Making changes in the new year doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are 12 easy adjustments to make in your day-to-day routine for an easier, better, healthier life.
1. Do weight training
Muscle is much more critical to our health and longevity than originally thought. A Sydney University study of 80,000 people discovered that those who did any amount of strengthening exercise were 23% less likely to die early, and 31% less likely to die from cancer. That’s not to mention the fact that more muscle means you burn more calories, and it helps to keep fat off. But muscle starts to diminish as you age, starting in your early 30s, accelerating after 40 and falling off a cliff in your 50s. So hit the weights to keep your body strong.
2. Eat earlier in the day
If you’re having your biggest meal at night and sometimes skipping breakfast, you’re doing it all wrong. Multiple studies in 2017 showed that eating large meals at night can increase weight, insulin and cholesterol levels, and negatively affect fat metabolism and markers implicated in heart disease, diabetes and other health problems. Meanwhile, skipping breakfast has been shown to raise the risk of diabetes and heart disease. The ultimate eating pattern, according to these findings, is one in which you shrink your dinner and shift your main meals to breakfast and lunch.
3. Have a regular sauna
Whether your sauna is traditional (heat the air) or infrared (heat your body), several studies across the world have shown that regular saunas have tremendous benefits, from clearing your skin of toxins to dilating blood vessels and reducing inflammation. It’s the healthiest way to spend half an hour sitting down.
4. Do foam rolling
A good foam rolling session is considered the equivalent of a sports massage, which will speed up recovery after a session. But as our story on page 48 says, foam rolling is also a fantastic form of stretching, with studies showing it can lead to an increased range of motion across a variety of exercises.
5. Ditch the wellness stuff you hate
In your quest to be healthy, you may have been talked into doing a bunch of things that you actually don’t like to do. Things like making kale smoothies, eating activated charcoal coconut ice cream or doing HIIT classes that have you gasping for life after a “short” half hour. The problem is that when you dislike something, you eventually lose the incentive to keep doing it. One of the big global trends in 2018 is expected to be a retreat from extreme (and often unscientific) health advice back to eating plans that include foods you enjoy and exercise you actually like doing.
6. Get enough vitamin D
The importance of vitamin D is mind-boggling. So far, a shortage of vitamin D is implicated in sleep disorders, early onset psychosis, depression, low muscle strength, macular degeneration, premature greying, reduced immune function and higher cancer risk. Although the recommended daily dose of vitamin D is 600 IU per day, up to 10,000 IU is considered safe. That’s basically the amount that 10 minutes in the midday sun will give to your body.
7. Get a DNA test
Affordable direct-to-consumer DNA testing is now available in Australia, so take advantage of it. It’s like taking a peek at the master plans that built you, with different tests revealing everything from potential medical conditions or diseases that you can mitigate with lifestyle change, to the composition of your gut microbiome which can determine what you should be eating. DNA testing is now available from companies such as smartDNA in Melbourne and the Garvan Institute in Sydney.
8. Fix those teeth
For the most part, we’re stuck with the genetic cards dealt to us by our parents, but the reality when it comes to crooked teeth there are really easy fixes that can make you less self-conscious and seriously boost your confidence. There’s no need for steelworks if you use clear aligners (such as Invisalign). These are a set of progressively changing clear moulds you apply to your teeth to eventually straighten them out.
9. Surround yourself with supportive people
The evidence is in: friends are good for you. One of the world’s leading experts on telomeres (the caps at the ends of our chromosomes that might determine lifespan) says there’s a correlation between telomere length and the quality of one’s relationships. Also, a study showed that the support that comes from companionship lowered the risk of heart disease, while another study showed that single people had a 42% higher risk of developing dementia than those with partners.
10. Get you parents moving
Want to avoid becoming a de facto nurse as your parents get older? Get them a gym membership, or at least get them to move. Exercise is the single most important thing older people can do to live longer and healthier, with several studies showing that muscle retention is critical. Once muscle starts to go through inactivity, it brings on an inevitable collapse in the rest of the body’s systems, one of Australia’s leading experts on muscle and ageing told us.
11. Fix those gums
Simply brushing your teeth daily could save your life. Research in 2017 finally confirmed long held suspicions that there’s a link between periodontal or gum disease and cancer. Certain bacteria types which proliferate in different types of gum disease were associated with higher risk of oesophageal, breast and gallbladder cancer, particularly in mature women. A dentist will spot and treat gum disease and give your teeth a good clean.
12. Get out of the car
Getting to and from work is potentially your biggest opportunity for incidental exercise. Even a daily 10 minute walk to the train station can make a big difference to your health, according to a study. If you can cycle, even better. A massive University of Glasgow study found that commuting by bicycle is linked to a 45% lower risk of developing cancer and cardiovascular disease. Meanwhile a Canadian study showed that cycling to work can help reduce stress and improve your work performance.