10 things you’re already doing right

Jane Murphy

These healthy habits have probably long come as second nature: here are 10 simple health lessons the younger generation could learn from you.

1. Step away from the screen

UK adults now spend an average eight hours and 41 minutes in front of digital screens, including TVs, computers and smartphones, according to communications regulator Ofcom. That's more time than we spend asleep. But it's the over-50s who are most likely to be getting the balance right. We're less glued to our gadgets, so at lower risk of the associated health concerns, such as screen-related eye strain, headaches and insomnia.

Why too much screen time can make you grumpy

2. Phone a friend

Yes, Facebook can be fun and texting is quick and easy – but those of us who lived for decades without social media and smartphones know there's no substitute for a good old chinwag with a friend. Besides, people who tend to text rather than hold a two-way conversation are in danger of losing the ability to reason and self-reflect, according to US researchers.

Volunteer to become a Silver Line friend

3. Go out for a walk

Who needs a pricey gym membership when you can look after your physical and mental health simply by going for a walk? Even 'incidental' walks – such as a brisk stroll to the shops and back – can help lower blood pressure, boost your circulation and improve your mood, as you've no doubt witnessed for yourself. In fact, regular brisk walking is the best exercise for keeping weight in check, according to a recent study at the London School of Economics.

Learn more about the health benefits of walking

4. Cook from scratch

Relying on ready meals is an easy habit to fall into – particularly if it's the only routine you've ever known. But if you grew up eating dishes prepared from fresh ingredients, chances are you tend to do much the same now. So you already know that cooking from scratch doesn't take much longer, can work out cheaper, tastes much nicer and is packed full of nutrients instead of additives and preservatives.

Visit our healthy recipes section

5. Fill up on veggies

Here's another healthy eating lesson many of us learned as kids without even realising. Habitually having at least three servings of veggies with your meat or fish is a simple way to boost your nutrient intake and ensure you feel fully satisfied after every meal. However, nearly two-thirds of the UK population don't eat the recommended 5-a-day fruit and veg, according to a BBC Good Food survey. The worst offenders? Young adults: only 21 per cent of 16-to-24-year-olds achieve their veggie target.

5 ways to get the most out of your vegetables

6. Don't sweat the small stuff

Missed the train? Friend forgotten your birthday? Who cares? The older you get, the more inclined you are to shrug off little mishaps and snubs, simply because experience has taught you what's really important in life. Remember the rule: if it won't still matter in a year's time, it doesn't matter now.

7. Dance for the fun of it

The older you are, the less embarrassed you are to dance in public, according to research by the Royal Academy of Dance. And that means you're more inclined to reap the many benefits that dancing brings: improved cardiovascular fitness, stronger bones and improved muscle tone, to name just three. And, of course, dancing is a very sociable activity: it helps strengthen existing friendships, as well as build new ones.

Your easy guide to getting into dancing

8. Read a good book

Always had your nose stuck in a book since childhood? Just six minutes of reading can be enough to reduce stress levels by more than two thirds, according to a University of Sussex study. It does so, say researchers, by slowing down the heart rate and easing muscle tension.

9. Make the most of your garden

Many of us have waited until later in life before discovering the joys of gardening and the huge boost it gives to our health. Increasing your exposure to green spaces in general can reduce risk of heart disease, cancer and musculoskeletal conditions, and significantly improve mental wellbeing, says a recent report published by The King's Fund.

More health benefits of gardening

10. Turn down the thermostat

Layering up in extra clothing instead of turning the heating on full-blast doesn't just save money on fuel bills. Over time, central heating dries the atmosphere, which makes us more prone to dehydration. Nearly half of those who keep the heating on overnight feel ill when they wake the following morning, with symptoms including headaches, a dry mouth and sinus problems, according to research by Slumberdown.

Learn more about the signs of dehydration and strategies to stay hydrated

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