Be Healthier: Now... breathe in deeply

Your body doesn't have to be a temple. But you could probably look after it a bit better. Tips by Peta Bee
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Indy Lifestyle Online

First, the good news: the best way to start working on a healthy new you is to potter about in the garden. Pruning, weeding and tending to your flower beds can help to rid the body of tension in the same way as yoga. In a three-year study conducted with the therapeutic horticultural society, Thrive, researchers at Loughborough University found that gardening had a positive effect on the physical and emotional health of people with stress, depression or other mental health problems. Dr Jo Aldridge, who led the research, found that gardeners had more time for self-reflection and relaxation, boosting their mood.

Speaking of mood enhancers, the even better news is that coffee addicts can be healthy, too. Or healthier, at least. Weaning yourself off a java habit is easier said than done and can be a source of stress if you are a caffeine junkie. But you can at least do your waistline a favour by switching to calorie-friendly versions at Starbucks. That grande mocha Frappuccino contains at least 290 calories, whereas an americano with milk will set you back 15.

Getting outside in the spring is another easy way to a virtuous 2006. Warnings about the risks of too much sunlight along with lifestyles that see us spending more time inside than out have led to most Britons not getting enough vitamin D. Long known to be important for calcium absorption and healthy teeth and bones, vitamin D's main source is the sun. Only 30 minutes a day of exposure on the face and arms fromApril to October will stablise levels.

Do not skip about in the sunshine, however: the latest advice is to reduce your workout. According to the American Council on Exercise, "abbreviated fitness programmes" are the way forward for the time-starved, and 2006 will be the year in which it dawns on many that more effort in less time can have pleasing results on the waistline. Research by the American College of Sports Medicine has shown that30 minutes of high-intensity exercise at 80 per cent of your maximum aerobic capacity is as good as an hour at a workload of 60 per cent.

Sceptical? Don't be. Being more optimistic and looking on the bright side can extend your life by up to 12 years, according to a study of 1,000 men and women by Dr Eric Giltay of the Psychiatric Centre Delfland, in the Netherlands. He found that those who were positive about the future and about relationships had a 55 per cent lower death rate from all causes. The Mayo Clinic in the US found that optimists outlive pessimists by, on average, 12 years.

You also have to eat less. Emerging studies into the benefits of calorie restriction suggest that consuming a third fewer calories could enable humans to extend their lives by a third. At America's National Institute of Ageing in Baltimore, Dr Mark Mattson found that mice fed every other day lived longer than those allowed to eat at will.

Yo-yo exercising should go the same way. Not only does it fail to get you fully fit, but it also cramps your mood. Forty regular exercisers underwent mood and fitness tests before half of the subjects were forbidden from working out for two weeks, while the other half stuck to their normal gym regime. Assessments at the US Uniformed Services University were repeated after one and two weeks, with the results showing that the "exercise holiday" left the subjects feeling worse than if they had completed a week of intense, exhaustive exercise.

According to NHS statistics, people over 50 are prescribed three times as much medication as the rest of the population, yet 55 per cent of them fail to take their pills to a regular timetable. Such non-compliance is a problem that accounts for 40 per cent of all hospital admissions and indirectly contributes to 125,000 deaths a year. If you are forgetful, use Post-it notes or magnetic reminders to prompt you into popping your medication on time.

Having more houseplants in your office or at home is another positive health move, say scientists at Washington State University. They found that workers who place a plant on their desk experience less fatigue and stress. Researchers at Oslo University found that more plants led to an improvement in concentration levels of one-third and a 45 per cent reduction in headaches.

Most importantly of all, be good to yourself. Obsessing about healthy eating is all very well, until you stray from your virtuous path. Research shows that people with high levels of guilt about their lifestyle are more likely to go to the doctor or suffer from colds or flu. A study by Hull University found that guilt over enjoying things like eating sweets lowered levels of immunoglobulin A, associated with a strong immune system. So stop beating yourself up if you indulge occasionally. Life is way too short.

Peta Bee's books include Living with Asthma and The Body Bible

Jenny Eclair, COMEDIAN

This year I have to stop smoking, because these days I keep getting very scared of dying. I'm also terrified of getting throat cancer and not being able to do voiceovers. I've also decided to be more "groomed". I'm 45 and I can't do sexy or cute anymore so I'm going to go for "groomed". I think this might involve a serious haircut and some grown-up clothes, but what I really need is Paul Smith to give me a discount. Do you know, I've been in showbusiness for 25 years and no one has ever given or even lent me any clothes - ever. In fact my main resolution for 2006 is to get more stuff for nothing - everyone else does. I've got my own Saturday morning radio show on LBC, so if people give me stuff, then I shall be nice about them on air - simple. Happy New Year!

Dinos Chapman, ARTIST

My life is perfect in every way. I have absolutely no desire to change anything in 2006. Life could not be better. I have never made any resolutions to change my life. I think resolutions are pretty stupid. They reflect a herd-like mentality. When January comes round, I don't plan to change my life, I just think about my birthday, although everybody is bored with presents by then. What are my aims? Just to get richer - honesty is always the best policy. My work takes care of itself. I don't believe in aims because the future doesn't exist. There's no point in trying to predict what might happen. I'm a boring Capricorn pragmatist and I live in the present.

Twiggy, ACTRESS

I've had such a year. It hasn't stopped! After I finish in Jack and the Beanstalk at the Theatre Royal in Brighton on 15 January, I'm going to go up to our place in the country and recharge. Over the course of the year, I'm going to try and be more tolerant of people. One should learn to be more patient. I'm also going to do my bit for the charities I support - breast cancer and the Greyhound Trust and a little wildlife centre for hedgehogs in Bolton. When it comes to the environment, I'm very conscious that everyone needs to do their bit. I usually vote Green, because I have problems with politics. This year, we might finally have to replace our Mercedes which we've had for 20 years and is on her last legs, bless her, and we're looking into getting one of those diesel-electric hybrids. Oh, and this year is my 20th wedding anniversary. I'm very happily married and I've got a wonderful family and I think you have to keep working at it.

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