Ten ways to take control of your health

There are plenty of ways to build more exercise into your life. Joining a class is one of them.

There are plenty of ways to build more exercise into your life. Joining a class is one of them. Picture: thinkstockphotos - Credit: Archant

1. Improve your diet:

A health walk from Aldeburgh to Thorpeness.
Picture: Archant

A health walk from Aldeburgh to Thorpeness. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

We all know that eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health, but how many of us are as good at it as we ought to be, especially in mid-winter when crisps, chocolate and cake seem to have so much more allure?

But here in East Anglia we’ve no excuse. We are blessed with a large number of farm shops and markets offering wonderful, reasonably-priced fresh produce to base a meal around and even to snack on.

Healthy Suffolk advises consuming a wide variety of foods in the right proportions (most adults eat more calories than they need). Its top tips include eating at least five portions of fruit and veg (which includes beans and pulses and is equivalent to 80g) a day; basing meals on starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, rice or pasta; having some dairy or dairy alternatives; eating some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein; choosing unsaturated oils and spreads and drinking plenty of fluids.

2. Take more exercise

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It’s all too easy to stay cocooned in the warm at this time of year but getting outside and taking some exercise could give you just the energy boost you need.

If you lack motivation sign up for a class, go swimming with a friend or join a gym with a buddy. Get out into the fantastic East Anglian countryside - join a local Ramblers group (www.ramblers.org.uk) or one of the many health walks that take place across Norfolk and Suffolk. Find out more at www.activenorfolk.org/walking-for-health or www.onelifesuffolk.co.uk/our-services/health-walks.

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3. You can exercise at work too

According to Active Norfolk’s Workplace Challenge website we are now 20% less active now than we were in the 1960s. It’s encouraging workers across the county to sign up for the eight-week 2018 Workplace Challenge to reduce stress, improve wellbeing and re-energise by building 10-minute bite-sized chunks of activity into and around the working day. There are also local and national prizes available. Find out more at www.workplacechallenge.org.uk/activenorfolk/news/2017/12/2018-active-workplace-challenge. There’s a similar Workplace Challenge in Suffolk - www.workplacechallenge.org.uk/suffolk.

4. Learn some first aid

St John Ambulance offers training courses across the country, many of them local. There are a variety of courses to choose from, for use at home or work, with children or adults. There’s a small fee but the skills you’ll learn could be invaluable, maybe even lifesaving. Visit www.sja.org.uk/sja/first-aid-training-courses.aspx.

5. Make time for yourself

Having ‘me time’ now and again is vital for good health. Make use of the sauna and spa facilities at many council-run sports centres and private health clubs or try something else... maybe even some floatation therapy, billed as the new way to achieve meditative bliss. Devotees, who are suspended in a sealed pod of water saturated with Epsom Salts, reckon it can do everything from helping balance hormones and reducing stress, to aiding recovery and alleviating insomnia. Celebrity fans include Wayne Rooney, Gwyneth Paltrow and Elle Macpherson and the concept is catching on in the UK, with ‘floatation centres’ popping up across the country, including Norwich and Bury St Edmunds.

6. Lose those extra pounds

According to OneLife Suffolk healthy lifestyle service 61.7% of adults are overweight but reducing bodyweight by just 5-10% significantly reduces health risks. Details of its free weight loss service can be found at www.onelifesuffolk.co.uk/our-services/lose-weight-adults. To find out more about starting an NHS 12-week weight loss plan wherever you live, visit www.nhs.uk/Livewell.

7. Quit smoking

It’s national No Smoking Day on March 14 but why wait until then? More than a quarter of all cancer deaths can be attributed to smoking. And it costs the NHS £2 billion a year. To get free NHS help to quit and find out about your local stop smoking services visit www.nhs.uk/oneyou/smoking.

8. Cut down on alcohol

The NHS advises that if you regularly drink more than 14 units (equivalent to six pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine) a week you should definitely cut down for the sake of your health. Ideally, you should have several drink-free days a week. Turning Point Suffolk, which has ‘hubs’ in Lowestoft, Ipswich and Bury, has a downloadable ‘drinks diary’ to help you gauge your consumption. Visit www.wellbeing.turning-point.co.uk/suffolk/self-help/alcohol-usage.

9. Get an NHS Health Check

This is a kind of mid-life MOT for those aged 40-74, designed to spot - and address - warning signs of stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes or dementia. Some GP surgeries offer them automatically but there are also other locations where you can have the 30-minute check. Find out more at www.norfolk.gov.uk/care-support-and-health/health-and-wellbeing/adults-health/nhs-health-checks or www.onelifesuffolk.co.uk/our-services/nhs-health-checks.

10. Plan some down time

A change is as good as a rest, so the saying goes, so it stands to reason that both a change and a rest must offer double the benefits. Why not take a weekend or even a day away and visit a part of our region you’re not so familiar with - head to the Suffolk, Norfolk or Essex coast, explore Constable Country, the Broads or the beautiful medieval Wool Towns of Lavenham and Long Melford. It could be just the tonic you need.

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