5 ways to be happier and live longer

Dr Ben Kelly Head of Clinical Research & Outcomes Ben Kelly is a specialist in preventative medicine and leads the clinical research and digital health agendas for Nuffield Health. More by this author
Small changes to your lifestyle could make you happier, and see you living a longer healthier life. There's no magic cure, but we have a few top tips to keep mind and body firing on all cylinders well into retirement.

Discover a new social circle

A study of over-50s in the UK found that those who maintained or grew their social circles after retirement experienced a beneficial effect on their quality of life. Those individuals who had fewer social activities during a given period suffered a decline in quality of life.

It might be a coffee morning with friends once a month, a weekly meet-up to have a laugh in a Zumba class, or a walking holiday with an entirely new group of people. We’re social beings and, as it turns out, socialising groups can improve our emotional wellbeing and health.

A great excuse to catch up with some old friends, or make new ones.

Avoid falling ill

This one sounds glaringly obvious – no one actively seeks out illness, and of course, there are some that we can’t sidestep no matter how fit and healthy we are. But there are some common conditions that can be warded off by making good lifestyle choices. As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure.

30 minutes, 3-5 times a week

Getting your heart rate up for 30 minutes three to five times per week with anything from a brisk walk to an energetic indoor cycling session can reduce your chances of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even stroke. And resistance training can lower your chances of developing type-2 diabetes. Reducing the chances of those issues, in turn, can improve your ten-year outlook, meaning you’re likely to be healthier for longer.

Boost brain power

A recent review of studies, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that individuals over 50 who take regular moderate exercise showed improved thinking and memory skills. The bottom line? Raising your heart rate for 30 minutes three to five times per week, and exercising your muscles is beneficial to your brain. That cross-trainer workout could help you work out your crossword.

Exercise such as Tai Chi, yoga and Pilates are ideal if you want a gentle muscular workout that still benefits the brain, and are generally offered as classes so you can be guided through the movements by an expert. Swimming and cross-training are great low-impact options for raising your heart rate while being kind to joints, and if you’re feeling energetic then indoor cycling or rowing will do the job too.

In fact, even a brisk walk will raise your heart rate slightly – the choice is yours.

Get medical concerns checked out

You wouldn’t let your car go on past its service date, right? And you wouldn’t indefinitely ignore that strange clanking sound coming from the steering column either? Most of us wouldn’t dream of waiting until a breakdown to call out the specialists.

Our bodies are vastly complex machines and, just like classic cars, they can start to play up and make strange noises too. If you notice something new or out of the ordinary with your body, our advice is to get it checked out with the appropriate professional, such as s a GP, Physiotherapist or Optician straight away.

Even if you think things are ticking along fine, having a professional check the box that says ‘all ok’ offers peace of mind and the confidence to keep rolling for another few thousand care-free miles.

This is where the idea for our Health MOTs for gym members comes from – a free hour with a professional to check blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, weight, and a few other vital statistics. Afterwards, you’ll have a fuller understanding of how your body is functioning, and advice on how to tackle areas where there’s room for improvement.

Find out more about our regular Health MOTs, offered free to all  Nuffield Health gym members.

Relax and unwind

Yes, staying physically and mentally active has enormous health benefits. But all that socialising, exercising and staying sharp requires energy, and at Nuffield Health we advocate balance in all things. We’re not contradicting any of the advice above by also saying you should make time to take it easy as well.

Meditating (there are even classes for that), spending half an hour in the spa pool or simply finding a quiet corner to read a book and enjoy a coffee on your own all count towards maintaining balance and a strong sense of emotional wellbeing.

Thursday 31 August 2017