Healthy Lifestyle

We can help you discover a healthy lifestyle

You hear a lot about living a healthy lifestyle, but what does that mean?

In general, a healthy person doesn’t smoke, is at a healthy weight, eats healthily and exercises. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

The trick to healthy living is making small changes…taking more steps, adding fruit to your cereal, having an extra glass of water…these are just a few ways you can start living healthy without drastic changes.

Exercise | Eating Well | Alcohol Advice | Stopping Smoking

Exercise

One of the biggest problems in UK today is lack of activity. We know it’s good for us but avoid it like the plague either because we’re used to being sedentary or afraid that exercise has to be vigorous to be worth our time. The truth is, movement is movement and the more you do, the healthier you’ll be. Even moderate activities like every day work around the house, gardening and walking can make a difference.

Just adding a little movement to your life can:

  • Reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes
  • Improve joint stability
  • Increase and improve range of movement
  • Help maintain flexibility as you age
  • Maintain bone mass
  • Prevent osteoporosis and fractures
  • Improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Enhance self esteem
  • Improve memory in elderly people
  • Reduce stress

So, even if you opt for small changes and a more modest weight loss, you can see the benefits are still pretty good.

One study has found that just a 10% weight reduction helped obese patients reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and increase longevity.

Simple Ways to Move Your Body

You can start the process of weight loss now by adding a little more activity to your life. If you’re not ready for a structured program, start small. Every little bit counts and it all adds up to burning more calories.

  • Turn off the TV. Once a week, turn off the TV and do something a little more physical with your family. Play games outdoor, take a walk…almost anything will be more active than sitting on the sofa.
  • Walk more. Look for small ways to walk more. When you get the mail, take a walk around the block, take the dog for an extra outing each day or walk on your treadmill for 5 minutes before getting ready for work.
  • Do some work around the house. Working in the garden, raking leaves, sweeping the floor…these kinds of activities may not be ‘vigorous’ exercise, but they can keep you moving while getting your house in order.
  • Move while you talk. When you’re on the phone, pace around or even do some cleaning while chatting idly. This is a great way to stay moving while doing something you enjoy.
  • Be aware. Make a list of all the physical activities you do on a typical day. If you find that the bulk of your time is spent sitting, make another list of all the ways you could move more–getting up each hour to stretch or walk, walk the stairs at work, etc.

Eating Well

Eating a healthy diet is another part of the healthy lifestyle. Not only can a clean diet help with weight management, it can also improve your health and quality of life as you get older.

The interactive meal planner helps you plan meals that give you your five portions of fruit and veg a day, whether you’re cooking for yourself or your family.

You can use the new 5 A DAY meal planner  to determine how many calories you need and what food groups you should focus on or, if you’re looking for smaller changes, you can use these tips for simple ways to change how you eat:

  • Eat more fruit. Add it to your cereal, your salads or even your dinners
  • Sneak in more veggies. Add them wherever you can–a tomato on your sandwich, peppers on your pizza, or extra veggies in your pasta sauce. Keep pre-cut or canned/frozen veggies ready for quick snacks.
  • Switch your salad dressing. If you eat full-fat dressing, switch to something lighter and you’ll automatically eat less calories.
  • Eat low-fat or fat-free dairy. Switching to skim milk or fat free yogurt is another simple way to eat less calories without having to change too much in your diet.
  • Make some substitutes. Look through your cabinets or fridge and pick 3 foods you eat every day. Write down the nutritional content and, the next time you’re at the store, find lower-calorie substitutes for just those 3 items.

Alcohol Advice

If you regularly drink more than the recommended limits, try these simple tips to help you cut down.

The NHS recommends:

Men should not regularly drink more than 3 units of alcohol a day.

Women should not regularly drink more than 2 units of alcohol a day.

If you’ve had a heavy drinking session, avoid alcohol for 48 hours.

‘Regularly’ means drinking these amounts every day or most days of the week.

Tips to avoid weight gain

To reduce the chances of gaining weight from drinking alcohol, follow these tips from the British Nutrition Foundation:

  • Stick to your daily recommended units.
  • Alternate an alcoholic drink with a glass of water – this will help to prevent you becoming dehydrated too.
  • Try cutting down with a friend, as you’ll be more likely to stick to it with moral support.
  • Eat a healthy dinner before you start drinking. Order or cook before you start drinking so you’re not tempted to go for the less healthy options.
  • Pace yourself by taking small sips.
  • Avoid ‘binge drinking’ – some people are under the misapprehension that they can ‘save up’ their units to splurge at the weekend.
  • Stick to your daily recommended units.
  • Alternate an alcoholic drink with a glass of water – this will help to prevent you becoming dehydrated.
  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach. If you do reach for snacks while drinking, opt for a healthier option – choose a sandwich instead of crisps or chips, or choose a chicken burger without mayonnaise instead of a kebab with garlic sauce.
  • Make a plan. Before you start drinking, set a limit on how much you’re going to drink.
  • Set a budget. Only take a fixed amount of money to spend on alcohol.
  • Let them know. If you let your friends and family know you’re cutting down and that it’s important to you, you could get support from them.
  • Take it a day at a time. Cut back a little each day. That way, every day you do is a success.
  • Make it a smaller one. You can still enjoy a drink but go for smaller sizes. Try bottled beer instead of pints, or a small glass of wine instead of a large one.
  • Have a lower-strength drink. Cut down the alcohol by swapping strong beers or wines for ones with a lower strength (ABV in %). You’ll find this information on the bottle.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink a pint of water before you start drinking, and don’t use alcohol to quench your thirst. Have a soft drink instead.
  • Take a break. Have the odd day each week when you don’t have an alcoholic drink.
  • Drinks diary. You may be surprised to find out how much you actually drink. Track your drinking over a week.

Benefits of cutting down alcohol

The immediate effects of cutting down include:

  • feeling better in the mornings
  • being less tired during the day
  • your skin may start to look better
  • you’ll start to feel fitter
  • you may stop gaining weight

Long-term benefits include:

  • Mood. There’s a strong link between heavy drinking and depression, and hangovers often make you feel anxious and low. If you already feel anxious or sad, drinking can make this worse, so cutting down may put you in a better mood generally.
  • Sleep. Drinking can affect your sleep. Although it can help some people fall asleep quickly, it can disrupt your sleep patterns and stop you from sleeping deeply. So cutting down on alcohol should help you feel more rested when you wake up.
  • Behaviour. Drinking can affect your judgment and behaviour. You may behave irrationally or aggressively when you’re drunk. Memory loss can be a problem during drinking and in the long-term for regular heavy drinkers.
  • Heart. Long-term heavy drinking can lead to your heart becoming enlarged. This is a serious condition that can’t be completely reversed, but stopping drinking can stop it getting worse.
  • Immune system. Regular drinking can affect your immune system. Heavy drinkers tend to catch more infectious diseases.

Creating a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to mean drastic changes. In fact, drastic changes almost always lead to failure. Making small changes in how you live each day can lead to big rewards, so figure out what you can to be healthy today.

Take steps to stop smoking

Gradual reduction involves slowly reducing one’s daily intake of nicotine. This can theoretically be accomplished through repeated changes to cigarettes with lower levels of nicotine, by gradually reducing the number of cigarettes smoked each day, or by smoking only a fraction of a cigarette on each occasion.

Many people don’t realise that their GP can help them quit smoking. But your doctor can do a lot, such as enrolling you in a ‘stop smoking’ clinic and prescribing nicotine replacement therapy such as patches and gum, or stop smoking medication such as Champix.

Join an NHS Stop Smoking Service

The NHS has stop smoking services staffed by trained stop smoking advisers all over the country in a range of venues at times to suit you. You can join a group where local smokers meet once a week or have one-to-one support if you prefer. You usually go for a few weeks and work towards a quit date. Find your nearest NHS Stop Smoking Service from the NHS Smokefree website, or call 0800 022 4332.

Consider using Nicotine Replacment Terapy

Nicotine is addictive, and self-control alone might not be enough. Give yourself a better chance of success by using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). This is available either free or on prescription from your GP, depending on where you live or from your local NHS Stop Smoking Service.