5 small but mighty changes to make for a healthier lifestyle

Healthier habits, like swapping out sugary drinks for hydrating water, can help you live better. (Getty Images)
Healthier habits, like swapping out sugary drinks for hydrating water, can help you live better. (Getty Images)

When you think about adopting a healthier lifestyle, you might be fooled into believing you have to change every aspect of your life. However, experts say that all it takes is a few small adjustments - and you could see your health improve significantly.

The benefits of leading a healthier lifestyle have become even clearer after a new study showed that doing so could offset the impact of genetics by more than 60% and even add an additional five years to your life.

The study, published in the journal BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine, is the first of its kind to investigate just how much a healthy lifestyle can counter the impact of genetics that could make a person predisposed to a shorter life.

Researchers found that people with a high genetic risk of a shorter life expectancy are 21% more at risk of an early death compared to those with a low genetic risk.

However, leading an unhealthy lifestyle on top of having a genetic predisposition for a shorter lifespan more than doubled the risk of early death, the study revealed.

Health, senior couple and hiking in nature or park for exercise, fitness and wellness. Happy, elderly couple and enjoy walk, fresh air and talking in forest for workout, training and relax on holiday
Leading a healthy lifestyle has been found to extend the lifespan of people who are genetically predisposed to shorter lifespans. (Getty Images)

Having a “favourable” lifestyle - such as never smoking, doing regular exercise, sleeping enough and maintaining a healthy diet - helped offset this risk of early death by about 62%.

The researchers wrote: “Participants with high genetic risk could prolong approximately 5.22 years of life expectancy at age 40 with a favourable lifestyle”.

Having a healthier lifestyle doesn’t mean overhauling your diet or running to the gym everyday. It is more sustainable to make small changes and build habits over time that will ultimately change your life for the better.

We turned to nutritionist and life coach Yasmeen Al-Sumait and Daniel Herman, SAQ coach and founder of fitness platform Bio-Synergy, for their top tips.

Move your body

Both Al-Sumait and Herman recommend incorporating short bursts of activity throughout your day. Whether it’s a 10-minute walk twice a day or a few minutes of stretching before bed, getting up and moving around is essential for improving physical health and mental wellbeing.

Swap out sugar

A simple way to reduce our sugar intake and improve our health is to swap sugary drinks for water or herbal teas. Doing so “not only reduces calorie intake but also supports hydration and kidney function”, says Al-Sumait.

Add vegetables to every meal

Adding a serving of vegetables to each meal increases fibre and nutrient intake, Al-Sumait says. This aids in digestion and immune health. Trying to add different varieties of vegetables can also be beneficial for gut health, as experts say aiming to eat 30 different plants a week contributes to a better gut microbiome.

Prioritise sleep

Many Britons don’t get enough sleep, which can contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle. In fact, recent research suggests that 7.5 million (one in seven) getting under five hours of sleep a night. Lack of sleep has been linked to a number of health problems, including a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

“Prioritise sleep by establishing a consistent bedtime routine, allowing your body to rest and recharge fully,” Herman advises.

Practise mindfulness

Herman also recommends practising mindfulness or meditation to reduce stress and promote mental wellbeing. A 2020 study also found that mindfulness has the potential to help ease physical pain and help people deal with negative emotions better.

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