Says Dr Craig Nossel, head of Wellness at Discovery Vitality: "The trick to making your lifestyle healthier is to make small healthy changes every day, such as taking the stairs instead of the lifts, increasing your fruit by one, drinking one extra glass of water or quitting smoking."
So let’s start with the fundamental basics of healthy living: regular exercise, healthy eating and healthy lifestyle choices:
I like to move it, move it!
Do as King Julian does and move your body. Not just once now-and-then – but every day whenever you can. Although a set exercise session is great to work into your daily routine, you can burn kilojoules in other small ways, such as:
- Walking to someone else’s desk rather than sending an e-mail,
- Parking furthest from the building and walking in, or
- Taking the stairs more often.
- Doing house cleaning or gardening
- Taking the dog for a walk or cycling with the kids instead of watching TV
We all stand together
We spend our lives sitting – at our desks, in front of the TV, in a meeting or on the phone. New research is emerging highlighting the potential risk to health from all our sitting behaviour. So break your sitting time by standing for five minutes and reap the health benefits.
Every little bit counts and it all adds up to burning more calories.
If you’re overweight, making small changes in your daily exercise routine can benefit your health. In fact one study has found that just a 10% drop in weight helped overweight people to reduce their blood pressure, cholesterol and improve their wellbeing.
When it comes to healthy eating, there is an overwhelming array of theories, diet books and online information about what to eat – which is often conflicting. Although the research is still ongoing and developing, what the experts all agree on is that our diets are too high in sugar, our portions are too big and we should eat a variety of whole natural foods.
From sugary drinks to breakfast cereal, it’s hard to get away from sugary foods. Often the sugar is hidden in canned goods or pre-packaged foods, or even in foods we think are healthy for us, such as fruit juice. The average person takes in about 22 teaspoons of added sugar each day. According to the American Heart Association the daily target should be no more than six level teaspoons for women, and nine for men—that’s for both food and beverages combined.
The easiest way to limit your sugar intake with one small change is to cut out sugary fizzy drinks. This alone can help you to lose or maintain a healthy weight, which in turn will reduce your risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Our food and drinks portion sizes have dramatically increased over the past 30 years. In the 1950’s a chip packet was 28g from a take-away restaurant - today it’s 154g – and that’s not even the supersize, which is a whopping 196g!
Portion size increases doesn’t only include the take-away portions, but packaging of goods in the supermarket, dinner plates and glasses in restaurants and even fridge sizes! Simple ways to cut your portions include:
- Eat your main meals off a smaller plate – visually the plate looks full so you will be satisfied, but technically you’ll be eating less.
- Dish up in the kitchen, rather than have the serving dishes at the dining table – it’s much easier to have seconds when it’s right in front of you.
- Eat small regular meals (at least every four hours) so that you’re never starving – if you get to this point of hunger, it’s very difficult to stop before you overeat.
Colour me beautiful
Choosing whole foods and cooking from scratch is a much healthier way to eat than buying pre-packaged or ready-meals which are high in fat and salt but very low in nutrients. To make sure you’re getting a variety of nutrients, vitamins and minerals into your body every day – a quick rule of thumb is to pick a variety of colours for your meals. Be the artist of your meals and paint a colour picture with a variety of yellow, red and green fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
Your body will wear a frown if your meal is all brown.
There is nothing more damaging to a long, healthy life than smoking, which is estimated as the reason for death or disability in half the people who smoke. The dangers of smoking tobacco are so significant that it is the most important public health problem in the world, which ironically, is largely avoidable.
Smoking not only cuts your lifespan by affecting your internal organs, but it also ages you on the outside by causing skin damage. Tobacco smoking can give you wrinkles, create pucker lines around your mouth, stain your teeth and fingers, rob your skin of nutrients, break down youth-enhancing collagen and make your skin look grey. It makes you wonder how smoking is often marketed as glamorous and attractive.
It takes courage to quit smoking, as it’s not an easy journey – but it’s a brave and sensible choice. Some of the positive changes will happen quickly, while others will be more gradual, but all the changes will benefit your health and well-being.