We’re a nation trapped in the modern health paradox - exposed to record levels of healthy inspiration (there’s over 273 million posts with #fitness on Instagram, at the time of publishing) and yet too time poor to move as much as we should, with a recent study from the British Lung Foundation indicating that a quarter of us never exercise.
But you don’t need to go in for dramatic overhauls to spark serious change. Adding a few no hassle switches to your day, over time, means big benefits for your overall wellbeing, minus heavy commitments to hour-long classes multiple times a week.
To get you on your way, HuffPost UK asked Dr Michael Dixon, Chair of the College of Medicine, for his five small, daily changes that can lead to you to better health.
Eat one more type of vegetable a day
Try to include cruciferous veg (such as cabbage, broccoli and bok choy) in your diet. “This type of vegetable provides antioxidants,” Dixon says. “Which help to protect the body from free radicals.” The latter have been associated with a number of diseases in multiple studies – meaning that this a positive, long term behaviour to get on board with.
“Smiling at people makes them react better – and you both benefit,” Dixon says. “When you smile, the brain releases chemicals and feel-good neurotransmitters. These may include endorphins, serotonin and dopamine, which calm the central nervous system and lower the heart rate.” Hit your colleagues up with a grin first thing, and you’ll all feel the benefit.
Eat more seeds
Up your Omega 3 game with a sprinkle of seeds on your salads. Dixon recommends eating linseeds (also known as flax seeds) for the sake of your digestive tract. Stick in a smoothie, add to your peanut butter on toast or toss through pesto and twirl through linguine.
Up your steps
Increasing your daily step count means a whole lot of benefits. “Walking can help to prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes,” Dixon explains.
Make it your aim to walk an extra 2,000 steps, or around a mile, every day. Get off the bus earlier than you need to, go on a brisk stomp around the block at lunch time and take every flight of stairs that you can. Install a tracking app on your smartphone, so you know how much you’re getting in.
Improve your sleep
Is your home complete with a patch of grass? If so: “Go into the garden and find some lemon balm – it often grows like a weed – and pick off five to six leaves, place in a cup and pour half inch of boiling water over them.”
“Steep for two or three minutes, remove the leaves and drink half an hour before bedtime.” This herbal tea infusion has been shown to aid sleep, plus, the herb is complete with antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, according to Dixon. No tumble of plants outside to speak of? You can get it in essential oil form and place a few drops on your pillow.
While we’re on the subject: another must is to get in the habit of strong sleep hygiene, by turning off all electronic devices before bed and investing in a classic alarm clock (as opposed to relying on your phone). Because putting a barrier in between you and another quick Instagram scroll is always a good idea.