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fitness 2022

Make 2022 your healthiest yet

Make 2022 your healthiest yet

An A to Z guide for finding your mojo, from starting a new hobby and looking after your mental health to preventative health checks and getting all the vitamins you need

A – Awesome intentions – so you want to get healthier? Start off gradually, don’t berate yourself if you lapse, and aim for long-lasting changes that you can maintain.

B – get your blood pressure checked. High blood pressure can put you at increased risk of many diseases, including stroke and heart disease. It rarely has symptoms. Drinking too much, smoking, being overweight, not doing enough exercise and too much salt can increase your risk.

C – coughs, colds and Covid are rife. Make sure you are in the best health you can be with rest and relaxation and plenty of vitamin-rich soups and stews packed with pulses.

D – diets… many of us will be reassessing our diets as part of our New Year resolutions, whether that be to lose weight or to be more mindful of the planet. Either way, make sure you still get all the nutrients you need. For example, vegans will need to find a reliable source of B12 (found in animal-based foods).

E – make sure your eyes are healthy. A check up with an eye care professional is an essential part of looking after your sight but can also pick up on other health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

F – find your work/life balance. The pandemic has meant that many more of us are working from home or working a hybrid of office and home. But this doesn’t necessarily equate into work/life balance. Make sure you are switching off from work at the end of the day.

G – volunteering is good for you and good for the community. Try the likes of GoodGym, where you can get fit while helping out.

H – health checks. Pick up potential problems before they develop. This can range from the NHS check for the over-40s to private blood tests, scans and check-ups. Parkside Hospital offers in-depth All Man/All Woman health screens (£550) that take a couple of hours.

I – invest in some products and treatments that will make you feel good this winter, whether that’s a trip to a day spa, a facial, a massage or simply making your bathroom into your own spa retreat for the evening.

J – ditch the junk food. We’re not saying completely abandon those crisps or chocolate bars but everything in moderation. Popcorn is a healthy wholegrain and can make for a good snack. Just make it yourself so you can control the topping – chilli and spice, instead of salt!

K – know your limits. Dry January is a great way to assess your relationship with alcohol but to make meaningful long-term changes, you need to ensure you stick to less than 14 units a week and have alcohol-free days. A large glass of wine (250ml) or pint of 5.2% beer is a whopping 3 units!

L – lower your cholesterol. Another risk factor for strokes and heart disease, high cholesterol needs to be brought under control. Cut down on saturated fats in your diet, take regular exercise and drink within healthy limits.

M – get your moles checked out. Whether it’s one mole that doesn’t look or feel quite right, or you want a whole body scan for peace of mind, book in for an appointment with an expert. You could also have your body mapped and photographed to check for changes over time.

N – new hobbies. Having an interest is good for your mind, body and soul. Take up a team sport, which will get you fit and the social aspect will improve your mental wellbeing. But anything that will take you out of your comfort zone and learning something new is fantastic.

O – learn to say no! Much of our stress can be put down to the obligations put on us by others or those we put on ourselves. Many of us want to please, blurt out a yes and then regret it. Take time to decide what’s right for you and be clear but polite in your response.

P – gain some perspective. Alex Reed, of Good Life Yoga, in Wimbledon, notes: “Find a wide view, across the city, out into the countryside, or best of all out to sea! When you change your viewpoint, your body feels less restricted and your mind opens, there are more possibilities than before.”

Q– add some wholefoods to your diet such as quinoa. Making some simple wholegrain swaps can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. Brown rice is a delicious and easy swap for white, and opt for wholegrain cereals for breakfast.

R– recognise negative ways of thinking. We are often our own worst enemy. Next time you hear that negative voice – give it a name, recognise it for what it is, and send it packing.

S – Seasonal affective disorder or winter depression can set in, characterised by low mood, irritability and feelings of despair. See a GP if you’re struggling to cope. A special light box might help as can getting out in daylight, as well as cognitive behavioural therapy.

T– take it outside. It’s cold, it’s January, but you will feel better for getting some fresh air. Make it fun – there are still some ice rinks around or take a dip in a heated outdoor pool such as Hampton.

U – understand your weight – it’s not just about stepping on the scales and seeing how many pounds you’ve lost or gained. Check you have a healthy Body Mass Index but also make sure you’re not carrying too much fat around the middle as it is a sign of increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

V – make sure you are getting all the vitamins you need. In winter, you are advised to take a Vitamin D supplement as the body can’t make what it needs through exposure to the sun, as it would in the summer.

W – workouts at home. When the weather is just too miserable or that trip to the gym too arduous, have some home workouts at the ready. Just a short session of pilates, free weights or some toning exercises will make a difference.

X – sort out the eXcess in your lifestyle. Whether drinking, overeating, burning the candle at both ends… keep a diary for a week and look in detail at unhealthy patterns and what might be triggering them.

Y – sort out your stress levels. Find what works for you, whether it is mindfulness, meditation, yoga or a walk or run out in nature.

Z – get the right amount of zzzzds. Too little – and indeed too much – can have a negative impact on your health. Most adults need between 7 to 9 hours a night.