Make time for your health and get outside for a walk


Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity

by Dr Peter Attia (Vermilion £22, 496pp)

Here’s American doctor Peter Attia’s menu of what we should aim to be able to do when and if we reach our tenth decade: go for a hilly two-mile hike; get up off the floor with just one arm for support; carry two heavy bags of groceries for half a mile; put a suitcase into an overhead locker; balance on one leg; have sex; pick up a small child; climb four flights of stairs; skip with a skipping rope; open an unopened jar.

Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity by Dr Peter Attia (Vermilion £22, 496pp)

Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity by Dr Peter Attia (Vermilion £22, 496pp)

He calls this the Centenarian Decathlon. Though this book celebrates longevity and the ‘outliving’ of our expected age of death, Attia stresses there’s not much point in being old if you’re miserable and decrepit; ‘longevity is meaningless if your life sucks’.

Instead of a final ‘marginal decade’, when life is all diminishment, he wants us to have a ‘bonus decade’.

So, get yourself screened for as many kinds of cancer as possible, from your early 40s onwards. Look after your liver, and that means limiting Coca-Cola as well as alcohol (seven glasses per week should be our maximum alcohol allowance). Spend 80 minutes per week in the sauna. Exercise with weights. Eat loads of protein. ‘When did Noah build the ark? Long before it began to rain.’ We must be more Noah.

Walk Yourself Happy

by Julia Bradbury (Piatkus £20, 272pp)

‘When I left hospital, having been separated from my left breast, I promised myself I would get outside every single day of my life from then onwards.’ 

Walk Yourself Happy by Julia Bradbury (Piatkus £20, 272pp)

Walk Yourself Happy by Julia Bradbury (Piatkus £20, 272pp)

Fresh air and exercise fill the pages of this inspiring memoir and self-help book by television presenter and mother of three Julia Bradbury, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021.

After that scare, she appreciates every day, sticking her head out of her bathroom window each morning to admire and thank the London planetree, which replaces its own bark, a symbol of self-healing. This book, she writes, ‘is my manifesto for achievable and sustainable change’. She quotes Theodore Roosevelt: ‘Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.’

‘If you don’t make time for your health,’ she warns us, ‘you’ll be forced to make time for your illness.’

Not only does she recommend a daily walk as a hotline to wellbeing, she also advises us to breathe through our nose, not our mouth, as this boosts our immune system as well as perking up our mind.

Built to Move: The 10 Essential Habits to Help You Move Freely and Live Fully

by Kelly and Juliet Starrett (Orion Spring £18.99, 336pp)

Built to Move: The 10 Essential Habits to Help You Move Freely and Live Fully by Kelly and Juliet Starrett (Orion Spring £18.99, 336pp)

Built to Move: The 10 Essential Habits to Help You Move Freely and Live Fully by Kelly and Juliet Starrett (Orion Spring £18.99, 336pp)

‘10 tests + 10 physical practices = 10 ways to make your body work better.’ Thus promises the follow-up to the Starretts’ previous best-seller Becoming A Supple Leopard. Their chief message is that ‘mobilisations’, not stretching, are our ticket to success. Mobilisations are rhythmic movements that massage our muscles and joints, targeting multiple aspects of the body, including connective tissue and the nervous system.

If you do ten minutes of mobilisations per day, that’ll add up to an impressive 3,650 minutes a year, and will have a miraculous effect on your range of motion.

The authors watch people as they go through airport security, and notice how most people have ‘limited extension in the hips’ when they hold both their arms in the air. Hip extension mobilisation, they say, has ‘the biggest impact on your everyday functionality.’

It’s time to bring squats, ‘butt-squeezes’, ‘the wall-hang’, and at least 10,000 steps per day into our daily schedule, as well as working at a standing desk.

Hack Your Hormones

by Davinia Taylor (Orion Spring £14.99, 288pp)

‘Dedicated to every woman who’s ever been told she’s “hormonal”,’ reads the dedication page of actress Davinia Taylor’s zestful, persuasive book about how to make our hormones work for us rather than against us. Taylor knows from personal experience what it’s like to be an overweight, unhappy mother of four.

She has suffered from alcohol addiction and postnatal depression, and even lost custody of a son. ‘I’ve seen the worst that can happen when your hormones are out of whack,’ she writes.

Hack Your Hormones by Davinia Taylor (Orion Spring £14.99, 288pp)

Hack Your Hormones by Davinia Taylor (Orion Spring £14.99, 288pp)

Then she watched a BBC documentary about dopamine and cold-water exposure. She tried a cold shower, felt instantly better — and ‘I had started to hack my hormones in a positive way’.

Thus began her journey of discovery about our body’s chemical messengers, ‘which can only help us if they’re in tune with our natural circadian rhythm’.

Desperate for a croissant in the morning, and then a second croissant? That’s your body craving a dopamine hit, and the more you indulge it with blood-sugar spikes, the more you’ll crave it.

Her advice for well-regulated hormones: give up the croissants, eat loads of eggs instead, put MCT (medium chain triglycerides) powder in your coffee, wear blue light-blocking glasses in the evening while watching screens and, yes, have a cold shower every morning.

Ultra-Processed People: Why Do we All Eat Stuff that Isn’t Food . . . and Why Can’t we Stop?

by Chris van Tulleken

(Cornerstone £22, 384pp)

It was while watching his young daughter devour three bowls of Coco Pops for breakfast that van Tulleken, an infectious diseases doctor in London, started thinking about the astonishing power and draw of ultra-processed foods. ‘It wasn’t mindless,’ he writes, ‘it was trancelike’.

All of us go into a variation of this addicted trance, every time we eat a Pringle, ice cream, a salted caramel bar, or even a slice of supermarket brown bread, all of which are packed with weird chemical components that can’t even be classed as foods: they’re ‘industrially produced edible substances’.

Ultra-Processed People: Why Do we All Eat Stuff that Isn¿t Food . . . and Why Can¿t we Stop? by Chris van Tulleken (Cornerstone £22, 384pp)

Ultra-Processed People: Why Do we All Eat Stuff that Isn’t Food . . . and Why Can’t we Stop? by Chris van Tulleken (Cornerstone £22, 384pp)

Van Tulleken became a guinea pig for his own experiment. For a month, he existed on a diet of 80 per cent ultra-processed foods (UPF), thus ingesting vast amounts of additives such as xanthan gum, a thickener which is in fact ‘the slime that bacteria produce to allow them to cling to surfaces’ and which ‘creates a food chain in the human gut’ that may be having a profound effect on our immune systems.

‘I put on 6kg,’ van Tulleken writes, ‘and felt like I had aged ten years. I was never hungry, but also never satisfied.’

The signals that tell us to stop eating, he explains, haven’t evolved to handle food this soft — ‘so soft that it’s essentially pre-chewed’. All horrifying. Time to start studying the labels on every food item we buy, even if it looks ‘healthy’ at first glance.



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