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Woman jumping up and downFollow these 5 top tips and you’ll be well on your way to being fighting fit two decades down the line

1. Know how to enjoy time off 

You get at least 28 days a year (including public holidays). Learn to take that time off without feeling guilty. ‘The one in four of us who doesn’t take their holiday entitlement is almost eight times more likely to develop heart disease than those who do,’ says Dr Elaine Eaker, the US doctor who led the

research.

Stay healthy tip: ‘No one at the end of their life says, “I wish I’d spent more time at work,” says Marisa Peer. ‘Instead, they wish they had laughed more, been more spontaneous and spent more time with the people they love. Think of yourself as a battery that must be recharged to give your best. We’re more productive when we have time away from work.’

2. Don’t go mad in the gym 

There’s no need to be a gym bunny to ensure your future health – just walking regularly at a moderate pace will boost the health of your brain and cut your risk of dementia by 40 per cent. Harvard researchers followed 20,000 nurses over 20 years and found that those who walked 20 minutes every day scored significantly better in mental health tests than those walking for less than 40 minutes a week.

Stay healthy tip: ‘We’re designed to be naturally active, not to work out in the gym, so walk the dog, clean the house, do a bit of gardening – it’s far more useful and enjoyable,’ says obesity researcher Zoe Harcombe. ‘For example, a study of 1,500 dog owners and gym-goes found that the average dog walker covers 676 miles a year – 208 miles more than a gym-goer.’

3. Be careful with supplements

A Zurich University study found people who obtained calcium from supplements alone were 2.7 times more likely to suffer a heart attack than those who got it from food.

Stay healthy tip: ‘Get your recommended daily amount of calcium (800mg) from one can of sardines (500mg) and one natural yogurt (300mg) or one yogurt, a glass of milk, and a small piece of cheese – and get vitamins and minerals from fresh meat, fish, eggs, pulses, rice and vegetables,’ says nutritionist Judy Watson. ‘You’ll also get more out of fresh food if you avoid processed foods and sugar, which deplete nutrients from the rest of the diet.

4. Go for chicken

Making chicken your first choice is great for long-term health. That’s because every time you choose chicken instead of pork, beef, lamb or processed meat (ham, bacon, salami) you could be cutting your risk of dying prematurely by up to 20 per cent. And the benefits are the same if you eat fish, vegetables and wholegrains in place of red and processed meats. But eating 100g red meat every day could increase your risk of diabetes by 19 per cent, while 50g of processed meat (eg, ham sandwich) every day has been linked to a 51 per cent increased risk of diabetes.

Stay healthy tip: ‘Eat red meat once or twice a week only and stick to lean fresh cuts rather than processed meats like bacon,’ says Judy Watson.  ‘Try to have two meat- free days a week – as meat takes much longer to digest than other protein, such as eggs and fish – and always balance meat with half a plate of green vegetables,’

5.  Find something to smile about

Optimistic people halve their risk of heart disease. According to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, who reviewed more than 200 studies on heart health, being upbeat reaps rewards, regardless of age and weight.

Stay healthy tip:  Watch a movie. Dr Nick Baylis, author of The Rough Guide To Happiness recommends Little Miss Sunshine, The Full Monty and It’s A Wonderful Life. ‘Each is a celebration of life’s possibilities, no matter the pains that befall us,’ he says.