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By: Hugh Wilson
You've heard about eating five-a-day, right? And you know that if you want to stay healthy you also have to get the exercise habit.
They're both great, but they're not all you should know. Here are 10 more easy life-extending habits for men that you should get into now. The sooner you start adopting them, the better your chances of staying on top form as the years and decades ebb away.
Stand to attention
Scientists used to focus on how much exercise people did. Now they're zoning in on how much slobbing around we do too. They've found that the more sitting around you do, the unhealthier you will be, even if you exercise at other times. Sitting for long periods affects you at a chemical level.
The simple solution? Stand up more. Take every opportunity, from wondering around the office at regular intervals to standing up on the train home.
'The simple take-home message here is to try and sit less,' says Dr Alpa Patel of the American Cancer Society. Standing up, stretching, walking around at lunchtime, they all, 'keep your muscles engaged and keep you from being sedentary for long periods.'
Take tomato time
Start eating tomatoes. Why? Because they're delicious, but also because they're a super-food designed for men.
The lycopene in tomatoes has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and colorectal cancer, two of the great scourges of our gender. And diets rich in lycopene provide protection against one cancer your woman can't get - cancer of the prostate.
Don't like tomatoes? Don't worry, you can get most of their benefits from tomato ketchup and the sauces you find in pasta dishes and pizzas.
Book the benefits
Reading stops you from being bored. It keeps your mind active. And according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Sussex, just six minutes of silent reading is enough to reduce your stress levels. In fact, the study showed that reading is even better for stress than listening to music or going for a walk.
Become a reader now and you'll get lifelong benefits. 'It really doesn't matter what book you read, by losing yourself you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world,' said neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis.
Find your feminine side
Fact is, girls get it when it comes to long-term health. When they're worried about something, they talk to someone. When they need a shoulder to cry on, they find one.
Most importantly, women talk to the doctor. 'Men are notorious for taking better care of their car than they do their own body,' sighs GP Dr Sarah Brewer
'They rarely attend proactively for routine check-ups and put off seeking help for persistent aches, pains or lumps.'
Get over your embarrassment, stop being stoic and let the GP ease your anxiety.
Read the small print
You know the five-a-day rule? What's generally missed is that you should eat 'at least' five portions of fruit and veg a day, and in other countries the figure is often between six and 10 portions.
Consuming fruit and veg is a habit you should get into now, and the more you have the better.
Find your inner hippy
Yoga? Meditation? Mindfulness (whatever that is)? Your girlfriend might practice them, but it's not real health is it? It's not like eating an apple or playing football?
That's true, of course. Yoga isn't like playing football. But it can be just as beneficial to your long-term health. 'Men suffer more with stress and die younger, so they should practice yoga and meditation even more than women,' says celebrity personal trainer Christianne Wolff
Men don't tend to realise the importance of the mind body connection. If you calm your mind - however you do it - you heal your body.
Variety is the spice of life...
...and of exercise. Play football and go swimming. Jog for 40 minutes one day, and do stop/start sprinting the next. Mix resistance and cardio training. Varying your workouts stops muscles becoming accustomed to routine.
'Resistance training is very important for raising the metabolic rate and increasing muscle mass,' says Christianne Wolff. 'A general workout for health might be 30 minutes of cardio three times a week and two sessions of resistance training.'
Increasing muscle mass is an oft ignored key to long-term health, because muscle burns more calories than fat, even when you're not doing anything with it.
Love your duvet
Sex is good for us, and that's truer of men than women. It gives you confidence, reduces stress and works certain muscles (and we don't just mean that one).
Most men will willingly adopt a sex habit. But they should also leap into bed for a good night's sleep. One recent study concluded that those who consistently get less than six hours a night are more likely to die early.
But people who sleep too much also suffer health consequences, so how much sleep should an average man get? Between six and eight hours is optimal, the researchers said. So get the sleep habit, and ditch the lie-ins unless you really need them.
According to Professor Brian Wansink of Cornell University in the US, men may benefit most from a couple of easy diet tricks.
They couldn't be simpler. For a start, get into the habit of dividing food onto plates in the kitchen rather than bringing serving dishes to the table. 'When we kept the serving dishes off the table, people consumed 20% fewer calories. Men ate close to 29% less,' said Professor Wansink.
If you keep biscuits or chocolate in the house, tuck them away in cupboards, he adds. The same principle applies. When we can't see them, we don't crave them.
You wouldn't think we'd need much persuading on this one, but as it happens men are notorious for plodding into the office even when we're feeling under the weather.
It's time to stop. A study by University College London found that some men double their heart attack risk by working with even minor illnesses.
So start taking sickies - but only when you need to, of course.
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