Health Latest

The one thing health professionals do every day

Small changes with major prospective health benefits.
health professionals

If you do just one new thing to take care of your mental or physical health, what should it be? Some of Australia’s leading healthcare professionals share a daily health secret.

Exercise with friends

“I’m an avid rock climber and I go to the gym and climb with friends. I also walk my dog every day and chat to people at the park,” says Dr Katya Numbers, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA).

“Social health is emerging as a top lifestyle factor associated with dementia – there’s evidence that people  who enjoy quality social interactions with others are less likely to get dementia. Staying connected is one of the most important things you can do to keep your brain healthy, and if you can get some exercise at the same time, that’s even better for your brain.”

Plan meals

“I nourish my body by preparing meals ahead. I know I’ll need good protein, calcium for my bones, and grains and fibre to feed my gut,” says Jane Freeman, Accredited Practising Dietitian and spokesperson for Dietitians Australia.

“I have a good breakfast – wholegrain muesli with yoghurt and berries, and if lunch will be on the run I grab a bread roll, spinach, baby tomatoes and cheese, and a tin of tuna. 

“I’ll add some fruit and some nuts. Thinking about your week and making sure you have some protein for each day is a good start. Stock the fridge and pantry with colourful vegetables and sweet potato, brown rice or pasta and you’ll always be able to create easy meals with plenty of nutritional value.”

Heart of the matter

“In our increasingly busy and stressful lives, I make time for self-care and wellbeing and make time and space to relieve stress,” says Louise Segan, clinician researcher and heart specialist at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.

“For me, yoga and meditation are useful stress reduction techniques, and  with advances in technology you can now access a range of yoga and meditation programs at minimal cost and in your own time, without leaving your living room.”

Get morning light for a good night’s sleep

“A morning walk as close as possible to sunrise is my favourite thing to do and it sets me up best for a good night’s sleep later. The morning light suppresses any residual melatonin – the sleep hormone – and warming up my body with a brisk walk is like an anchor that sets my circadian rhythm,” says Dr Moira Junge, CEO of the Sleep Health Foundation. 

“I’m an eight-hour a night sleeper and after that morning walk, just like clockwork, 16 hours later I am ready for a sound slumber again. I also make sure that if I do wake in the night, 

I don’t look at the time and then start calculating how many hours I have left to get sleep. I prefer to stay naïve to what time it might be and know sleep will likely return very soon.” 

Walk – even when at your desk

“If I’m not taking a meeting while walking on my under-desk treadmill – a new addition to my work from home office – I go for a walk. I can’t go a day without some form of exercise,” says Professor Tanya Buchanan, the CEO of Cancer Council Australia. 

“Excess weight gain is a risk factor for developing 13 different types of cancers, and research shows that just 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a day can lower the risk of endometrial, breast and bowel cancer.”

health professionals tips

Practise resistance

“I do resistance training every day – walking or training with weights, resistance bands or my body weight. It helps maintain bone strength, helps our body use up sugar circulating in our blood and keeps me strong,” says Kiara Roscio, accredited exercise physiologist.

“Squats, lunges, bench presses and rowing are all resistance training and you don’t need to go to the gym. Sit on a chair, stand up and sit again – repeat that 10 times. Or sit on the floor with your legs in front of you, hook a resistance band around your feet, hold the other end in each hand and pull your elbows back, squeezing your shoulder blades together and row. Also try placing your hands on your kitchen bench, taking a step back, bending your elbows, lowering your chest towards the bench and pushing back up.”

Healthy mind

“Every morning, I wake with enough time to sit and have my morning coffee looking at the garden and up at the sky. Connecting to nature reminds me that I am one small part of a greater existence and not to take myself too seriously,” says Gillian Needleman, Psychologist at Jean Hailes for Women’s Health.

“I pause, breathe and give myself a message to get through the day.  It may just be a word like ‘calm’, ‘accept’ or ‘trust’ – something that checks in with my mood and I try and hold that word to guide the day and get through challenges. I also remember to stay aware and reflect, rather than get lost in the busy day.”

The information in this article is of a general nature. For specific health conditions or before altering your diet, see your doctor or health professional.

Related stories