Body & Fitness

Indulgences that are good for your health

It seems so many things we enjoy are terrible for our health, that's why I love it when something that's supposedly bad for you turns out to be healthy. For example, you probably know that red wine and chocolate can be good for you, but were you aware that going shopping may be better than going to the gym?

Shopping

It’s jokingly described as retail therapy, but now it seems shopping really is good for you.

A Taiwanese study found that popping out to the shops can help you live longer. The researchers suggest that the long-term survival benefits of shopping may actually be better than going to the gym.

Shopping encourages you to interact with other people, which can stave off loneliness and improve psychological health, according to the study by the National Health Research Institutes in Taiwan. The researchers asked nearly 2000 people aged over 65 how often they went shopping. They then tracked each of them to see how long they lived, and found those who shopped daily lived longer.

Going to the shops every day cut the chances of a participant dying during the period of the study by more than a quarter.

Researchers accept that those who shopped regularly may have been in better health to begin with, and noted that they probably have a better diet because they’re more likely to be eating fresh food.

But they said socialising with other people while out shopping – and even just indulging in a spot of people-watching in public places – had social and mental benefits.

Having sex

The secret to a long life may be sex – and plenty of it! US anti-ageing expert Dr Eric Braverman says having regular sex not only raises your hormone levels (which help to keep you young) but can also boost your metabolism, brain function, heart health and immunity.

Eric, author of the book Younger (Sexier) You, says research shows that a healthy sex drive helps the skin to manufacture vitamin D, which is vital for strong bones.

Sex also boosts our production of the “love hormone” oxytocin, which helps brain function and memory. He quotes an Irish study that suggests having sex three times or more a week reduced the chance of men having a heart attack or stroke by half. And US researchers have found that orgasms increase the number of infection-fighting cells the body produces, meaning you’re less likely to get colds and the flu.

Meanwhile, other research has found that sex can relieve stress, burn calories and reduce pain.

Eating chocolate

Here’s another reason to enjoy your favourite treat – chocolate may increase blood flow to the brain, helping to ward off dementia. A British study found people who drank cocoa had better blood flow to the brain, while decreased blood flow to the same area is seen in dementia patients.

Studies have already shown that antioxidants found in chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids can keep your arteries from clogging, helping to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

It’s thought these antioxidants, called flavonoids, can help reduce inflammation in the body, which can lead to a variety of health problems. Scientists also believe chocolate may help fight cancer thanks to flavonoids, which may reduce the damage to cells that can encourage tumour growth.

It’s important to choose chocolate that is high in cocoa solids and low in added sugars, and to only eat it in moderation.

Drinking red wine

Like dark chocolate, red wine contains flavonoids, which have potent anti-cancer effects. They’re also able to lower levels of “bad” cholesterol, which can help protect arteries from becoming clogged, preventing heart disease and strokes.

The key to red wine’s health benefits is resveratrol, a substance found in the skin of red grapes. Recent studies have even linked resveratrol to a reduction in gum disease and Alzheimer’s.

overindulging in any kind of alcohol can be harmful to your health, so red wine should always be drunk in moderation.

Spending time with friends

Health researchers say people with strong relationships are healthier and live longer than those without.

An Australian study found that older people with a large circle of friends were 22% less likely to die during the 10-year study period than those with fewer friends

Meanwhile, a US study of nearly 3000 nurses with breast cancer found women without close pals were four times as likely to die from the disease as women with 10 or more friends.

other research has found people with good social networks have more robust immune systems and there’s also evidence that having lots of friends may even be able to protect against dementia

Researchers point out that people with strong social ties may also have better access to health care. But friendship may also have a strong psychological impact, and help to reduce stress, which can play a part in ill health.

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