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10 ten-minute steps to better wellbeing

Thursday, 10 December 2015

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Bowls of fruit and oats for breakfast

Fitness and nutrition expert Carys Jackson, who spent five years with the English Institute of Sport (EIS) helping Olympic and Paralympic athletes with their physical development, gives her 10-minute tips for anyone wanting to improve their physical and mental wellbeing over the winter.

  1. Prepare your week and plan ahead
  2. Improve your concentration and reduce stress
  3. Simple 10 minute steps to help you get on top of things

1. Plan ahead

On a Sunday evening, take 10 minutes to plan your week. Write down when you are going to exercise, what you are going to eat each day, and anything you need to get done each day.

This simple step will help you eat healthier, as planning what to eat when you aren't hungry helps you make healthier options.

It will also help you fit in your exercise, as you will have created the time, and should feel mentally prepared to get moving.

Finally adding a short to-do list each day will help organise your life and reduce your stress levels, allowing you to get your high priority tasks planned and completed.

2. Set up the day with breakfast

Try making your own breakfast rather than opting for the shop bought version, which are high in sugar and low in protein. Foods that are high in protein give you energy for longer, leaving you feeling satisfied and also suppress your hunger hormones.

This recipe takes less than 10 minutes to make – grab a handful off oats, a thumb sized portion of chopped nuts or seeds, add a palm sized portion of fresh fruit and finally top with 3 tablespoons of Greek yoghurt.

Oats, fruit and nuts are an excellent source of energy, both for your body and your mind.

3. Maintain an active lifestyle

Leading a busy life makes fitting exercise in tricky. We should all be aiming to do 10,000 steps a day to help us remain healthy. With the abundance of apps, smart watches and activity monitors available, it is easy to measure how many steps we do in a day.

You can make some simple changes to your daily routine to increase the number of steps you do, by adding 10-minute chunks of steady walking into your everyday life.

Park in the furthest car spot when using a car park, use the stairs, get off the bus/train one stop earlier, or walk to a shop/restaurant that is further away in your lunch break.

4. More relaxation is a must

Aim to include at least 10 minutes of relaxation time in a day. Reading a novel, soaking in the bath or chatting to friends will help reduce your stress levels and balance out your hormone levels.

When we are stressed our cortisol levels rise, telling our body to store fat rather than burn it. Just 10 minutes a day will help reduce your cortisol levels.

5. The right snacks

Before you reach for your favourite cereal or snack bar, have you checked what the sugar levels are per bar? 3g of sugar equates to a teaspoon's worth and the recommended daily intake is six teaspoons.

The teaspoons can tot up very quickly, so making something healthier than a shop-bought shack bar is an easy way to lose weight without counting calories. You can make yourself a healthy trail mix in less than ten minutes by putting a handful of nuts, seeds and dried fruit in an airtight bag.

6. Stretching shouldn’t be a stretch

Tight tense muscles can leave us with annoying niggles, stiffness and poor posture, which in turn can make us feel tense and uncomfortable. Stretching is always hard to fit into your day, but an easy way is to do them in an evening whilst watching TV.

There are three key stretches: knee hugs to stretch your glutes, a wide leg stretch for the hamstrings and a chest stretch. Hold each stretch for a commercial break, before swapping legs.

7. Don’t be tempted by something tasty

Only eat when you’re hungry. It sounds obvious, but hands up if you eat because it's the right time, because you’re bored, or just because you like the look of something tasty.

Work out what is driving that hunger: if it is an emotional response, such as boredom, find a more constructive way to tackle it like contacting a friend or picking up a book – eating won’t necessarily be the solution.

If you still want to eat, have a small drink of water, and wait 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, place you hunger on a scale of zero to 10, with zero being famished, and 10 full to the brim.

Aim to eat when you are between two and five, so hungry, but not too hungry, which makes you more likely to overeat.

8. Short, quick workouts

Even a 10-minute workout is better than no workout. If you have a spare 10 minutes make your workout a high intensity workout: 30 seconds of hard exercise that leaves you breathing heavily followed by 5-10 seconds recovery time, before repeating or moving onto a different, but equally hard, exercise.

9. Wind down before night-time

Aim for at least 10 minutes downtime before nodding off – steer clear of TVs and electronic devices as they can cause the brain to become too active and make it hard to switch off.

Instead, a short yoga routine, stretching or reading for 10 minutes will encourage the brain to unwind and make it easier to switch off and head to the land of nod.

10. Find the water mark

Think about how much water you drink in a day. Ideally, we should aim for 30-40ml per kg of body weight to remain hydrated. Just 1% dehydration levels will leave you feeling tired and lacking concentration.

A simple strategy is to take two 750ml bottles of water and a permanent pen. Mark your bottles up with six times – three on each bottle. So, for example, bottle one has 7am, 10am and 1pm, and then bottle two has 3pm, 6pm and 9pm.

Split the marker out evenly on a bottle and draw a small line and write the time beside it. Now fill your bottle up, and aim to drink to the line by the designated time. This little will tip will take you less than 10 minutes to set up.

Getting healthy can sometimes seem like a trial, but with these ten 10-minute tips you can improve your wellbeing with minimum disruption to your lifestyle.

Carys Jackson offers classes, workshops and personal training for any women wanting to get fit – from groups to solo recreational athletes – on her website She also works with horse riders to get them safer in the saddle. Find out more on

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