Many of us start the New Year with the best of intentions to lose weight, get fitter and eat well. It’s that sense of new possibilities and fresh beginnings that can also help motivate changes in lifestyle. The Public Health Agency (PHA) advises that making small changes to your own and your family’s lifestyle can have a significant impact on improving overall health.
Taking time to reflect, and making a plan, can all help. Choosing healthier food and increasing your physical activity will help maintain a healthy weight and prevent unwanted weight gain, which can have serious implications for a person’s physical and mental health as it is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, respiratory problems, joint pain and depression.
What can I do to improve my health?
Make 1 or 2 small changes at a time – don’t try to change your lifestyle radically or all at once as you’re more likely to fail. Small changes in what you eat, or how active you are, are easier to make and more likely to be maintained.
Mary Black, Assistant Director of Health and Wellbeing Improvement, PHA, said: “The New Year brings a time when many people reflect on their lives and very often eating more healthily is one of things they identify for change. I recommend setting a couple of small, achievable targets that can then be continued in the long term, for example:
- Eat breakfast everyday;
- Eat an extra portion of vegetables every day;
- Swap deep fried chips for oven chips;
- Choose fruit for between-meal snacks instead of a biscuit or bun;
- Begin to enjoy a hot drink on its own without feeling the need to have something sweet at the same time.
Be active. Any sort of activity will be good for you. Think about how you can be more active each day. This doesn’t have to involve running a marathon or joining a gym. Some suggestions include:
- · Go for walks with the children/family or friends. It’s free! Walk on your lunch break;
- · Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator;
- · Park further away and walk to work/school;
- · Get off the bus a stop earlier and walk the rest;
- · Minimise the amount of time you are sitting down – take breaks from the computer at work or watching TV at home and walk around;
- · Children and adults can build up to the recommended daily activity levels in 10 minute sessions rather than doing it all in one session.
Adults need at least 30 minutes, five days a week of moderate physical activity and children need 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
Mary continued “It’s easy for people to get into the habit of spending their spare time sitting down – watching TV, playing computer games, listening to their MP3 players – but being active will help you maintain a healthy weight and generally make you feel better. It can also improve your mood, reduce anxiety and protect against depression.”
It is what you do most of the time that really matters, so if you eat too much or don’t exercise on any one day, don’t worry too much - just accept it and get back to your new way of eating and being more active as soon as possible.
Contact the PHA Press Office on 028 9031 1611
Notes to the editor
- Data from the Northern Ireland Health and Wellbeing Survey (2010-11) reported that 27% of children aged 2-15 years are obese or overweight. The findings presented here are based on the guidelines put forward by the International Obesity Task Force. Using this approach, 8% of children were assessed as obese, with similar results for boys (8%) and girls (9%).