Sunday 6 May 2012

How to stay healthy the cheap & easy way

Have you heard the quotation “A sound body makes for a sound mind”? Well, actually, I'm not sure if such a quote do exist, but the ancient Roman poet, Juvenal, did say

orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano

which can be translated as

It is to be prayed that the mind be sound in a sound body.

The latest topic in iTDi's blog is "Staying healthy and motivated" - if you haven't seen it, I suggest you do it soon. However, most of the advice was centred on tips on how to stay motivated, so I thought I'd redress the balance ;-) and write about health here. After all, if the body isn't healthy, the mind struggles to remain sound.

Inadvertently, when one talks about health, two topics come to mind - that of exercise and diet.

This article is written with those who are more in the physically inactive rather than the active camp. So, if you're already physically on the ball, what I'm about to say may not be all new to you.

My ideas are very basic and can be started upon straightaway. No need to enrol in a sports club or gym, no need to seek an expert trainer. Just a slight change in your habits, that's all. However, I must say that these opinions are my own. If you haven't been active for a long time, I'd suggest going for a medical check-up first and make sure you're fit enough to do some physical activity.


ELT iTDi CLIL health and motivation
Image by Chiew Pang
This is primordial, so primordial that most have forgotten how to do it! Right, you're probably thinking I've gone bonkers.

Many of us breathe too shallowly; and if I were to say, "Breathe deeply!" chances are that you'll inflate your chest to the maximum and struggle after a few seconds. Isn't that right?

Well, it is your stomach that you should be inflating, not your chest. The proper way to breathe is to use your stomach muscles, not your chest. Put your hand on your stomach and breathe - is it moving? Or does your chest move first?

Watch babies - they breathe the correct way. Naturally. In fact, there's one way to force yourself to breathe in the right manner. Lie face down and breathe. What do you notice? Your stomach moves, right? Now, stand up, and try to repeat it.

Whenever you remember, notice your breathing. Correct it. Take long deep breaths (with your stomach) instead of short gulps. Do it often until it becomes second nature. Just like to a baby.

The morning
Image by Malene Thyssen

What's your morning routine?

For as long as I can remember - and we're talking about 3 decades or so here - I follow a simple exercise routine. I must admit that the duration gets shorter and shorter as the muscles and the joints start complaining...

The morning is important as it sets your body (and the mind) up for the rest of the day. You don't have to hump and pump; just do light stretching and rotational exercises. You don't need to dedicate a lot of time either. 5 minutes is better than nothing.

Rotate all the joints: ankles, knees, hip, neck, shoulders, wrists...
Stretch gently - if you're too old to remember your PE classes ;-) try googling "stretching exercises".

Later on, when you're in better shape, you can add simple free-hand exercises such as sit-ups, squats and push-ups. Or you can do isometric exercises.

Notch it up

ELT iTDi CLIL health and motivation
Image by Chiew Pang
You've heard it, I'm sure - before jumping into your car, think "Can I walk instead?"

When you walk, just quicken your pace slightly. Feel your legs stride, your back strong, your breathing deep and regular (stomach moving!).

You've also heard this one before. Take the stairs. Do it! Start by walking down - it's often quicker than the lift anyway! Gradually, start walking up, too. If there are too many flights, do a few. Combine it with the lift.

Move on the escalators and the travelators; don't just stand still.

The premise is simple: move as much as you can, whenever you can. Your heart will be grateful to you for it.


ELT iTDi CLIL health and motivation
Image by Chiew Pang
Again, I go back to the morning. It's the most important part of the day. To break your fast, have a glass of water (at room temperature).

Then, you do your breathing and stretching exercises, and after that, you're ready for a nutritious breakfast! You need a high-energy, not a high-calorie, one. Carbohydrates, not fat; complex carbohydrate (like grains) not simple (like sugar). My breakfast usually consists of a steaming cup of tea and a bowl of muesli supplemented with a tablespoon of wheat bran, some yoghurt, a banana, some cornflakes, and soya milk.

As far as food is concerned, I'm sure you know the drill: less fat, more protein; lots of fruit and vegetables; less frying, more grilling and steaming. Go easy on the sugar, but a treat once in a while doesn't do anyone any harm! ;-)

ELT iTDi CLIL health and motivation
Image by Chiew Pang

Stay healthy! Stay motivated!



  1. Wonderful advice, Chiew! Simple everyday things that can easily be done by everyone. That's the secret of a healthy life: all little details whose combined effect makes the final difference.

    I can't see, though, where teetotalism is brought up, hehe!

    Thank you once again for a very enlightening article!


    P.S. The Ancient Greeks used to wisely say: A healthy mind in a healthy body (νους υγιής εν σώματι υγιεί).

    1. Thanks for commenting, Chris. Yes, it's a clear case of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. As regards teetotalism... that's another post perhaps... ;-)

  2. Oh, you are so right! Particularly important for THIS crowd of bloggers - the more time you spend online the less active you are!
    Good point about the breathing!

    1. Hi Naomi,
      It's so very true, isn't it? I never was a couch potato before, but there's so much to do, it seems...
      The very minimum we've got to do is to breathe properly! ;-)

  3. Inspiring post, Chiew! Thank you :-)


    1. Nice to see you here, Isil! Long time no speak! Thanks for the visit and the comment :-)

  4. Great post, Chiew!

    I've been following the same morning routine for more than three years now. Really enjoy it! And you are right there's so much more to do.

    Have good mornings!


    1. Thanks for the comment, Alex. Great to know that someone else have good morning habits!;-) Stay healthy!

  5. Personally I would go for the breakfast on the left, I'm not a fan of grains and nuts, at least my body isn't. I think if food is basically not processed eat what you want. Nice advice tho.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Brian. The one on the left is fine but not if it's taken often, I'd say... ;)


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