Give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve come this far, in the middle of a pandemic, with your faculties intact and your outlook still positive. And we’re not just making assumptions. How do we know this? Because you’ve landed on this article, of course, with a renewed desire to make positive changes to your life. We’re here for that level of optimism, and we’re here for you, too.

Living a balanced and healthy lifestyle has been no mean feat recently, with daily life’s demands not going away, but on top of them, new and unfamiliar forms of stress have reared their ugly head, too. Stay in the safe lane, keep fit and focused, and continue pushing to be a better person, with these 4 behavioural changes guaranteed to improve your physical health.

A BALANCED AMOUNT OF PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

We all know that exercise is an essential aspect of healthy living, for body and mind, and the science behind the benefits a daily workout brings is irrefutable. Despite the ubiquity of the message, we’re going to repeat it anyway, because it doesn’t hurt to reiterate; a regular exercise regime brings abundant, all encompassing benefits to your life. 

According to Harvard Medical School, ‘adding as little as half an hour of moderately intense physical activity to your day can help you avoid a host of serious ailments, including heart disease, diabetes, depression, and several types of cancer, particularly breast and colon cancers. Regular exercise can also help you sleep better, reduce stress, control your weight, brighten your mood, sharpen your mental functioning, and improve your sex life’. I mean; who doesn’t want all of that?

It’s vital, then, that you take your time to develop a proper routine, to really get the most from your exercise. You don’t need to do anything extreme, nor spend money joining a gym if you don’t feel it’s your thing. As long as you’re doing a minimum of one hour a day, three times a week, or half an hour daily, you’ll be doing enough to make a serious, positive difference to your life. 

IMPLEMENT HEALTHY EATING HABITS

Inextricably linked with exercise and good physical health, you need to make sure you’re eating a balanced diet if you’re to truly feel (and look, and think) better. This means covering all the major food groups, eating enough fruit and vegetables, and not consuming a ton of processed foods and fats. 

Healthy eating shouldn’t be all about denial and feelings of guilt surrounding food. Some of the best advice we’ve heard recently is to simply add one extra portion of vegetable or fruit to every meal, getting those nutritional benefits without a great deal of extra thought or effort.

One way our eating can get ahead of itself is through a lack of planning in terms of portion size. So many of us simply make a meal of the same size regardless of the amount of people we’re serving, whether that’s because we’re lazy to downscale a recipe, or we don’t have the range of cooking vessels at home required for a smaller sized helping. ‘We’ll freeze the rest’ we mentally note, knowing full well that the remainders will make a great midnight snack after a couple of evening beers. 

To negate this, use foresight and strategy to your advantage. Plan your portion sizes carefully – easily divisible into single meals, for instance – and resist the urge to devour the rest as a treat. There are tools, platforms and websites out there, like conservehealth or the NHS’ change4life programme, which can help you refine your meal plan into something manageable, nutritious and delicious.

REDUCE ALCOHOL INTAKE

The reasons to cut down or quit alcohol are stark and, when you drill down into some of the statistics, actually pretty shocking.

Heavy alcohol consumption can damage vital body organs like the kidneys, liver, pancreas and digestive tract. That’s not all; excessive and extended consumption can do serious damage to the ticker, too, making drinkers more susceptible to heart disease. Indeed, in the UK there are around 8’000 deaths a year directly linked to alcohol, as well as countless more hospital admissions. 

If you’re struggling to quit or cut back, then it’s really important to remember and cherish the positive change which doing so can bring. Physically, most abstainers report having a better complexion and figure; something no amount of beauty products can match. Mentally, a more positive mindset, greater energy and ambition, and clarity of thought are common; something no amount of brain training can achieve. And financially, the money saved on not going out and blowing your paycheck on the booze is really, truly significant. 

QUITTING OR NEVER START SMOKING

Not to be outdone by alcohol’s impact on your life, quitting smoking is consistently cited as the most significant change you can make. If you do smoke, brace yourself for this shocking statistic; the habit accounts for nearly 100’000 deaths a year in the UK alone, with half of long term smokers dying prematurely. 

When you quit, the positive effects start to occur remarkably quickly. Seriously, remarkably, incredibly quickly; after just twenty minutes (!) the good vibes begin, with your pulse and blood pressure returning to normal. After 8 hours, your carbon monoxide levels are back to where they should be; a day later, your risk of having a heart attack is lowered; 48 hours on and damaged nerve endings being regrowth; 72 and the lung’s bronchial tubes open up; two weeks on and your circulation is markedly improved; after one month you’ll notice exercise is easier and after six, there’ll be less mucus and phlegm will be coming up….phew, we’ve earnt a breather.

Aaaah; after a year cigarette free, dramatic improvements in lung capacity will have you breathing easier, and three years on, your risk of a heart attack is that of a non-smoker. Five years from your final cig, the risk of lung cancer has been halved and ten years on, it’s equivalent to a non smoker. Fifteen years of being smoke free – we promise we’ll stop soon – and you’re no more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than someone who’s never smoked. 

Please, after reading that, it’s a no-brainer, right?