5 tips to boost your health and wellbeing this year

Being healthy can feel like an impossible task during the cold, dark winter months. Especially after the usual Christmas excesses, you might feel like all you want to do is curl up and watch footie on TV.

But January is actually a great time to get yourself on the right track towards fitness. Paul O’Connell, the lead physiotherapist at our health and wellbeing partner, Bridge Health & Wellbeing, shares these five top tips to boost your health and wellbeing in 2022.

1. Get moving

Doing more exercise is key to improving both your health and wellbeing. There are many proven health benefits of regular exercise, reducing your risk of heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes and cancer. According to the mental health charity Mind, physical activity can also improve your mental health by helping with better sleep, happier moods, reduced stress and better self-esteem, and reducing the likelihood of experiencing a period of depression.

The key is finding the right exercise that works for you and fits your lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be a full-on marathon. Simply going for a walk or parking that bit further away from the supermarket entrance can all add more exerciseinto your day. A fitness tracker can help motivate you to reach a target of 10,000 steps a day and remind you to move away from your desk regularly if you work at a desk. Why not have a kick about in the park with some mates? You really will feel the benefits and might have some fun too.

2. Ditch the junk food

Yes, the occasional burger whilst watching the Terras is ok, but it’s best to try and choose healthy options wherever possible. Try and include lots of fruit and vegetables in your diet and lean meats like chicken and turkey. Cook meals yourself when you can to avoid relying on takeaways and ready meals, which can have much higher calories. The dark winter nights are a great time to eat slow-cooked stews and tray bakes, which can be surprisingly quick to get in the oven and super nutritious.

3. Get more sleep

We all know that we’re grumpy after a bad night’s sleep. With so much entertainment on demand, it’s easy to get absorbed and stay up late watching the latest box set. But lack of sleep doesn’t just affect your mood. According to the NHS website, regular poor sleep puts you at risk of serious medical conditions, including obesity, coronary heart disease and diabetes – and it even shortens your life expectancy.

Aim for at least 8 hours a night and try and go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Tell your body it is time for rest by winding down, switching off electronics and the TV, having a bath, reading a book or listening to relaxing music. Keep your bedroom as dark, quiet and clutter-free as possible. If you’re struggling to sleep because there are lots of thoughts going around your brain, don’t be afraid to put the light on and write them down. Getting them out of your head might help you switch off and then drift into a good night’s sleep.

4. Breath fresh air whenever possible

Cold and wet winter days might make you want to hibernate. But winter has beautiful cold and crisp days too, and Spring is on its way. Getting outside to breathe fresh air and spend time in nature has both physical and mentalhealth benefits. Not only does it encourage us to exercise, but it also makes us feel better too. According to research at the Mental Health Foundation, spending time outdoors has been one of the key factors enabling people to cope with the stress of the Covid-19 pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, nearly half (45%) of people in the UK said that visiting green spaces, such as parks, helped them cope.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Whether it’s talking to your friends and family or booking an appointment with your GP, there are many ways to gethelp with your health and wellbeing. If pain or injury is holding you back, visiting a physiotherapist, chiropractor, osteopath, or other health professional can help get you back to your best. Think about taking on a challenge like the Couch to 5k to keep you focused. Or look at joining a local running or 5-a-side club. Making yourself accountable to others can ensure you stay on track with exercise, as well as make some new friends too.

Paul O’Connell (MSC, BSC, HCPC, MCSP) is a physiotherapist with two decades of clinical expertise. He has worked right across the UK, from North Yorkshire and London to Hampshire and Dorset. Sports medicine is one of his areas of special interest: he has worked both on the touchline and in sports injuries clinics. Having spent several years managing physiotherapy and health assessment teams in two key Nuffield Health hospitals, Paul also has an extensive understanding of orthopaedic surgery. In 2019, he founded Bridge Health & Wellbeing in Christchurch, Dorset, with his wife Louise, a body control Pilates teacher.

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