When we exercise and eat well, we feel mentally better too. Follow some of our experts’ tips for staying at your best this summer and beyond
1. Consistency is better than perfection
“The key to feeling fit on a long term basis really is in consistency. Consistent routines and habits aren’t easy to switch with a click of a finger, so start small. When I was first getting into yoga, I’d make sure that no matter what was going on in my life I’d go to at least one yoga session per week.
This soon extended to two-three times per week and now I do yoga pretty much every day. Allow yourself to start small and most importantly to show up! Even doing something for one minute each day is such a great starting point – then you can slowly build on this as it becomes more normal for you.”
Georgia, founder of Sancti Retreats.
2. Eat more herbs and spices
”They have been used for hundreds of years to help relieve stress, boost energy and aid digestion. My go-to healing spices include turmeric for its anti-inflammatory, liver-cleansing and antioxidant benefits (try mixing it with a mug of warm almond milk and honey). Cayenne pepper is brilliant for its endorphin and metabolism-boosting benefits and I always keep cumin and ginger in stock for satisfying the taste buds and calming an anxious tummy. You can also try making your own ginger and lemon tea or add fresh ginger juice to your morning smoothie. For those who struggle with spices, try topping up levels with a supplement such as the Together Health Curcumin & Turmeric Complex, £9.99.”
Lola Biggs, registered dietician at natural health supplement brand Together Health
3. Boost endorphins to get motivated
”Perceived energy can be boosted by taking daily exercise, such as brisk walking, dancing or gym classes. This creates endorphin chemicals in the brain, which make us feel more positive. Support your active lifestyle by choosing food and drinks rich in polyphenols that aid blood vessel function, such as colourful fruits and vegetables, orange juice, tea, and dark chocolate.”
Dr Carrie Ruxton, dietitian at Health and Food Supplements Information Service (HSIS)
4. Be bold, do weights!
”2 in 5 women have avoided exercising because men make them feel uncomfortable at the gym, be that in the form of staring, standing too close, insisting on helping someone who doesn’t need it, or making comments about someone’s body or form. But here’s the thing: lifting isn’t just for men, even if the weights section at your gym makes you feel that way.
Weight training can help safeguard your health as you age: putting your bones under force from resistance training helps to increase bone density, which safeguards the body from injury. Weight training also reduces your risk of getting everything from cardiovascular disease and obesity, to type 2 diabetes.”
Yasmin Badesha, Vivo Life.
5. Listen to your body
“I coach my clients to honour their health by paying attention to messages or symptoms that their bodies communicate to them. So, what do these messages look like? It could be fatigue, low mood, aching joints, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, lowered immune function, pre-diabetes, high cholesterol, weight gain… the list is endless.
The signs might be huge, such as a full-on anxiety attack, or subtle, like a mild rash. This is the body saying, ‘hey, start paying me attention. Something is off right now, and we need to work together to address it before it becomes something more chronic or serious’.”
Izzy Walton, Health Coach Graduate at The College of Naturopathic Medicine
6. Embrace intuitive eating
”Intuitive eating is a science backed concept which promotes self-compassion and acceptance, equipping women with simple tools and techniques for a trusting, happy, and healthy relationship with food, by understanding the body’s hunger cues.
Instead of jumping on and off the dieting bandwagon, intuitive eating offers us a framework for obliterating the bandwagon and finding a more peaceful relationship with food and our bodies.”
Laura Thomas, founder of the London Centre for Intuitive Eating and host of Don’t Salt My Game podcast.
7. Give HIIT a try
“HIIT workouts often mix cardiovascular exercises with resistance training. In a typical HIIT class, you can expect short bursts of intense exercise combined with periods of rest or low-impact activity. Alternating between hard-charging intervals and short rest periods elevates your heart rate to at least 80 per cent of its maximum capacity, which is the optimal fat-burning zone.
According to research, HIIT burns more calories than most aerobic activities, including running. In a 20 minute time frame, you could burn up to 273 calories in a HIIT class compared to 150 calories expended by jogging.”
8. Get the gut feeling
”Our gut contains 100 trillion live bacteria, weighing in at 2kg. The balance of ‘live bacteria’ versus ‘harmful bacteria’ is very important. 70 per cent of our immune cells are thought to be found in our gut, so it’s a really important aspect of health. What’s more, some evidence suggests there may be a link between gut health and cognitive function.
Aim to eat 30g of fibre a day and feed your gut with a variety of sources (the microbiome have varied tastes, just like us). Look to incorporate fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and live yoghurt, and polyphenols which are found in all fruits and vegetables, with particularly high levels in dark chocolate, green leafy vegetables and dark skinned fruits such as blueberries and blackberries.”
Alex Glover, Senior Nutritionist at Holland & Barrett
9. Resistance training
“Over the past three months, there has been a 141 per cent rise in searches for resistance band workouts. For those new to resistance band training, it has a broad variety of health benefits and should be a part of everyone’s workout kit. The versatile equipment works to engage more muscle groups, tone, sculpt and build strength in many movements. Everything that can be done with weights is also possible with a resistance band, yet it is far more portable.
Furthermore, resistance bands are kind on joints and good for stretching and mobility, which is essential for reducing the risk of injury or helping rehabilitate any injuries.”
10. Don’t forget to warm up
“According to research by Deep Relief, 35 per cent of those polled said they wouldn’t bother with a warm-up before exercising. Taking 5-10 minutes a few times a day to stretch as part of your normal routine can make a real difference to your joint mobility and help to release areas of tension and pain.
I would recommend eight leg swings on each side, eight squats, and eight good mornings, repeating until your 5 minutes are up.”
Chris Ruxton, Personal Trainer
11. Borrow a dog!
”My dog forces me to get up and go outside for exercise, even on the wettest of days – and once I’m out, I actually really enjoy it! If you don’t have your own dog, consider signing up to walk or dog sit for others at borrowmydoggy.com. Local Facebook groups are another good way to find owners who are happy to lend out their four-legged friends.”
Holly, Planet Mindful editor
12. Try eating plant-based
”Ditching meat and dairy in favour of a more colourful diet filled with fruit, veg, pulses, nuts and seeds will instantly make you feel more energised and less sluggish. And when you have more energy, you’re more inclined to get out and about and exercise.
Drink lots of water and stick to wholegrains and non-processed foods and you’ll be glowing within weeks!”
Cath Short, personal trainer and nutritionist at Raw4Fitness.