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7 ways to improve your health

Seven unexpected ways to improve your health and wellbeing

Quit smoking, stop drinking, start exercising – when it comes to living healthy, we think we’ve heard it all before.

But there are many less familiar things that contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

So if you’re committed to improving your health (and your happiness), trying these unusual tips may help you enjoy a longer, more relaxed life.

Adopt a furry friend

Studies have suggested that raising pets is the closest we can get to drinking from the fountain of youth. Among the many benefits are decreased blood pressure, lower cholesterol, reduced risk of heart attack, lower overall stress levels and better general fitness. Dog owners especially show fewer instances of obesity.

Grow green fingers

Numerous studies have shown that gardening is a fantastic stress reliever. As well as building muscular strength and endurance, gardening can lower cortisol levels, improving concentration while lowering your risk of depression and Alzheimer’s disease. It’s great for the rest of your body, too. You’ll get vitamin D from working in the sun, and you’ll be exposed to lots of friendly bacteria – including Mycobacterium vaccae, which could help combat asthma, eczema and cancer.

Put the kettle on

Chances are you won’t need encouragement, but if you don’t already enjoy a brew then this is a great time to start drinking tea and coffee. They contain just the right amount of caffeine for your body (so long as you enjoy them in moderation), giving you improved brain function and other metabolic benefits – not least fat oxidation, which helps fight off obesity. But there are several other advantages. Studies have linked coffee to lower instances of type II diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, stroke and cancer. Tea, meanwhile, contains powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols, which could help fight cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Eat plenty of fish

Oily fish is a great source of low fat, low calorie protein – and it’s high in omega 3 fatty acids. Also known as the ‘good fats’, omega 3 can improve your brain power and combat mental decline in old age, while alleviating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. It can even improve heart function by reducing the chance of blood clots and irregular heartbeats. Fish such as tuna, mackerel and sardines are all rich in this nutrient (and vegetarians can find them too, in many seeds, beans and leafy greens).

Catch the latest blockbuster

Movies could be the new therapy, as several studies have revealed that watching films can benefit your health. Researchers at the University of Maryland found that comedy movies, for instance, dilate the blood vessels and lower blood pressure, which can relieve anxiety. Horror movies, meanwhile, trigger the release of adrenaline. Not only can this burn calories, it also helps the body ‘come down’; relieving anxiety and helping you fall asleep.

Have a chat with yourself

Researchers from the University of Illinois believe we could be our own best supporters. They found that people who encouraged themselves – especially in the second person (‘You’re the best!’) – were more successful in various activities and showed greater resolve. Talking to yourself has also been shown to improve performance in memory-based activities, improve concentration and relieve signs of stress. Researchers even believe it could be a great way to lower your blood pressure.

Solve puzzles to solve addictions

Australian and English researchers discovered that playing Tetris – the classic Russian ‘falling block’ videogame – could combat addiction. The study concluded that playing puzzle games reduced the strength of cravings in subjects addicted to nicotine and alcohol (among other things) by around one-fifth. The more visually interesting the puzzle, they suggested, the stronger the effect. That’s because we associate addictions with strong imagery, which puzzle games temporarily replace. In other studies, Tetris has been used to combat post-traumatic stress disorder and to aid cognitive development.

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Published 05/01/2016