Spring MOT for your mind and body - by Sonia McGlinchey
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Spring is a great time of the year to give yourself a healthy mind and body check. Sometimes we all need a little reminder about what is good for us, so we’ve made a few, simple, suggestions to kick-start you this October.

Sleep more soundly

The importance of quality sleep is being touted as not only a major health benefit, but a major health requirement. Sleep is important for physical health because it allows our bodies to grow, develop, repair and heal. Furthermore, research suggests that sleep deficiency could be linked to an increase in obesity. This is likely associated with the importance of good sleep in regulating our blood sugar and satiety hormones. Memory and learning skills have also been shown to improve with a good night’s sleep, as well as an improved overall mood and coping strategies.

- Meditation could improve sleep duration and quality
- Avoid stimulants like caffeine, nicotine and alcohol

Practice Meditation

Studies have shown the beneficial effects of meditation on brain and immune function. The psychological perks – helping to alleviate stress and anxiety, overall mood and sleep disturbances – may contribute to the positive physiological health benefits that have been reported. Although more studies are needed, there is some evidence that practicing meditation could reduce blood pressure, insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease risk. With so many positive associations currently being explored, we can’t see any reason not to get involved!
Of course, there are local classes that can help you develop your meditation skills, but if you are just starting out, one of the many available apps could help start you on your journey.
- Create the right atmosphere, be quiet and calm
- Meditate for ten minutes a day and build-up

Ready, steady cook!

No matter how much we all want to maintain a healthy diet, some of us find it really hard to make time in those busy, after work, evenings. However, preparing fresh meals ourselves from unadulterated ingredients, rather than relying on pre-prepared dinners, could be key to controlling unnecessarily high intakes of salt, sugar, modified ingredients and saturated fats. You don’t have to be a Michelin-star chef to knock-up some deliciously simple, fresh meals. Here at The Nutritional Institute, we have lots of ideas to give you some inspiration.
- Include fresh herbs instead of salt seasoning
- Experiment with seasonal vegetables, citrus zest and juice

Incorporate weight-bearing exercise

Weight-bearing exercise, also known as resistance training, is essential for healthy bones. It’s the kind of exercise that makes your muscles and bones work against gravity. The body’s response to physical stress is to make more bone cells, increasing bone density and strength. This helps protect against breaks, fractures and conditions like osteoporosis.
This kind of resistance training also helps to build muscle density and strength, which further supports the bones as well as keeping body fat percentage lower than muscle mass.
- Start simply and increase intensity and duration slowly
- Walking, dancing or playing a round of golf are fun ways to combine with social pastimes

Never stop learning

You’ve no doubt heard the old adage that the mind is a muscle that needs to be exercised. It’s true that experts believe keeping mentally active maintains brain cells and strengthens their communication processes which keeps the mind sharp. Just like physical exercise, it’s important to find something that you enjoy, that works for you.

- Sign up to a course and learn a new skill. Why not look into our 12 Steps to Wholesome Nutrition course to learn about nutrition and health?
- Set a weekly challenge to finish a crossword or puzzle

Get moving

Last, but definitely not least, we can’t talk about body and mind without extolling the benefits of getting yourself moving. Entire journals are dedicated to understanding the many ways in which exercise benefits our bodies and minds. This is a reminder to include an hour of exercise into your day as often as possible. There are loads of ways that you can incorporate extra exercise into your daily routine without signing up to expensive gyms or committing to classes: walk up the stairs rather than taking the elevator, park the car further away from your final destination or carry your shopping in a basket.

- Combine your weight-bearing exercises and cardio by taking brisk walks or jogging
- Exercise for at least half an hour a day

In conclusion 

The key to incorporating long-term beneficial changes into your life is to choose fun, simple and easy steps that work for your individual needs. Meditation, cardio and weight-bearing exercise are positive ways of preventing some diseases and improving your life, but it’s important to listen to your body and find a balance that works safely for you. If you are in any doubt about your abilities, talk to your GP for advice before starting new routines.

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