Ten quick & easy health tips to fit into your schedule

Jane Murphy / 23 July 2015

Think you don't have enough time to take care of your health? Learn to multi-task. Here are 10 ways to turn everyday activities into wellbeing-boosters.

1. Improve your balance while you clean your teeth

Our sense of balance is something else that tends to weaken with age – but it can always be improved with practise. Try standing on one leg while you clean your teeth, morning and night – one minute on the right leg, another on the left. Don't worry if you wobble at first: your eyes, ears, joints, muscles and tendons will all work together to keep you upright. If you want to make things a little more challenging, try shutting your eyes.

Learn more about how to improve your balance

2. Exercise your pelvic floor while you wait for the kettle to boil

As we grow older, our pelvic floor muscles tend to weaken - particularly after the menopause. This can lead to problems such as urinary incontinence. The good news? Daily exercises can help keep these muscles strong. And you can do them when you're making a cup of tea! Sit comfortably and squeeze the muscles as if you're trying to stop the flow of urine. Do this 10 to 15 times in a row. Don't hold your breath. Once you get used to it, try holding each squeeze for a few seconds – or gradually add more squeezes.

3. Burn calories while you're on the phone

Stuck on 'hold' to your energy company or bank? Don't slump in your chair, defeated. Stand up! Move around! Every little helps! Just by standing up, you'll burn an extra 50 calories an hour. The average person sits for nine hours a day, according to the British Heart Foundation and campaign group Get Britain Standing. But sitting for prolonged periods slows the metabolism and affects the way the body controls sugar levels, blood pressure and fat breakdown – increasing risk of conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

4. Tone your muscles while you're watching TV

We all deserve to relax in front of the TV. But – whisper it – you can still strengthen and tone your muscles without even getting out of the armchair. A sample exercise? Try alternate leg heel digs: as one foot moves out to place the heel on the floor, the other foot remains flat on the ground. As the heel is placed on the ground, try to pull your toe towards your shin. You can find more chair-based exercises on the British Heart Foundation website.

5. Meditate when you're on the bus

You don't need to be sitting cross-legged on a palm-fringed beach to reap the benefits of meditation. Master the art and you can do it anywhere – yes, even on the bus. Mindfulness meditation is a very simple technique, which – according to numerous studies – can help alleviate depression, anxiety and chronic pain. Recent research at the University of Oxford, for example, suggests it can cut recurrence of depression by 50 per cent. Find out more about mindfulness here.

6. Get a workout when you post a letter

Popping to the postbox or off to buy a pint of milk? Don't jump in the car or dawdle along the street. Try picking up the pace to a brisk walk or jog, or jump on your bike. Bursts of brief 'incidental' exercise such as these all help tone muscle, burn calories and boost your overall health and fitness. A 10-minute jog, for instance, will burn around 100 calories. Plus if you move faster, you'll get your chores over with quicker.

10 ways to get fit without going to the gym

7. Train your brain at the supermarket

Yes, it's a good idea to write a shopping list. But rather than refer to it constantly, give your brain a workout by trying to recall what you need without checking. The brain works like a muscle: use it or lose it! Rely too much on lists and technology and your memory will suffer. One study at the University of Waterloo in Canada found a significant correlation between less time spent looking up information on smartphones and stronger cognitive skills.

Five ways to supercharge your memory

8. Check your breasts while you're in the shower

Risk of breast cancer increases with age, and one in three cases are diagnosed in women over the age of 70. But the earlier the warning signs are spotted, the greater the chances of successful treatment. Checking your breasts only takes a minute or so every couple of weeks. When you're in the bath or shower, run a soapy hand over each breast and up and under your arms. Remember, you're not just looking for lumps: it's important to note any changes in size, shape or feel. Found something that's not normal for you? Don't panic! It's unlikely to be cancer, but do consult your GP as soon as possible.

Find out how to cut your risk of breast cancer

9. Get a mind and body workout in the garden

You probably don't need us to tell you that gardening keeps you fit. An hour's weeding will burn around 350 calories. A few tips to help you get the most from your outdoor workout? Use as little machinery as possible, change positions to avoid aches and pains and try using alternate hands so you don't end up with one arm bigger than the other. But even if your flowerbeds are in tip-top condition, it pays to take 10-minute chores – such as peeling the potatoes – outdoors on a sunny day. The burst of fresh air and sunlight will lift your mood and boost your vitamin D levels to protect your bones.

Find out more about how gardening can help boost your health

10. Check your blood pressure when you pop to the chemist

Around seven million people in the UK are living with undiagnosed high blood pressure, says the British Heart Foundation. And the only way to know if you have the condition is to get checked. Don't have time to make a doctor's appointment? No need! Many large pharmacies, including Lloyds, offer free walk-in blood pressure checks. It only takes a few minutes – so you can get yours measured next time you drop in a prescription or buy a tube of toothpaste.

Learn more about blood pressure

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