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Have fun, get fit

What's the difference between you and the person who kept their New Year's resolution to exercise? Fun and friends, probably. People who think they'll keep to an exercise routine for reasons of vanity or virtue alone are sadly mistaken. To stick at it you actually have to enjoy yourself, according to Californian psychologists Dr Robert Thayer and Evana Hsiao, who studied the progress of 172 health club members to find out who retained their motivation long-term. This doesn't mean you have to while away the hours at the club bar every night: `Nodding as you pass one another can be sufficient social reward,' says psychologist Peter Clough of The University of Hull. `Even runners and swimmers get a psychological buzz from feeling part of an elite community! Keep a routine going long enough and the physical benefits – feeling good and looking good – kick in and help maintain the impetus.

Are you receiving me?

Within my otherwise open and honest relationship with my husband there are two things I do covertly: one is shop for shoes and the other is talk on the phone with girlfriends. I wait until he's asleep,  then I sneak downstairs and start dialling.

For most women, my duplicitous behaviour needs no explanation.  Men hate it when we're on the phone for the same reason our children do: we're not paying enough attention to them. And although few husbands actually take the toddler approach of tugging at the phone cord or biting your leg, they often come perilously close. I adopted the covert routine because my husband used to ask in a booming voice who I was talking to, then ask insulting questions about them – ‘Doesn't Monica have a boyfriend yet? Is Maureen still in therapy?' He also engaged in what I call the strategic receiver click. He'd pick up the extension in another room as a first warning, wait five minutes, then get on the line again and start dialling in my ear.

When my friend Elaine is on the phone, her husband yells her name and she refuses to answer, so he yells it louder and louder until he's standing in front of her, screaming, 'I'm going for a bike ride.' Or, 'Remember to balance your chequebook.' ‘He pretends he doesn't notice the receiver in my hand,' says Elaine. `I hope those phones with video screens never catch on because I make these unbelievable gestures at him until he goes away.'

The partner of a former colleague, Linda, writes notes and holds them in front of her face. Sounds polite, but he expects a reply. When she scribbles an answer, he writes another note. 'A few times I've just balled up the paper and thrown it at him,' she admits.  

Party Capers

Who wants to fiddle about creating perfect profiteroles?- The sooner the dinner party joins the dodo the better for everyone, says Julia Gregson

One quarter of all modern hostesses, according to a recent NOP survey, are so traumatised by party-giving that they resort to throwing objects around the room and arguing with partners in front of guests. Three-quarters of women feel aggrieved because they do all the cooking; 13% of dinner party argu­ments lead to fisticuffs between couples, and 20% have stormed out as a result of dinner party friction. Yes, dinner parties can seriously damage your health. Hardly surprising then that the dinner party as we used to know it (starched napkins, battalions of crys­tal and cutlery) seems to be changing. Alan Warde, a sociologist from Lancaster University who recently interviewed 1000 people about their party-giving habits, found that improvisation is now the name of the game. Buying a takeaway that you spruce up and pass off as your own is considered fair play. Single-course suppers with friends are no longer a sign of culinary inadequacy. A potluck supper where everyone brings one course is simply a great way to spread the load. And meals on knees for exhausted young executives who just want to slob out and watch telly together — why not? The party's changing, but by no means over.

Author and restaurant critic AA Gill is heartily glad the days of the old-fashioned DP seem to be numbered. 'I've given millions in my time, all of them dreadful. I hate my own dinner parties even more than I hate other people's. I resent the time they take, the expense, the guests if they arrive too early or too late, if they eat too much or too little. All our ways of life are now devoted to simplifying things, but the dinner party is stuck in the middle ages: it's so expensive, so unwieldy.'

T .11CHL.


People tend to change their beds on average every 17 years though the lifespan of most beds is between eight and 10 years. If you consistently wake up feeling stiff and still tired it could be time for a change. Do any of the following questions, drawn up by The Sleep Council, strike a chord?

Do you frequently wake up feeling tired, even after seven to eight hours sleep?

Is your bed more than seven years old?

When you move in your bed, do you hear creaks, crunches or any other noises?

Do you and your partner roll together without wishing to?

Can you feel springs or ridges when you lie in the bed?

Is the mattress cover soiled, stained or torn?

Does your divan or base have an uneven or sagging surface?

Are the castors or legs in good working order?

Rediscover Youthful Energy


What you eat affects how fast you age: every day your body is under attack from free radicals — chemicals that are believed to contribute to age-related problems like cancer, heart disease ... and wrinkles. Antioxidants, found in fruit, vegetables, garlic, red wine and tea, neutralise free radicals, keeping you younger for longer. Choose dark and brightly coloured vegetables and fruit and aim to eat at least five portions a day, especially vegetables which could be more protective than fruit


Many qualities associated with the young — energy, cheerfulness and vigour— are related to sleep. 'People who don't sleep much don't look very good,' says Michael Bonnet, director of the Sleep Laboratory at Ohio's Veterans' Hospital, 'and they're more likely to be irritable and cranky.' Lack of sleep also makes you absent-minded: ‘Short-term memory and reaction time decrease so you're more likely to forget things and are less able to learn new things. You sleep less as you grow older, however, so how can you be sure you're still getting enough?  The acid test is feeling awake and alert during the day' says Bonnet.


'It's possible to have the lungs of a person 10 or 20 years younger than you if you breathe deeply, exercise aerobically from your 40s and don't smoke,' says gerontologist Dr Marios Kyriazis of the British Longevity Society 'Otherwise, your lungs can shrink to two-thirds of their original size by the time you reach your 70s. Breathing deeply has also been shown to decrease the frequency and severity of hot flushes during the menopause,' says Dr Herbert Benson, author of Timeless Healing. 'This may be because stress exacerbates menopausal symptoms, while breathing properly counteracts stress.'  


Part of what we calI ageing is just loss of flexibility, which you can counteract by stretching. Some forms of exercise (Pilates, yoga) increase your suppleness-and range of motion; others (running, cycling) can make your muscles stiffer and tighter unless you


We know that muscles shrink with age, but no one wants to think it happens to the brain.To stay clever:

Build brain 'Regular brain exercises strengthen connections in the brain, which will have an impact on your thoughts, memory and cognition,' says Dr Kyriazis.

Exercise Your brain needs oxygen to do its calculations, and a well-exercised body carries oxygen around more efficiently.

Eat less fat   It deposits in the arteries of your brain as well as the rest of your body. But your brain needs a steady supply of glucose to function, so eat complex carbohydrates to keep alert.  

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