The Irish Times asked three influential doctors for their view;
1. Don’t just exercise, stretch: While Irish people have improved vastly in the amount of exercise they take, such as walking, running or cycling, stretching has been somewhat forgotten. The scourges of osteoarthritis and degenerative conditions of the hips, neck and spine can be much reduced by good posture and regular stretching. Pliates, Tai-Chi, yoga, swimming or any set of exercises you remember from sports training days that move most of the joints through their range of movement are good. If you have an illness, injury or already suffer arthritis, your physiotherapist will give appropriate advice.
2. Make fresh fruit and vegetables the centre of your diet: Less fat, less sugar, more fibre, less salt, low cholesterol, less meat, less carbohydrate….. you’ve heard it all and it can get so confusing. Yet you shouldn’t have a diet that spurns fruit and vegetables. Keep it simple, and ensure your shopping trolley contains more fruit and vegetables than any other edible.
3. Focus more on a good lifestyle than on health checks: The BMJ editorial in their recent July 9th edition is entitled “General health checks don’t work”. There are some national screening programmes which are based on good evidence, such as cervical screening, bowel check and breast screening, and I don’t at all dissuade people from using proven health checks. But this editorial actually stated, based on evidence from a Cochrane review in 2012 and the Inter99 trial, that “doctors should not offer general health checks to their patients, and governments should abstain from introducing health check programmes”.
4. The benefits of stopping smoking may be greater than you realised: Once you have stopped smoking for two years, your cardiovascular risk is the same as someone who has never smoked. If you can stop smoking before your 40th birthday, it is unlikely that smoking will cause your death. While we understand how difficult it is to stop, a few practical tips help. My favourite is the three Ds to cope with the three minutes of acute withdrawal (which is as long as it lasts)- take Deep breaths, Distract yourself, or Drink a glass of water.
5. Exercise is the key to maintaining all systems: For good mental health, get out under the big sky! To quote Dr Nick Cavill, a health promotion consultant, “if exercise were a pill, it would be one of the most cost-effective drugs ever invented “.