Karl Henry: 10 health hacks for a longer and fitter life
Welcome to my new series on improving your health, which is all about tips for a longer life. This one comes after so many requests over the last few weeks on my Instagram page on healthy ageing. Over the next three weeks I want to bring you advice on how to do just that: live healthier and age healthier too.
The ageing process is one that you need to fight to stay healthier for longer. And no, it's not just something you start to focus on in your 50s and 60s - your body begins to age from your 30s onwards, with loss of muscle tissue, changes in your metabolic rates, increase in body fat and risk factors for health-related diseases.
Did you know that you gain, on average, one stone per decade? That's something you are going to have to fight too.
Don't worry, it's not all bad news. Simple changes can make a big difference. Each week, I am going to give you 10 tasks to try to add into your life, in three different areas:
1. Mental health
Simply try to integrate as many of these tips as you can into your routine each week, ticking each one off as you go along and gradually making them a part of your daily life. If I can get you to make small, straightforward changes that seem like they are so easy that you can't not do them, then we can help you to age healthier.
Here are this week's top 10 mental health tasks...
Set positive weekly goals to work towards
Goal setting works at any age - those who set goals will always be healthier as it gives you focus, structure and something to work towards.
Read a book a week
One book a week might be a bit of a stretch, but reading is fantastic for your brain, your stress levels, your sleep and so much more besides as it offers you a means of escapism from daily pressures.
Hang out with the optimists
We all know optimistic and pessimistic people. Optimism brings hope, happiness and healthier choices; negativity brings the opposite. Surround yourself with positivity and watch how your own thinking, and your approach to life, changes too.
Find a hobby
It can be knitting, gardening, movies, cooking... to be honest it doesn't matter what it is, but we all need hobbies. I love my guitar, exercise, visiting old houses and reading books. It helps me get downtime that isn't work-related. When I neglect my hobbies, everything else suffers around me.
This one could be exercise related, but it's good for your brain too. As you age, your balance is affected, but there is an easy way to challenge that: when brushing your teeth, balance on one leg as you do it, and change legs each day.
If you read my columns regularly, you will know how passionate I am about sleep. Look at your bedroom and do whatever you need to do to make it a better place to sleep. That means keeping it technology-free, clutter-free and as dark as possible.
I met a man recently I have wanted to meet for a very long time - 88 years of age and incredibly healthy. I asked him his secret to ageing well and he replied that one of them was to worry less.
The past is in the past, he says, why dwell on it? Look forward and focus on where you are going, not where you have been.
Do things that scare you
Comfort zones are bad for your health and your mind. As we age, we become more comfortable and less confident in tackling things that scare us. Challenge that comfort zone - no matter how big or small that challenge is, face the fear and do it anyway!
A cluttered house, car or desk equals a cluttered mind and life. It's bad for your mind, your health and your ageing. So commit to a big clean this week, anywhere you spend time.
Get a pet
A goldfish, a dog, a snake or a micro pig - whatever takes your fancy. Pets are great for your mind, for how you feel and for giving yourself some responsibility. We have two labradoodles and two cats and they enrich our lives so much, we wouldn't be without them.