A time for reflection
Living well should be a top priority in our lives. We all know that.
But as we come to the end of the longest and hottest summer we can remember for many a year, it is a time to reflect.
As the evenings begin to darken, and autumn inevitably approaches, how well are we really looking after our health?
A report out this week suggests we can expect fewer years of good health as we get older. Our current lifestyles are working against us, and ‘the proportion of life spent in poor health’ has increased.
So what small measures can we take to improve the autumn of our own lives?
Living well – acting on what we already know
Some of the precautions we should take to look after ourselves have been drilled into our consciousness.
Eating less red meat, getting more greens, cutting back our alcohol consumption and stopping smoking are all mainstream concepts.
But knowing what to do is one thing, practicing it is quite another.
Changing your environment, planning ahead and being in supportive groups can all help you to curtail bad habits.
As can having a greater awareness of what you do eat and drink (food diaries are useful things!).
And of course, there are many avenues to explore to help eliminate, or cut back on unhealthy behaviours and habits.
But we also want to take a look at small changes that you can make that will make a difference to your health long term.
Lesser known tricks for living well
We hear about the need for cardio workouts or activities that will elevate our heart rate, but not all movement needs to be high-intensity.
The frequency of how often we move is important. During the week it is easy to slip into a routine of sitting for long stretches of time. The British Medical Journal has stated that about 2/3rds of Britons sit for eight to ten hours a day. And most of this time is spent in front of the computer.
Worryingly, prolonged periods of sitting can have a very adverse effect on health. And is believed to contribute to a range of serious chronic conditions including nervous disorders, stroke, and diabetes.
Getting up and walking, even for short bouts, is highly beneficial. Once every 20 minutes is ideal. But try to get mobile as often as is practical in your work environment. If you can stand up to make some of your phone calls, that will definitely help.
And finally, one rarely considered factor for longevity and good health is a flexible back. In fact, a team of Australian researchers found that people who reported lower back pain were at greater risk of dying sooner than others. This is believed to be because it limits movements and often tends to lead to a more sedentary lifestyle.
A great way to improve flexibility in the spine, and to make sure you are getting a comprehensive workout, is through Pilates.
As with so many of these things, it is what you do regularly that makes the difference. The changes don’t have to be massive, but they do need to be consistent.
Persist with some small changes, and you should be able to live well into old age.