Three daily sessions of toning your pelvic floor with exercises could reduce stress levels. It could also mean you’ll remedy or avoid ‘stress’ incontinence. Image Credit: Supplied picture

We’re all guilty of trying to do more and more in less and less time, which can leave us exhausted, feeling generally rundown and more vulnerable to illness. But making time for all the things we know we should do – from regular gym visits or fitness routines to dieting – can seem impossible as we get caught up in endlessly juggling work and family. As the weather changes, bringing its traditional dose of coughs, sneezes and ailments, we’ve asked the experts for their 12 top tips that take only minutes but could significantly improve your health.

Morning fixes

1.Shower solution: Allow your shower to run for 30 seconds before you step underneath it, as according  to research from the University of Colorado, bacteria can lurk in the head and spray out with the first burst of water and be inhaled into your lungs.
Time taken: 30 seconds

2. Early bird: Get up early and get physical by going for a brisk walk for up to 15 minutes, and don’t call it exercise. Professor Adrian Taylor, a sports psychologist at Exeter University in the UK, says the word ‘exercise’ has negative connotations and is associated with being demanding and sweaty, whereas ‘physical activity’ can be gentle, easy and fun. “It’s easier to be active when you’re fresh in the morning, because if you leave it until later in the day, there’s a risk you’ll be too tired to bother.” Scientists reported in medical journal, The Lancet, last year that even short bursts of physical exertion, for example a daily ten-minute brisk walk, can lengthen a lifespan by three years.
Time taken: 15 minutes

3.Sunshine brew: Spend 15 minutes having a morning cup of tea sitting beside a window or outside on a balcony or patio. “Fifteen minutes of sunlight first thing strengthens your body’s sleep-wake cycle, so you’ll feel fresher for the rest of the day,” says Derk-Jan Dijk, a professor of sleep and physiology at the University of Surrey in the UK.
Time taken: 15 minutes

4. Beat the munchies: Adding a sprinkle of cinnamon to porridge or cereal can help stabilise blood sugar and help keep hunger at bay throughout the day, according to some scientific studies. Eating as little as 6g (a little over a teaspoonful) can lower blood glucose, it was reported recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Time taken: 30 seconds

Lunchtime tactics 

5. Sit smart: Correctly adjusting your office chair could save you from having to take time off and avoid the need for hours of expensive specialised physiotherapy treatment. Sitting in the wrong position while you work for long periods can cause pain in your neck, shoulder, back and legs. For advice (and a step-by-step video) on sitting correctly, visit the UK’s NHS Choices website at www.nhs.uk/Livewell/workplacehealth/Pages/howtositcorrectly.aspx
Time taken: 5 minutes

6. Smile please: Turn a tiny part of your lunch break to good use: book an appointment with a dental hygienist. You should go at least once a year to ensure your teeth sparkle and good dental care can cut the risk of heart attack by 24 per cent and a stroke by 13 per cent. Scientists have known for several years that the condition of teeth and gums is strongly linked to the likelihood of heart problems. Not brushing teeth properly causes plaque to build up, which leads to gum disease. Bacteria then enter the blood stream via the gums, and it is thought that this causes artery walls to become inflamed, which can trigger heart attacks or strokes. Lead researcher Emily Chen, from the Veterans General Hospital in Taipei, Taiwan, last year revealed the findings of 100,000 adults surveyed over seven years. At the American Heart Association’s conference, Florida, she said, “Protection from heart disease and stroke was more pronounced in participants who got tooth scaling at least once a year.”
Time taken: 15 minutes

7. Protein punch: Eating a protein-rich snack or meal at lunchtime will help give your body a steady supply of energy for the afternoon, says nutritional therapist Ian Marber (www.thefooddoctor.com). A salad – such as nicoise, which has a double protein dose with eggs and tuna, and perhaps has its benefits boosted further with a handful of nuts – will help you resist sweet snacks mid-afternoon.
Time taken: 10 minutes

8. Pelvic power: Three daily sessions of toning your pelvic floor with exercises could reduce stress levels. It could also mean you’ll remedy or avoid ‘stress’ incontinence. Pelvic floor muscles can become weakened after childbirth as well. Tense the muscles you’d use to hold back the flow of urine for a count of three, then relax for the same time. (Do not do this while passing urine). Start with ten of these clenches, which should take around two minutes, and build up to 20 over time.
Time taken: 5 minutes

Evening ideas

9. Dear diary: At the end of every day simply noting what you’ve eaten could help double your weight loss. A six-month study of 1,700 people in America in 2008 found those who kept food diaries lost 8kg, while those who didn’t only lost 4kg. Make it easy by visiting www.myfitnesspal.com.
Time taken: 5 minutes

10. Roll away pain: A tennis ball could ease away pain, says Dr Rick Seah, consultant in sport and exercise medicine at Pure Sports Medicine clinics in London, UK. “For backache, lie on the tennis ball and move it around under the painful area,” he suggests. “For neck pain, stand against a wall, put the ball behind your neck and move the ball around the painful area for five to ten minutes.” The pressure helps increase blood flow to the area and brings more oxygen and nutrients to aid repair, and it can also release endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.
Time taken: 10 minutes

11. Log off: Turning off a laptop and mobile at least an hour before bed could make for a more peaceful night’s sleep. “The blue light suppresses melatonin production,” says Professor Derk-Jan Dijk, director of sleep and physiology at the UK’s Surrey Sleep Research Centre. Harvard researchers conducted a study in exposure to blue light, and it was found it could suppress melatonin and alter sleep patterns.
Time taken: 10 seconds

12. Stretch away: Stretching before bed will help relax you and prepare your body for sleep. “Your muscles hold tension, even if you’ve been sitting down all day,” says personal trainer Jean-Pierre De Villiers. “Getting in the habit of taking a few minutes to gently stretch them out, and focusing on breathing deeply and evenly at the same time, will send your body a signal that it’s time to wind down. Your sleep should, over time, gradually become deeper and more energising.”
Time taken: 3 minutes