardiovascular reactivity than non-dog owners. This means that their heart rate and blood pressure do not rise as much in response to stress and return to baseline more quickly.
Pets can also play a positive role in the lives of anyone struggling with mental health, from issues such as work stress to bereavement. A study conducted by the universities of Manchester, Liverpool and Southampton, found that pet care reduces depression and anxiety and reinforces optimistic and caring feelings.
Reduce your meat intake
Not only is meat bad for the environment, it’s none too good for you either. Linked to raising cholesterol and causing heart disease bowel cancer, meat is also very fattening – a meat-free diet is twice as effective for losing weight.
Thankfully, it’s easy to incorporate protein into your diet in other ways. Products that contain meat include:
- Soy products, such as soy milk, edamame and tofu
- Chia seeds
- Nuts and nut butters
- Wild rice
Swap your high-sugar breakfast cereal for a bowl of porridge with chopped nuts and chia seeds, made with soy milk and sweetened with fruit and cinnamon, for a vegetarian breakfast that takes care of most of your daily protein needs.
If you’re a toast lover, trade sliced white bread for the higher-protein alternatives like whole-grain or sourdough and eat them spread with nut butter for a delicious and wholesome breakfast.