20 life hacks to turn your health around

Life is hectic. We work hard, we play hard, we work hard again…it can be exhausting. And it can also be difficult to fit in the exercise, nutrition and ‘head space’ that we need to live healthy, productive lives.

The dangers of living this way are vast and varied, ranging from tiredness, through anxiety, all the way to heart disease. It’s time we took a moment to focus on ourselves.

Easier said than done? That’s why we asked our experts for some quick and easy life hacks to help turn your health around.

Nuffield Health’s Professional Head of Physiology, Jay Brewer, Deputy Medical Director Auldric Ratajczak and Personal Trainers Sara Nankivell, Tan Quddus and Katie Stephenson provided the following tips:

Exercise without knowing it:

  • Save money, reduce stress and get some exercise by getting off the bus or tube one or two stops early. (It’ll only get stuck in traffic anyway!) 
  •  Taking the stairs may only burn 10-15 cals every two minutes, but over the course of a month this can build up to something significant. Not to mention the additional benefit of giving your muscles, heart and lungs a workout.
  • Stand on one foot whilst brushing your teeth. The instability will engage your core muscles and give your abs a bonus workout. 
  • Having more sex is good for your heart. When you’re aroused, your heart rate increases and some studies have shown that having an orgasm provides the same heart rate as light exercise. Add in some acrobatic moves and you’re onto a fitness winner.
  • Stand for 30 minutes after lunch to reduce glucose spikes. Studies have shown that both eating and sitting for long periods can cause glucose spikes, making you feel tired and sluggish.

Get back in touch with yourself and your loved ones:

  • Put your phone in a 'spa' (a box) for an hour per day and talk to your family. Conversation with loved ones will not only support the closeness of your relationships, but is a great way to talk through your day and resolve any issues you may have had. Sometimes just saying it out loud makes problems disappear.
  • Get a white noise app on your phone and plug in when you’re trying to focus in a busy office. The 'productivity blinkers’ will reduce noise and stress with it. 
  • Have a TV-free night to catch up on productivity and relaxation. It’s easy to slouch on the couch, but getting chores done can be great exercise and help to clear your mind. 
  • Take two minutes every day to sit in silence and concentrate on your breathing. With this mindfulness task you’ll feel more in tune with your body and start to disconnect from the silliness of life. 
  • Practice acceptance. Learning to not judge yourself, or others, too harshly will allow you to move your mind on from situations faster, leaving you the head space to focus on more productive endeavours. Take note of when a situation has frustrated you, breathe out, and let it go.

Make these easy food swaps:

  • Swap olive oil for coconut oil when frying. Coconut oil has a higher smoke point, the temperature at which potentially toxic compounds are formed. 
  • Swap seasoning for flavour - salt can be replaced by spices like chilli or curry powder to add a bit of oomph to your food without the blood pressure-raising saltiness.
  • Swap higher strength wine and beer for 1% lower ABV (strength). Alcohol is a toxin, poisonous to our bodies, so reducing the percentage we drink can make a big difference to our health. If you feel you can live without – why not swap your cocktail completely in favour of a mocktail? 
  • Don’t give up on vegetables if you’re finding boiling a bore, dry roast your veg instead. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees centigrade, prepare your veggies and throw them in a roasting tin with NO oil…shove them in the oven, stir a couple of times as they cook and 20 minutes later they’re ready. 
  • Swap black tea for green tea. Green tea is bursting with antioxidants, which help prevent cell damage, and is naturally low in caffeine, which can increase blood pressure.

And add in these little extras to your diet:

  • Vitamin D and cod liver oil will boost your energy levels if you have them every day. Get your vitamin D from eggs and mushrooms.
  • Eat a handful of olives every day. They act in a similar fashion to aspirin in reducing inflammation and artery plaque formation, but they taste way better. 
  • Add cinnamon to your morning porridge, smoothie, yoghurt - even eggs! Cinnamon has been shown to help balance blood sugar levels keeping energy levels more stable and may also help to combat sweet cravings. 
  • Drinking two litres of fluid a day will stop us from getting dehydrated, which could lead to many problems including dizziness and poor circulation. If you find water a bit dull, why not spice it up by adding lemons, limes, cucumber, apples or cinnamon (not necessarily all together) to encourage you to drink more - refill your bottle through the day without the need to refresh the 'infusion'. 
  • Eat more lemons – just one lemon has your entire daily recommended dose of vitamin c which helps fend off illness – try adding it to your green tea to boost absorption of antioxidants by as much as 80 percent.

Last updated Monday 25 April 2022

First published on Friday 19 June 2015