Done in the right order, these clever little hacks can seriously boost your health and wellbeing...
Bend your knees… before lifting heavy bags
‘Reaching down to pick up shopping bags tends to localise stress and strain the lower back,’ says physiotherapist Rory Brown from St Mary’s University in London. ‘Bend your knees and use your leg muscles to generate the lifting force. Keep the bags close to you, ensuring you’re not reaching out when lifting them.’
Dry-brush your teeth… before applying toothpaste
A bit like a pre-wash, brushing without toothpaste at the beginning of your routine could give teeth a better clean.
A study published in The Journal of the American Dental Association found that people who brushed their teeth with a dry toothbrush (followed by a session with toothpaste) saw a 63% reduction in plaque and 55% less bleeding. ‘Bristles tend to be stiffer when dry so they remove more plaque,’ explains dentist Dr Stephen Pitt from The Dental Studio.
Drink water… before driving
Do you curb your H2O intake before a long drive to avoid an unscheduled pit stop? You might be putting yourself at risk. A study by Loughborough University found that mildly dehydrated drivers make as many mistakes behind the wheel as people over the drink-drive limit – such as lane drifting and braking late. As well as causing tiredness, dehydration causes a drop in alertness and short-term memory.
Eat an apple…before shopping
When researchers from Cornell University in the US gave people either an apple, a biscuit or no snack before sending them food shopping, those who had the apple bought 28% more fruit and veg than those who had the biscuit and 25% more than those who had nothing. ‘Eating something healthy primes you to choose more healthier foods – it’s a motivator,’ says nutritionist Rick Hay. ‘Also, apples make you less likely to crave sugary foods.’
Start with soup… before having a main course
Want to lose weight? Eat more (yes, really!). A Penn State University study found that people who ate a first course of soup before lunch reduced their calorie intake by 20%, compared to when they skipped soup. Stick to soups that have 100-150 cals a serving, and avoid creamy ones. ‘Try a spicy vegetable soup with lentils,’ suggests Rick. ‘It’s nutrient-dense, plus pulses keep you feeling fuller for longer.’
Read a book… before lights out
Getting stuck into your novel before you fall asleep can really relax you. Research shows it’s a great way to drop levels of the stress hormone cortisol. In a study by the University of Sussex, people were given stressful tasks and then told to do one ‘relaxing’ activity – reading, listening to music, having a hot drink or playing a video game. Those who read saw the greatest effect, with levels dropping by 67%. It took just six minutes to lower their heart rate and ease muscle tension.
Plug in your headphones…before you go for a run
You could boost your overall performance by 15% if you listen to music while exercising. Researchers at the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences also found that music reduces your perception of effort and fatigue by up to 12%.
Let your teabag brew for five minutes… before drinking your cuppa
The antioxidants in tea are thought to help protect against some cancers, heart disease and stroke. To really get the benefits you need to leave your teabag brewing for five minutes, according to a study at Aberdeen’s Rowett Institute. Scientists tested levels of polyphenols (plant antioxidants) in drinkers’ blood and found levels 60% higher in those who waited five minutes.
Rinse your hair…before you wash it
Standing under the shower for at least 30 seconds before you reach for the shampoo bottle can leave you with hair to rival A-list locks. It will allow enough time for your hair to be rinsed free of any product and prep it for a more effective lather.
Have a glass of water… before you work out
Doing this 30 minutes before you exercise will ensure you’re hydrated before you start, without making you feel bloated. This is key to keeping your body temperature regulated and joints lubricated. Plus, it also helps transport energy to your cells.
Do some arm exercises… before a flu vaccine
Don’t worry if you haven’t got around to getting your winter jab, there’s still time. And now you can get yours on the high street – Superdrug pharmacies and Superdrug health clinics offer a walk-in service. If you want an extra boost, hit the gym first. A University of Birmingham study found people who lifted heavy weights before receiving a flu shot had higher antibody levels a few weeks later. It’s thought that boosting blood flow to the area being injected increases your response to the vaccine, meaning you produce more antibodies and therefore more protection against the flu.