How can an unhealthy lifestyle damage our body?
Physical inactivity can have serious implications for people’s health. Approximately two million deaths per year are attributed to physical inactivity.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 60 to 85% of people in the world—from both developed and developing countries—lead sedentary lifestyles, making it one of the more serious yet insufficiently addressed public health problems of our time. It is estimated that nearly two-thirds of children are also insufficiently active, with serious implications for their future health.
The NHS states that “One in 3 of us suffers from poor sleep, with stress, computers and taking work home often blamed.” However, the cost of all those sleepless nights is more than just bad moods and a lack of focus. Regular poor sleep puts us at risk of serious medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes and it shortens our life expectancy.
Physical inactivity, along with increasing tobacco use and poor diet and nutrition, are increasingly becoming part of today’s lifestyle leading to the rapid rise of diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, or obesity.
The UK guidelines recommend that each week adults do:
- At least 150 minutes moderate intensity activity (e.g walking, water aerobics, riding a bike, dancing, hiking etc)
- 75 mins vigorous activity (e.g running/ jogging, walking fast, swimming, aerobics, tennis or basketball etc)
- Strengthening activities on two days reducing extended periods of sitting.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health, and can help us feel our best. Most people in the UK eat and drink too many calories, too much saturated fat, sugar and salt, and not enough fruit, vegetables oily fish or fibre.
To have a healthy, balanced diet, according to the EatWell Guide, people should try to:
- Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
- Base meals on higher fibre starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta
- Have some dairy or dairy alternatives
- Eat some beans, pulses, eggs, fish, meat and other protein
- Choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat them in small amounts
- Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of fluids a day
(the Eatwell Guide does not apply to children under the age of 2 as they have different nutritional needs. People with special dietary needs or a medical condition should ask their doctor or a registered dietitian for advice).
Having a sleep routine and sticking to it is the most important thing coming to trying to improve your sleep quality.
Here are some tips:
- Sleep at regular times. This programmes the brain and internal body clock to get used to a set routine. It is also very important to try to wake up at the same time every day.
- Relax before you go to bed. There are many ways you can relax before bed : a warm bath, plan the next day, yoga stretches, read a book, avoid screen time for an hour before you go to bed , or try one of the many apps designed to help with sleep.
- Keep a sleep diary. It may help you and your doctor figure out what lifestyle habits, daily activities or underlying conditions contribute to your sleeplessness.
- Make your bedroom sleep friendly: invest in a good mattress, keep your bedroom dark, quiet, tidy and be kept at a temperature of between 18C and 24C, and use earplug or invest in double glazing. It is very important to keep your bedroom just for sleep and not to associate it with work or anything that can distract you.
Spending long hours staring at a screen because of work is inevitable, but we don’t have to live with the impact of the consequences.
If you have trouble telling yourself when to take a break:
- Set some alarms that go off at specific intervals to remind yourself to take a breather and look away from the screen.
- Let your eyes move away from the screen every 30 mins.
- Take a small walk every 2-3 hours.
- Do not use your phone or computer when you are eating as it interrupts digestion.
Don’t forget that when you exercise regularly, sleep well and make informed eating choices, your body and brain function at their highest capacity. By making smart decisions, you can make the most out of your day-to-day life and reap the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle.
Dr Maria Laoudikou (D.C)