30 seconds: Allow your shower to run for half a minute before you get in. According to research from the University of Colorado, bacteria can lurk in the shower head and spray out with the first burst of water – and get inhaled by you.
15 minutes: Get up early and go for a 15-minute brisk walk – but don’t call it exercise. Professor Adrian Taylor, a sports psychologist from Exeter University, says the word is associated with something demanding and sweaty, whereas “physical activity”” can be gentle, easy and fun. “Also, 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 The Lancet in 2011 that even short bursts of physical exertion, like brisk-walking for 15 minutes a day, can increase your lifespan by three years.
15 minutes: Have a morning cuppa or read the newspaper while sitting beside a window. “Fifteen minutes of sunlight first thing in the morning 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 from the University of Surrey.
Beat the munchies
Five seconds: Just 6g (a little over a teaspoonful) of cinnamon sprinkled over your cereal can help lower and stabilise blood sugar and keep hunger at bay throughout the day, reported the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Four minutes: Sitting in the wrong position for long periods while you work can cause pain in your neck, shoulders, back and legs. Just a few minutes spent adjusting your office chair could save the day. For advice (and a step-by-step video) on sitting correctly, visit www.nhs.uk/Livewell/workplacehealth/Pages/howtositcorrectly.aspx.
30 minutes: Put a tiny part of your lunch break to good use – visit your dentist. You should go at least once a year to ensure that your teeth sparkle – and also to 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 properly causes plaque to build up, which leads to gum disease. Bacteria than enters the bloodstream via the gums, and this is thought to cause artery walls to become inflamed, which can trigger heart attacks or strokes.
Lead researcher Emily Chen from the Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan, whose team surveyed 100,000 adults over seven years, said in 2011 that they found “protection from heart disease and stroke was more pronounced in participants who got tooth scaling at least once a year.”
10 minutes: A protein-rich lunch will give your body a steady supply of energy for the afternoon, says nutritional therapist Ian Marber. Add a handful of nuts to a salad such as nicoise – which has a double protein dose with eggs and tuna – so you won’t be craving sweet snacks by mid-afternoon.
Two minutes: Three daily sessions of toning your pelvic floor with exercises could improve your sex life and treat stress incontinence (when urine leaks because of sudden extra pressure on the bladder, such as when you cough or laugh).
Tense the muscles you’d use the hold back the flow of urine for a count of three, then relax for the same length of time. (Do not do this while passing urine.) Start with ten clenches, which should take around two minutes, and build up to 20 over time.
Two minutes: Simply noting every evening what you’ve eaten that day could help double your weight loss. six-month study of 1,700 people in the United States in 2008 found that those who kept food diaries lost 8kg, while those who didn’t lost only 4kg.
Roll away pain
Five minutes: A tennis ball could ease pain, says Dr Rick Seah, consultant in sports and exercise medicine from the Pure Sports Medicine clinics in London. “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 10 minutes.”
The pressure increases blood flow to the area, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to aid repair. It also helps release endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.
Two seconds: Turning off your laptop and mobile phone at least an hour before bedtime could make for a more peaceful night’s sleep. Harvard researchers found that blue light emitting from these devices can suppress melatonin production and alter sleep patterns.
Five minutes: Stretching before bed and breathing deeply will help relax and prepare your body for sleep. “Your muscles hold tension even if you’ve been sitting all day,” says personal trainer Jean-Pierre De Villiers. “Streching signals your body that it’s time to wind down. Over time, your sleep could become deeper and more energising.”
This article was originally published in Simply Her January 2014.