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Posted 17 May 2017

11 simple life hacks for a healthier tomorrow

Whether you’re after a motivational nudge to get you in the mood for fitness, or the lowdown on how to get a decent night’s sleep, fitness expert Laura Williams has tracked down 11 invaluable hacks from the best in the business.

  • Good bedtime habits are key to a restful night’s sleep.
  • Switching up your sweat routine is essential.
  • The right food prep is fundamental to success.

Food for thought

1. Med best for bed

‘When it comes to sleep ‘you are what you eat’, maintains Robert S Rosenberg (@AnswersForSleep), Board Certified Sleep Medicine Physician and author of The Doctor's Guide to Sleep Solutions for Stress & Anxiety.

‘A recent study showed that those on a Mediterranean diet slept longer and better than those who did not,’ he reveals. ‘We believe this is due to the antioxidants and melatonin found in foods on this diet.’

Foods that contain melatonin include cherries and tomatoes, while antioxidant-rich foods include red berries, nuts and dark, green veggies. Our recipes helping you get your 10 a day could add more fruit and veg to your diet.

2. Shrink your plate to manage your weight

A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that reducing the size of your plate from 12 inches to 10 inches resulted in a 22% decrease in calorie intake.

3. Don’t hit the food aisle on empty

People who shop when hungry opt for higher calorie items, according to a Cornell University study. So, if you want to make healthier choices, stick to your list and have a snack before you hit the store.

4. Keep it simple

‘To simplify healthy eating, divide your plate into four,’ advises nutritionist Angela Dowden (@DietWriteLtd). ‘Fill two-quarters with fruit and veg, a quarter with lean protein – like chicken, fish, tofu or eggs – and the final quarter with good quality carbs, such as wholegrain pasta, quinoa, brown rice or wholemeal bread.

‘Add a smidgen of ‘good fats’, a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of nuts and seeds, and you have a balanced meal every time without having to overthink it. You should also try to slip in a portion or two of dairy a day, e.g. a glass of skimmed milk and some Greek yoghurt.’

If you’re after something non-dairy with a high calcium content, try almonds or kale.

Prepared Mediterranean meal

Fitness know-how

5. Go for a goal

Official Training Partner of the Ikano Bank Robin Hood Half Marathon & Marathon, George Anderson (@ByGeorgeA), wants us all to set and achieve a good goal.

‘A plan can give structure to your training and means you’ll never feel as though you’re just going out for ‘another run’ or ‘another gym session’. But make sure you’re being realistic in your goal setting, this will help you avoid disappointment, stay motivated and be more likely to succeed,’ George recommends.

6. Sweat for your zzz

Dr Rosenberg suggests exercise may be the way forward for a good night’s sleep.

‘Several studies have shown that those who exercise moderately have less trouble falling asleep and staying asleep than those who do not,’ he observes. ‘We believe this is due to increasing body temperature during exercise and increased blood flow to the brain, which strengthens circadian rhythms.’

Our circadian rhythms are changes we go through over a 24-hour period, usually responding to the amount of light in our environment – more often referred to as the ‘body clock’. These rhythms allow us to sleep better when it's dark, and feel more active when it’s bright.

7. Slow and low is sometimes best

If you’re hitting the weights, it’s a good idea to vary your workout.

‘As much as our egos might not like us dropping down a weight or two, drop set training can be hugely effective when it comes to training for muscle growth,’ explains personal trainer Lisa-Jane Holmes of Wildcat Fitness (@wildcatfit).

‘If you drop the weight (by 10-30%) during your set before continuing, you’ll actually use more muscle fibre,’ Lisa continues. ‘Sometimes less is definitely more.’

8. Flexible outdoor fitness

Few people realise how great training outdoors is for your health, says Matt Gleed, TRX Senior Master Trainer (@MattGleedPT).

‘Training in fresh, new, ever-changing scenery gives us a mental boost,’ says Matt. ‘People can feel self-conscious in the confines of a gym or studio space, so the great outdoors can be a real confidence booster.’

But the benefits don’t stop there.

‘It's also cheaper than the gym, and there's so much great equipment that you can use within a workout session,’ points out Matt. ‘Combine push ups on a park bench with hill sprints for a full body workout. And let’s not forget that mental boost from the Vitamin D you’re getting through direct sunlight.’

9. Prep like a boss

‘Preparation is always key,’ says Lisa-Jane. ‘Cook big batches of healthy meals so no matter how late you get home, you can guarantee you have a healthy meal waiting’.

Angela agrees, ‘If you know you'll be on the go, make or buy snacks ahead of time and keep them in ready, portioned packs in your cupboards or refrigerator. Try 0% Greek yogurt with a few nuts, a tablespoon of peanut butter and an apple; chopped celery and a small serving of hummus; or a finger of Cheddar and a pear.’

A woman in gym clothes sits down to take a breather

Wellbeing wisdom

10. Salt for a speedy recovery

‘Take an Epsom salt bath after intense exercise’, recommends Lisa-Jane. ‘As much as this sounds like something your Grandma might recommend, it helps speed up recovery by supporting the body in flushing lactic acid out of the muscles; helps reduce the feeling of fatigue and can also improve performance the next time you train – a lack of magnesium can lead to low energy levels.’

11. Avoid the blues

‘Blue light-emitting devices such as mobiles and computers give off an intense blue light and are a major contributing cause of sleep deprivation’, warns Dr Rosenberg. ‘The blue light shuts down the production of your main sleep neurohormone melatonin.

‘It delays melatonin production too, so you may wake up with this hormone still in your bloodstream, leaving you sleepy and unable to get going in the morning.’

In essence, it disrupts your circadian rhythms and messes with your sleep cycle.

A man in a darkened room stares at a laptop screen

Wellbeing is a complex combination of many different factors, but by incorporating simple, effective steps into your existing routine you’re giving yourself the best chance of feeling on fine form as much as possible.

Follow Laura on Twitter (@laurafitness) for more great fitness, nutrition and wellbeing tips and articles.

As well as a healthier tomorrow, you might want to consider life insurance for a financially secure future.

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