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Weekend reboot: staying healthy in your downtime

Tips for less booze and more bounce on your weekends.

Health Agenda magazine
October 2016

They might be more associated with big nights out, lazy mornings in and ‘I’ll make up for it tomorrow’ slips in healthy eating, but a growing group of experts think weekends should be about good health.

Chris Raine, founder of Hello Sunday Morning, a non-government organisation dedicated to helping people cut down on alcohol, believes weekends can be ideal times to reassess your health priorities and make better decisions for both the short term and the rest of your life.

“An evaluation of our program by VicHealth shows nearly two-thirds [of sample participants] report reduced alcohol consumption, and more than half improved their physical health and said they felt more positive about themselves,” he says. That’s better mental and physical health and more money in the bank. Here are some tips from Raine on how best to enjoy a super healthy weekend.

Friday night

We get it: it’s been a hectic week and there’s a double G&T with your name on it at the bar. But don’t just head there on autopilot, cautions Raine. “Stress is a massive challenge for everyone in a modern world, but it’s important not always to rely on alcohol to de-stress. You need to diversify your strategies,” he says. “Rather than go straight from work into drinking, do an activity such as running or swimming, then have a drink if you want.”

If you prefer a less sweaty option, why not try yoga? Research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology in 2014 found yoga can reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease just as effectively as aerobic exercise such as cycling.

To give yourself the best chance of getting to the gym or park, change into your workout gear as soon as your workmates start to down tools. That way you can resist the temptation of heading to the pub with the rest of the post-work drinkers and skipping your fitness regime.

Saturday

Here’s where your weekend can really kick into health mode. With more time to prepare breakfast, aim to fill up on lean protein, healthy carbs and fruit and vegies. Try an omelette with cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and fresh herbs, or porridge topped with sliced bananas and almond flakes.

Or you can make a healthy smoothie with frozen berries, plain yoghurt and whey protein powder. Recent research by the Endocrine Society has found that whey protein at breakfast makes you feel full and reduces the incidence of blood glucose spikes. This is particularly useful for people with type 2 diabetes.

Next is a more cerebral task: planning. “Setting a goal with intention helps us avoid a situation where we’re led into behaviours we end up regretting,” says Raine, who founded HSM after a series of terrible hangovers in his 20s had him rethinking his relationship with alcohol.

Whether you want to give up drinking for a month or three months, or even cut down to a couple of glasses a week, the first thing to do is to state your intentions,” Raine advises. “Surround yourself with friends who are inspired, more than challenged, by your decision. You can also access online support by signing up to an HSM challenge.

Sunday

Another excellent technique for reducing or stopping drinking is to build a fitness routine. “People who set themselves fitness goals, such as training for a half marathon, while also doing an HSM challenge, are around 30 per cent more likely to succeed in changing their drinking patterns,” Raine says.

Needless to say, it will do your health no end of good too. New research conducted by an international panel of epidemiologists, based on a survey of 1.4 million people, shows regular exercise lowers the risk of 13 major cancers. For instance, it can cut the risk of liver cancer by 27 per cent, and oesophageal cancer by a huge 42 per cent.

Make Sunday count and train for a run, long swim or cycle, or pack a picnic and do something with the whole family, such as bushwalking. Being out in nature has been shown to be a mood booster. Plus, hiking over uneven terrain works your body harder as you need to engage your core muscles to keep you steady.

Alternatively try a ‘green gym’ experience and look for weekend environmental projects near you at GoVolunteer. By taking part in activities such as planting trees, surveying flora and fauna or building walkways you’ll get the volunteering feel-good factor combined with the benefits of exercise.

Or, if you’re an urban dweller, try being a tourist in your own town. For example, join a walking tour in an unfamiliar new neighbourhood.

Tips for staying on track

  1. Pack a yoghurt in your cooler
    Research by the University of Missouri found that women who ate no-sugar-added yoghurt in the afternoons felt fuller and ate 540 fewer kilojoules at dinner.
  2. Listen to fast music
    According to a study reported by the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, people were able to jog for 15 per cent longer when they ran to upbeat music. Try Jog.fm (from iTunes), which detects your speed, then chooses the best tracks from your music library to suit you.
  3. Get out of bed early
    Beat the temptation to lie in on Sunday by framing your day’s goal in emotional terms. Perhaps you’re training for a run in honour of a family member or want to start meditating so you’re calmer around your kids. Giving yourself a motivator such as this makes you more likely to get out of bed according to a report in the International Journal of Sport Psychology.
  4. Treat yourself
    Figure out how much you spend on alcohol during an average Saturday evening. If it’s, say, $30, treat yourself to a $300 adventure when you’ve gone 10 Saturday nights out without drinking.

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