IT'S getting pretty chilly outside and the heating’s well and truly on.
But it might be worth cranking it up a few more notches, as it turns out that stripping down to your birthday suit isn’t just good fun between the sheets – it could benefit your health, too.
Here, we ask the experts what benefits there are from being in the buff, and why it could even help us live longer.
You can inspect moles better
What better time to examine your skin than when you’re starkers? And if you have a partner, they can check those hard-to-see areas for you.
You should be on the lookout for signs of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
It’s on the rise in women, and 25% of cases occur before the age of 40.
Dr Catti Moss, a GP in Northamptonshire, says: “Every week, do a full-body check for moles that are asymmetrical, have irregular borders, have changed in colour or are larger than a pencil-top rubber.
"If you live alone, use a mirror to make it easier” More than 70% of melanomas occur in existing blemishes or moles, Dr Moss explains, but if you spot a new mole, get it checked, too.
“Consult your doctor immediately if you see any changes. Also check for sores that fail to heal after three weeks.”
Risk factors for skin cancer include having fair skin, regularly sunbathing and using sunbeds. “There’s no such thing as a healthy tan,” Dr Moss adds.
You’ll help beat heart disease
When it comes to heart disease, your figure can be a better indication of risk than your weight.
Scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas found that carrying a small “pot belly” increases your risk, even if your weight is normal for your height.
They found that those with the biggest waists were twice as likely to have calcium deposits in their arteries, which form plaque, increasing the risk of a heart attack.
As a rough guide, doctors deem a waist measurement over 31in a warning sign for a woman, while for men it’s 37in.
Another way to check is to divide your waist by your hips measurement – a ratio equal to or lower than 0.7 is a sign of good health.
“You can lower abdominal fat by increasing how often you exercise,” says dietician Dalhia Campbell.
“But sit-ups alone won’t cut it. Cut back on carbs, and have lean protein like chicken or fish, plus plenty of fresh fruit and veg.”
It’s easier to correct posture
Remember your mum nagging you to sit up straight? Well, as with most things, she was right!
As well as putting strain on your spine and causing back pain, poor posture can contribute to tension headaches, stress and lethargy.
A study by scientists in Ohio discovered not standing or sitting up straight can lead to depression and anxiety, as blood and feel-good endorphins can’t flow as easily to the brain.
To get a proper look at your posture without the constraints of clothing, Richard Bricknell, director of the Bristol Physiotherapy Clinic, recommends: “Stand side-on to a wall-length mirror, straighten your spine and pull your shoulders back.
Imagine a string pulling the top of your head to the ceiling and pulling your tummy button towards your spine to activate your core muscles.
Do this regularly and you’ll develop muscle memory and understand what good posture feels like – then it will become a regular, healthy habit.”
You can spot rashes
Your skin is your body’s largest organ and its health is symptomatic of everything from nutritional deficiencies to specific illnesses.
That’s why Harley Street dermatologist Dr Christopher Rowland Payne urges us all to check it regularly.
He suggests looking in the folds behind your knees and under your arms for signs of redness and itching.
This could be eczema, which affects around 15% of adults. “Switch to fragrance-free detergents and wear light cotton clothes, and if it doesn’t clear up, speak to your GP about prescribing hydrocortisone cream,” he advises.
Next up, round or oval lesions that are red and flaky can be a sign of the fungal infection ringworm.
This is often picked up from kids or pets, Dr Rowland Payne explains. It can be treated with an anti-fungal spray or lotion from your GP.
Finally, if you spot lots of tiny, sore, red bumps, it could be heat rash, which is much more likely on holiday or in the summer, and affects about a third of adults.
“It should ease within an hour of cooling down, but can be very irritating, so apply calamine lotion and take antihistamines,” he says.
You’ll pick up any bruising
We all get the odd bruise, but if you start to notice more mysterious marks on your skin, don’t ignore them.
“Frequent bruising can be a sign of liver disease, such as cirrhosis or hepatitis,” warns Dr Catti Moss.
“And in extreme cases, it can be a sign of leukaemia, as the body won’t produce as many blood platelets, which are essential for clotting,” she adds.
Bruising easily can also be caused by taking blood-thinning drugs such as aspirin or steroids, while older people can be more prone to bruising as their capillaries weaken with age and break more easily.
“Most often, easy bruising is simply genetic and nothing to worry about, but it’s always good to get it checked out by your GP to put your mind at rest,” Dr Moss says.
The good news is there are some foods that might help – in particular fruit and vegetables rich in vitamin C and bioflavonoids, such as oranges (eat the white pithy bits as these contain the highest concentration of bioflavonoids), berries, grapes and green beans.
You can better spot swelling
It’s a familiar story – feeling bloated before realising that your time of the month is approaching.
“Many women suffer a little water retention, or oedema, when they’re premenstrual due to changes in hormone levels,” explains Dr Moss.
“This is nothing to worry about.”
But getting your kit off can help you judge the full extent of bloating and keep an eye on whether it’s normal for you.
It’s important, because in rarer cases, more severe fluid retention can be caused by an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes, kidney or liver disease.
“In most cases of bloating, there’s no detectable cause, but swelling is always worse in warmer weather and can be exacerbated by stress, high-carb meals, alcohol and standing for too long,” Dr Moss warns.
While leaking capillaries are to blame, it’s important to address the underlying cause.
“Avoid high-carb diets, especially sugary or salty foods, and instead focus on high-fibre foods like fruit and veg.
"Losing a little weight can have a big impact, so increase exercise levels and avoid diuretics like alcohol and caffeine, which can upset the sodium/potassium balance in your bloodstream, make you thirsty and, in the long run, make your oedema worse.”
Learn the four often-ignored signs of pancreatic cancer at Fabulousmag.co.uk.
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