Physical activity, smoking, nutrition, alcohol consumption and a healthy weight are all widely regarded as being other lifestyle behaviours that have the most impact on our health and wellbeing. 

Nutrition

While you are improving your physical activity level, it is important to consider improving other behaviours too. You could set yourself the goal to target one of these other behaviours after you are comfortable with your new, higher level of activity. Finding opportunities to move more can benefit us in so many ways including the:

  • reduction of aging related illnesses
  • reduction of joint swelling in sufferers of arthritis
  • prevention of cardiovascular disease
  • prevention of some cancers, including bowel and breast cancer
  • prevention of some injuries such as falls
  • prevention and control of type 2 diabetes
  • improvement of mental and emotional health
  • improvement of immunity.

Understanding how each of these lifestyle choices can affect us is a good first step towards making change. We have compiled a brief description of these behaviours and have provided links to national guidelines, further information and support for those who are seeking to make changes to their lifestyles.

Smoking

When smokers kick the habit, they will immediately experience huge benefits to their health in terms of looks,  sense of taste and smell, fitness and finances. When smokers quit, they feel better about themselves and improve the health of surrounding family and friends. Did you know that within 20 minutes of quitting smoking your heart rate lowers? Within 72 hours the sense of taste and smell improves and within 2 weeks to 3 months lung function and circulation will improve. For more reasons to quit smoking, check out these reasons to quit smoking provided by the Queensland Government.

The Queensland Government has provided some great online resources to assist in quitting smoking which are available here. You can call Quitline on 13 78 48, it is a confidential, free service for people who want to quit smoking. Talk to your General Practitioner about quitting, they’ll be able to discuss options such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) with you as well as other pharmaceutical treatments. 

Nutrition

Proper nutrition is vital for good health and wellbeing. Food provides our bodies with the energy, protein, essential fats, vitamins and minerals to live, grow, function properly, and avoid disease. Australians have access to a wide range of foods, but most people need to choose foods and drinks more wisely to help protect our health.

It can be hard to choose nutritious foods and drinks, especially when those high in saturated fat, added sugars, added salt and alcohol are readily available and affordable, and the environment in which we live promotes over-consumption.

Aim for a healthy lifestyle, make positive choices and take control of your health. Look at all your areas of wellbeing and don’t just focus on your weight. Feel good about yourself for making small changes as these can lead to big improvements. For further information on healthy eating, go to eatforhealth.gov.au. Further resources relating to Diet and Nutrition including recipes, information and links to resources and publications are provided by the Queensland Government. For further information on nutrition, view our article on Healthy Eating.

Alcohol

For many Australians, drinking alcohol is strongly linked with times of celebration and relaxation. While drinking is a source of pleasure for many, it is important to understand safe drinking levels. Drinking unsafe levels of alcohol can pose risks to health and can also lead to risky behaviours.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has published the Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risk from Drinking Alcohol and also provides information on standard drink sizes. The NHMRC recommends that adults drink no more than 2 standard drinks on any day to reduce the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury. It is important to remember that you can still socialise and have a good time without alcohol.

Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is important for people of all ages. People who are of a healthy weight experience physical, psychological and social benefits; they may also avoid many lifestyle related conditions such as type 2 diabetes. You can use a tape measure to measure waist circumference or use your height and weight to measure your BMI. Using one or both of these measures you can assess your risk of chronic disease. You can calculate your BMI here. 

For further information on the prevention and reversal of obesity and overweight see the Shape Up website or visit the National Health and Medical Research Council website.

Sun Safety

Australia has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Skin cancer occurs when skin cells are damaged, for example, by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. There are three main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma (the most dangerous form of skin cancer). 

For best protection, we recommend a combination of sun protection measures:

  • slip on some sun-protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible
  • slop on broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30+ sunscreen. Put it on 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every two hours afterwards
  • slap on a hat that protects your face, head, neck and ears
  • seek shade
  • slide on some sunglasses and make sure they meet Australian standards.

For more information on preventing skin cancer, visit Cancer Council Australia.

Mental, Social and Emotional Health

Most of us will face challenges with our own mental health, or the mental health of a friend, family member or colleague at some stage in our lives. Mental health is a complex concept and includes a sense of vitality, happiness and wellbeing. Creating an environment of understanding and acceptance as well as reducing stigma and discrimination is important to us all, and there are many excellent resources available online. Information and resources provided by Queensland Health relating to mental health and wellbeing are available here.

beyondblue is working to reduce the impact of anxiety, depression and suicide in the community by raising awareness and understanding, empowering people to seek help, and supporting recover, management and resilience. beyondblue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live. You can also view our article on Keeping Positive.