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5 healthy habits you can start today

All of us want to feel healthier. Here are five blissfully simple ways to make it happen.

1. Drink more water

Our bodies are made up of around 60 per cent water and our brains around 74 per cent, so to stay in optimum health we need to be keep hydration levels topped up.1

You might think you drink enough but a University of Barcelona study found that being as little as just two per cent dehydrated - which probably won't even register as making you feel thirsty - makes concentrating and functioning harder.2 As we age our ability to detect thirst also diminishes.

The European Food Safety Authority recommends 2.5 litres a day for men and two litres for women daily. It suggests 70-80 per cent of this should come from drinks (carrying a water bottle around with you can help make it easier to monitor your fluid intake) and 20-30 per cent from food.

For foods with a high water content. Nutritionist Rob Hobson recommends celery, cucumber, watermelon, tomatoes and grapefruit.

2. Get the sleep you dream of

Over 63 per cent of us are unhappy with the amount of sleep we get and 74 per cent actively worry about not getting enough.3

Regularly being sleep deprived also puts us at greater risk of conditions like heart disease and diabetes, and mood disorders like depression and anxiety. It can also impair your ability to think clearly and motivate yourself.4

Experts suggest we ideally get between seven and nine hours but regularly dipping below six eats into the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep making it harder to take in new information and making even simple tasks a struggle.

If you are not sure if you regularly fall below six hours use the latest tech to track how much sleep you are actually getting.

The latest research suggests prebiotic fibre (like artichokes or an artichoke supplement) could help you to an improved night's sleep,5 as can soaking in a muscle-relaxing magnesium bath.

3. Increase your vitamin and mineral levels

Feeding your body the vitamins and minerals it needs is essential to keep you fit and healthy.

And the diet most likely to deliver on that front is a heart-healthy Mediterranean-inspired one which includes plenty of omega 3-rich foods like oily fish and olive oil plus nuts, seeds and pulses and a wide variety of nutritionally dense fruit and vegetables.

But life can get in the way of getting the nutrients we need: fruit and vegetables can lose their vitamin and mineral content in the storage process; levels of some naturally-produced nutrients become depleted over time and our body finds it harder to absorb some as we get older.

Plus, we just need different nutrients at different times (e.g. in the winter we may need vitamin D which is created naturally in the body via sunlight in the summer).

4. Take steps to get fitter

A recent study from Public Health England (PHE) found that four out of 10 (41 per cent) adults in England don't even manage to fit in a short 10- minute brisk walk once a month.6

Yet exercising regularly helps to significantly lower your risk of health problems like depression, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and dementia.

Walking is one of the easiest forms of exercise to fit into your life without it seeming like exercise. Simply walk briskly to the shops, set up meetings outdoors and walk while you talk or take a stroll around your local park. Start in 10 minute slots and build up to around 30-45 minutes.

Using a pedometer can help incentivise you to do more by monitoring how many steps you take, the distance covered and, significantly, the calories you have burnt off in the process.

5. Chart your improved health

To make health and fitness habits a way of life the key is to make them personal to you, find what fits into your world and to keep your new health and fitness habits going chart your progress.

A US study involving overweight and obese adults revealed those who weighed in daily lost around two kilos more than those didn't.7

But don't just focus on weight - also measure your muscle mass (as this increases you burn calories quicker), bone density (this can show if you are at risk of osteoporosis), visceral fat (the type that clings around the belly putting you at increased risk of heart disease and stroke) and calculate your BMI.

A BMI (Body Mass Indicator) of between 18.5 and 25 is considered healthy. Anything above this could put you at greater risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, for example. Using your personalised readings and working together with a weight tracking app will show you at a glance how you are doing and inspire you to get healthier and stay healthier.

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.