Sunday 25 March 2018

Karl Henry: The rules for long-term health

If you follow these simple guidelines, staying on track will be easier

Karl Henry has simple rules to help you stay on your fitness track. Photo: Mark Nixon
Karl Henry has simple rules to help you stay on your fitness track. Photo: Mark Nixon

Karl Henry

In our journey to teach you as much as possible about health and how to be healthy for life, last week I gave you some simple ways to navigate the minefield that is health, to steer clear of those quick fixes that catch so many people out.

This week I want to build on this, bringing you two simple top-10 lists of do and don'ts, to help you live a healthier lifestyle.


1 Drink 2-3 litres of water each day. We know that the body needs water for hydration, it is made up of a minimum of 50pc fluid and you need to be drinking 2-3 litres a day to stay hydrated. Ideally, buy a large, 1.5 litre bottle and aim to have two of those each day. This makes it easy to measure and gives you a goal.

2 Get out of breath when you exercise. Remember, it's not exercise unless you are out of breath. No matter how fit you are, you need to be working hard enough to get the benefits, if you are not getting out of breath either slightly or fully, then you need to up the effort.

3 Eat plenty of protein. Ideally, aim to eat 1.5g of protein per kg of bodyweight. If you are exercising intensely, then you need more. Protein is a key nutrient for your body to aid recovery, growth and for your immune system, too.

4 Have fun. If exercise is boring, then there is a great chance that you won't keep it up. There are so many versions of exercise, just keep looking and trying new things until you find one that you really enjoy.

5 Fill up your plate with vegetables and colour. Vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, fibre, anti-oxidants and pretty much everything we need. Once you have your protein on your plate, aim to fill the rest of it with vegetables, with as much colour as possible.

6 Eat carbohydrates. We need carbohydrates for life, so cutting them out isn't healthy or advisable. The quality of the carbs is crucial - aim for organic or wholegrain, aim to get lots from vegetables, brown pasta and brown rice, and cereals such as porridge. You should have at least one carbohydrate-based meal a day.

7 Do resistance training. You will know by now that I'm passionate about the benefits of resistance training. Resistance training is using a weight or body weight to push against. Aim for a full-body work-out and at least one work-out each week. It will improve your muscle tone, shape, metabolism, bone density and pretty much everything else.

8 Shop once a week. Shopping once a week - stocking your home, car and office with all the right foods - will make health so much more accessible. Planning is key, once the food and fluids are there, you will eat them, if they aren't, then you are more likely to snack.

9 Measure something. To keep yourself motivated and focused, measure some aspect of your training. By measuring you will stay on track. It could be your waistline, your walk or run time, your heart rate, body fat or even weight. As long as you measure once a week or every two weeks, you will stay on track for longer.

10 Challenge yourself. Pick a 5km, a triathlon, an item of clothing or, to be honest, absolutely anything that you want to work towards. By working towards something, you will push yourself out of your comfort zone. Aim high and then go for it!


1 Hang around with negative people. You are influenced by those around you If you surround yourself with negative people, that will influence your mood and your mindset. Surround yourself with those who are unhealthy and chances are you will be unhealthy, too. So surround yourself with those you want to be like.

2 Look for an instant solution. As of yet it doesn't exist, all the quick-fix methods that are advertised are just a way to waste your hard earned money, so why not save it, work hard and see the results over time.

3 Use meal-replacement shakes or sachets. These are synthetic, man-made and full of things your body doesn't want or need. Nor is it sensible to replace actual food with fluid. In the long run, these wont make you any healthier or lighter, so save your money instead.

4 Rush your meals. The more work you do in your mouth when eating your meals, the less work your stomach has to do, the better you digest your food and you slow down your eating. This also means that you will stop eating when actually full as opposed to over eating.

5 Don't add sugary flavourings to your water. Water is fantastic for the body, adding sugar via cordial suddenly makes this an unhealthy drink. If you want to flavour your water then add sticks of mint, cucumber or chop up your own fruit and add it in.

6 Exercise hard every day of the week. Your body is an amazing machine, but it needs to rest. At least one day a week should be a recovery day where you get to ease off your training and let the body recover from the strain of exercise, it is this recovery that creates the benefits of exercise to your body.

7 Spend a huge amount of money on supplements. For the average person, you should aim to get your nutrients from real food. It is healthier and better for you. They have their place for those who are training hard or for tough events, but not everyone needs them.

8 Beat yourself up when/if you fall off the wagon. Sometimes life can get in the way of your health and you fall out of the good habits that you have built up. As opposed to beating yourself up, why not just accept that you fell of the wagon, draw a line in the sand and move on, setting some new goals and then go for it.

9 Aim for something unattainable. Set realistic goals to work towards and you will achieve them. But if you aim too high, it can often turn into a negative. Make attainable goals and the small steps to lead to a bigger overall goal.

10 Sweat the small stuff. Worrying and stress can have a huge impact on your health - aim instead to live for the now, focusing on what you are doing, when you are doing it and then go for it. Just accept that sometimes things happen that you can't do anything about.

Irish Independent

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