Shape up in the new year

  •   by Medihelp
  •   11 January 2016
  •   212 view(s)
Life is busy, and we often cut back on our exercise and relaxation time in order to get everything else done on time.
Studies have shown, though, that as little as 25 minutes of exercise per day and the right amount of sleep can improve longevity and help you to stay more youthful.

With the new year in full swing, here are some tips on how to get into mental and physical shape.

1. Glide into Total Immersion swimming
Have you ever watched someone swim with such ease that they almost seem to glide through the water, covering distance almost effortlessly?

You can also learn to do this, even if you are not naturally suited to or adept at swimming. American swimming coach Terry Laughlin has created a new way of swimming called Total Immersion (TI), where the main focus is to help swimmers learn how to move through the water in the most efficient way. TI does this by placing emphasis on balancing and streamlining in the water, allowing you to get the most from the energy you use for propulsion.

If you are streamlined, you spend a lot less energy having to overcome drag as you move through the water – one of the main reasons swimmers struggle and get exhausted.
This way of swimming is also proving beneficial to triathletes, who find they exit the swimming leg of a triathlon feeling less fatigued and able to put greater effort into their cycling and running. The TI method shares many of the mindfulness principles that are also used in yoga or Tai Chi.

2. The health benefits of a siesta
In ancient Rome, everyone would break for a nap at noon – this was the so-called sixth hour of their day which they called sexta, from where the word siesta originated. 

The Romans were on to something: Studies have shown that the most beneficial sleep pattern for humans is an extended period of sleep at night paired with a nap during the day. 
A study by NASA has found that a 40-minute nap can increase your alertness by up to 100%.

Other research has found that a 20-minute nap has a greater beneficial effect on alertness than exercise or 200 mg of caffeine – roughly equivalent to two to three cups of coffee. While asleep, the body releases growth hormones that boost our immune systems, reduce stress and promote muscle repair and weight loss. During a nap, the serotonin level in the brain also increases, which helps to improve our mood and promotes a positive outlook.

So, go ahead and enjoy a guilt-free siesta – you’ll join the likes of Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison.

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3. Ramble your way to a longer, healthier life
New research presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress suggests that a brisk 25-minute daily walk could add three to seven years to your life, and that moderate exercise of this type could halve the risk of death by heart attack among people in their fifties and sixties.

It’s never too late to start: Other studies have shown that people who start an exercise routine at age 70 are less likely to develop atrial fibrillation, a disturbance of the heart’s rhythm affecting around 10% of people over the age of 80.

Ensure that your walk is brisk – the pace at which you walk will determine the level of health benefit you’ll get in return. Research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the
United States has shown that walking intensity matters when it comes to contributing to a healthy life, so you should gradually increase the pace to around 6,5 km per hour, if you are not doing so already.

Walking also helps to strengthen bones by increasing their density, thus helping to prevent osteoporosis. This should be sufficient motivation to invest in a decent pair of trainers and hit the road.

4. Coffee and exercise go together
Feel like you need a pre-exercise boost? Then sit back and enjoy a cup of coffee. When you consume coffee before you exercise, it encourages fat cells to be used for burning energy, thereby promoting healthy weight loss. Caffeine also helps to increase your metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories during your workout.

Research at the University of Illinois has moreover shown that caffeine can reduce muscle pain experienced during a workout. Have your cup of java strong and black for the best results, but remember that moderation is the key. Most studies suggest that you can safely drink three to four cups of coffee a day, but consuming more than four cups (around 300 mg of
caffeine) can leave you feeling anxious and jumpy.

Going overboard on coffee can even give you heart palpitations and stomach pain.

5.Rope jumping a super fat burner
Rope jumping is one of the most effective ways to get some serious cardiovascular exercise. It’s also very convenient, requiring only a light-weight skipping rope and a space large enough to swing it.

This is a big bonus if you’re travelling or don’t have access to exercise facilities. When you start, remember to keep your feet close together, your knees slightly bent and your head up. Jump no higher than is necessary for the rope to pass under your feet.

 Land softly and try not to kick back – this just makes jumping less efficient and increases jarring through your joints.

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