60-second health checks


Add up all the things you’re supposed to do every day to stay healthy (the sleeping, the sweating, the veggie steaming, the Sudoku solving) and it can feel like a full-time job.

But studies show you can reap major body benefits – whether you double the kilojoules you burn in a workout or reduce your risk of cancer – in 60 seconds or less.

When you’re at the pharmacy

The change: Read the fine print on sunscreen labels.

The benefit: Better SPF protection. A recent test of sunscreen products found that 83 percent of them don’t provide adequate sun protection. To guard against both UVA and UVB rays, look for products that contain zinc (or zinc oxide) and titanium (or titanium dioxide).

On your way home from work

The change: Stop by the florist.

The benefit: Less grouchiness the next morning. New research from Harvard University shows that even people who say they’re not “morning people” report feeling happier and more energetic after looking at flowers first thing in the am.

When you first get to work

The change: Check out a funny website.

The benefit: Fewer colds. Instead of starting your day with office e-mail, try a gutbuster from a site like Will Ferrell and co’s www.funnyordie.com. Research suggests that a moment of mirth increases the body’s secretion of immune-boosting growth hormones and endorphins.

When you graze your knee

The change: Dab some honey on it.

The benefit: Fewer Band-aids required. A study in the International Journal of Clinical Practice shows that natural disinfectants in honey can speed healing, reduce the risk of infection, and soothe pain. Just apply a thin layer over small cuts and scrapes.

When you’re having your annual check-up

The change: Tackle the tough stuff first.

The benefit: A better relationship with your doctor. Research shows that patients who bring up difficult issues at the start of an appointment are more likely to be satisfied with the visit and to adhere to their doctor’s recommendations.

When you want a snack

The change: Pop pistachios.

The benefit: Improved cholesterol levels. In research at the Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia, people who ate 50g of unsalted pistachios a day for four weeks raised their HDL cholesterol (the good kind) by 6%. Buy them pre-shelled to save your nails.

During a DIY pedi

The change: Examine your feet.

The benefit: Early skin-cancer detection. Melanoma can develop even in places that don’t see much sun. The three most common on the feet: the soles, between the toes, and around or under the toenails. See a doc if you notice spots that are new or asymmetrical or that change in size, colour, or thickness.

When you’re yawning at 3pm

The change: Choose coffee over cola.

The benefit: Reduced diabetes risk. Coffee has fewer kilojoules and more antioxidants than most fizzy drinks – and a Finnish study found that folks who drank three to six cups per day were 50% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who sipped two cups or less.

During the week before your period

The change: Order a glass of wine with dinner.

The benefit: Less PMS. A study recently linked moderate alcohol consumption (about one drink per day) to fewer pre-period mood changes and headaches.

When you’re craving a cigarette

The change: Drink milk.

The benefit: Less-satisfying smoke breaks. In a recent survey of smokers from Duke University, nearly 20 % agreed that milk makes cigarettes taste bad. “Your brain can eventually connect the taste of milk with a decreased desire to smoke,” says lead researcher Dr Joseph McClernon.

When you’re waiting for the weight machine at the gym

The change: Skipping rope.

The benefit: Mega kilojoule frying. “Skipping for one minute and then resting for one minute between sets of weight-training exercises can nearly double the kilojoules you burn,” says personal trainer Patrick Murphy.

Image: Woman dancing from Shutterstock.

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