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16 October 2014
me and my health

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X-Ray Health Special

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Ten ways to improve your health

By Gerrit Bantjes, lifestyle and fitness coach

1. Eat regularly

  • People who eat just one or two meals a day with long periods in between force their bodies into a conservation mode, which results in a slower metabolism.

2. Always eat breakfast

  • Eating first thing in the morning sends your body the signal that it need not slow its metabolism to conserve energy.

3. Eat more fresh food

  • Eat a balanced diet of fresh foods.
  • Avoid processed foods, especially those containing trans-fats, caffeine, salt and refined sugars (refined carbohydrates).
  • Include at least five portions of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet and two-four portions of oily fish per week.
  • Reduce your intake of alcohol.

4. Increase your energy

  • Dramatically reduce high GI foods. Carbohydrates such as baked potatoes, many breakfast cereals, cakes, sweets, biscuits and sweetened drinks all cause energy-depleting spikes in blood glucose levels, leaving you tired, hungry and irritable.

5. Drink more water

  • You should aim to drink around two to three litres of water daily. A lack of water is the number one trigger of daytime fatigue - a mere 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory.

6. Get physically active

  • Humans were designed to move. As hunter-gatherers, we took around 36,000 steps daily. Currently we take on average 4,000-6,000 steps.
  • A training programme that includes cardiovascular intervals and resistance training sessions is ideal.
  • However, if exercise is not your thing, simple changes like taking the stairs instead of the lift or escalator, walking 15 - 20 minutes to work in the morning and 15 - 20 minutes back to your car, bus or train station can have a real impact on your health.

7. Go to bed early and wake up early

  • 'Night owls' are often groggy and unfocused in the mornings and dependent on caffeine and sugary snacks to keep up their energy.
  • Maintaining a consistent bedtime and waking up time is as important as the number of hours you sleep.
  • Try to aim for between seven and eight hours as an adult.

8. Learn to breathe properly

  • Shallow 'chest breathing' results in chronic or intermittent fatigue, chest pains and palpitations, muscular cramps in the neck, shoulders and back, anxiety and panic attacks amongst others.
  • For correct breathing, use your diaphragm - sit/stand upright and place your hand on your belly. Breathe in. If your hand is moving you are breathing correctly. If your chest is moving you need more practice.
  • Yoga and Pilates promote correct breathing.

9. Focus on your emotional and spiritual wellbeing

  • Health is about more than just your physical wellbeing.
  • What are your core values? Considering what's important to you can give you focus and can help avoid the stresses of modern-day living.
  • Emotional and spiritual strength can be powerful sources of motivation, focus, determination and resilience.

10. Think of your health as a bank account

  • To stay focussed on improving your wellbeing, think of your health as a bank account. If you make more deposits (by taking steps to be healthy) than withdrawals throughout your life, your 'health account' is in credit. However, if you make more withdrawals than deposits throughout your life, then your 'health account' could be in trouble.

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