40 little ways to make your life a whole lot better

Get your kit out

Research shows that morning is the best time to work out as it predisposes you to burn fat and helps kick-start your body clock. If you are planning to exercise first thing, fitness coach Liam Cavanagh advocates leaving your kit out in a visible place. “This acts as a cue to make you think about your workout, and makes it slightly easier to get ready to go,” he says.

Stand when you can

Many of us live incredibly sedentary lifestyles, which causes levels of inflammation in the body to rise and actually ages us quicker. The answer is to stand whenever you can. Can’t quite face a standing desk? Commit to standing on your commute instead, aim for standing meetings, or even stand for half of your favourite TV programme.

Pick things up with your feet

Eliza Flynn, personal trainer and founder of The Warrior Method – a system for training your mind and body for everyday “battle” – points out that neglected feet can result in fallen arches, which can cause constant pain. To give them a workout, go barefoot in the house and use your toes to pick up everything from socks to dropped cutlery. It will also help build better balance and coordination, and in the long-term, reduce your risk of injury.

Walk up escalators

You’ve heard it all before: take the stairs when you can and walk up escalators. According to Liam Cavanagh, it’s not just about burning extra calories, it’s something that helps you identify as a healthy person – and the more you identify as a healthy person, the more likely you are to adopt other healthy habits.

Sit down, stand up

Next time you get up from a chair, notice whether or not you use your hands. If you do, try to stand and sit unassisted. Mastered that? Try it using just one leg. “This helps work on your core, leg and back strength,” says Eliza Flynn. “The single-leg sit and stand is fantastic for building leg strength and core stability.”

Start your day with an eight-minute stretch

Rosaria Barreto, a sports scientist and personal trainer, recommends that if you do nothing else, a daily stretching routine will improve your range of movement, reduce joint pain and minimise muscle tightness. This means that as you get older, you are less likely to fall and more likely to remain independent. Find a routine on YouTube, or look up the Five Tibetan Rites – a form of yoga.

Do 100 squats while the kettle boils

Starting the day with a couple of stair climbs, doing some squats while the kettle is boiling, or taking a quick walk around the block at lunch time can be just as if not more valuable than gym sessions, according to fitness coach Sarah Scudamore.

“You’re more likely to form a movement habit and create lasting change in your life spending just a few minutes a day exercising, rather than aiming for 60-90 minute sessions,” she says. “This type of exercise has been proven to have an impact on health.”

Never stay still

A study that looked at the behaviour patterns of lean and obese women, none of whom did any formal exercise, found that the leaner women tended to fidget. They never sat still and instead were always wiggling or bouncing in their chairs. This sort of fidgeting burned an estimated 300 calories a day. So consciously tap that foot and drum those fingers.

Speed up your favourite tracks

Research has found that when people work out to music, they work harder when the track is at a faster tempo. So whether you’re out for a stroll or following a video workout, put on your headphones and either pick songs that have 140-plus beats per minute or use an app – such as Audipo – that allows you to change the speed of your favourite music.

Home

If the worrying news about climate change has made you want to do your bit but you don’t know where to start, here are some easy ways to lighten your impact on the planet.

Turn your thermostat down to 19C/66F

According to Every One Of Us, an organisation that makes it easier for you to make eco-friendly decisions, your thermostat should be set no higher than 19C. Turning the thermostat down by just 1C saves 3 per cent of energy. It may not sound like much, but if yours is currently set to 22C (72F), you’ll save almost 10 per cent, and still shouldn’t feel cold.

Swear off new clothes

Every year in the UK 350,000 tons of clothing is binned, but if putting yourself on a buying ban seems extreme, swapping where you shop might be more practical. Apps such as Depop and Vinted, and sites like eBay are a treasure trove of barely worn, high-quality clothes, so make them your first port of call. Buying second-hand saves you money and saves the planet.

Swap shampoo and shower gel for bar versions

Ditching liquid shampoo and shower gel helps in multiple ways. Less water is used in the production of bars, they are lighter – meaning less carbon is used to transport them – and they normally come in environmentally-friendly paper or card instead of plastic bottles. They also last longer.

Stop leaving your gadgets on standby

“Appliances such as printers, speakers, TVs, games consoles and laptops can use up to 90 per cent of their power even when in standby mode,” says Sonia Lakshman, co-founder of Every One of Us. “To make life easier, plug them into a single power strip you can turn off with the flick of a single switch every night.”

Freeze food that’s ‘on the turn’ rather than binning it

Around 9.5 million tons of food is wasted in the UK every year and one of the easiest ways to make sure that doesn’t happen is to use your freezer. Around 24 million slices of bread are wasted a day, so think about freezing your loaf. If veg starts to look past its best, lay on a sheet, pre-freeze, then put in a freezer bag (this will stop them sticking together). Find more top tips to avoid wastage at thefullfreezer.com

Borrow or rent

Instead of buying tools that you are unlikely to need on a regular basis, such as drills and lawn mowers, think about borrowing from neighbours. Don’t know your neighbours? Try websites such as libraryofthings.co.uk or fatllama.com where you can rent everything from a pasta maker to a steam cleaner.

Use green energy

Even if you are not signed up to a green fuel provider, the National Grid has times of day when the energy supplied is greener. A free app called Yoyu (yoyu.app) lets you know when these times are. For example, at 6pm about 29 per cent of the energy supplied might be from wind, but at 6am it could be 50 per cent – so it’s more environmentally friendly to put a wash on at 6am than 6pm.

Subscribe to a veg box

There are now hundreds out there, from Oddbox, which rescues excess and oddly-shaped fruit and veg, to stalwarts Abel & Cole. You will minimise plastic packing and, by buying excess or organic stuff, you will also be doing good for the planet (plus you’ll probably eat better, too).

Keep micro plastics out of the ocean

Washing synthetic fibres, such as fleeces and sportswear, results in tiny fibres making their way into the oceans, where they cause havoc with sealife. Using a GuppyFriend (guppyfriend.com) – a mesh bag that you place your synthetics in pre-wash – means you can capture these microplastics and dispose of them safely.

Sleep

We’ve become increasingly aware of how important sleep is to our health, but the more we worry about it, the less we get. Here are five easy ways to improve the quality of your sleep this year

Track your yawns to learn your optimum bedtime

According to psychologist Dr David Lee of Sleep Unlimited, your body has a 90-minute rhythm when it comes to sleep and there’s a dip when your brain is least active, which is the best time to fall asleep. To work out your natural dip, look for a natural yawn between 8pm and 9pm and then plan to be in bed ready to fall asleep 90 minutes later.

Brain dump before bed

So often we’re kept awake by thoughts racing through our brains, whether it’s tomorrow’s to-do list or knotty problems we’ve been avoiding dealing with. To get them out of your head – and your bed – scribble everything down in a notebook, or record in a voice note on your phone, before you get into bed.

Never call yourself an insomniac

In Kate Mikhail’s book Teach Yourself to Sleep, she points out that we are suggestible beings, so saying you are an insomniac becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Rather than describing yourself as a bad sleeper, try telling yourself (and other people) that although you’re not sleeping well at the moment, you are someone who can and will sleep well.

Use a lavender scented sleep spray

You might have dismissed lavender pillow sprays as more unnecessary mumbo jumbo, but the plant contains linalool, a chemical with anaesthetic properties. What’s more, research by Prof Tim Jacobs of Cardiff University found that not only do lavender sprays help you sleep, but if you use them nightly, over two to three weeks, your body also associates the smell with sleep, so you sleep even better.

Wake up at the same time every day

Our bodies work on 24-hour cycles and don’t know the difference between a Wednesday and a Sunday, so if five days of the week you get up at 6.30am and for two days you don’t get up until 10am, it’s going to make the 6.30 starts even harder. Up to an hour extra is just about OK, so set your alarm for 7.30 at weekends – and if you get up to get a cup of tea and go back to bed with the paper, don’t go back to sleep.

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