Big healthy changes start with small healthy steps – here are 30 you can take today to help you on your way to a healthier, longer and better life.
When it comes to getting healthier, it can all feel a bit daunting.
There’s a lot of information out there (some of it conflicting!), and a lot of gimmicks, crazes and fads, meaning it can be difficult to really know where to begin.
So let’s keep it simple.
The 2020 AIA Vitality Health and Wellbeing Index pinpointed four key risk factors (physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, smoking and excess alcohol) that are responsible for four non-communicable diseases (respiratory diseases, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease). In Australia, these four diseases are responsible for 90% of deaths nationwide.
You don’t need to overhaul your life in one fell swoop to get healthier. You just need to commit to making small changes, day after day, week after week, month after month, to help keep those four risk factors, and therefore those four non-communicable diseases, at bay.
And if you’re looking for a little inspiration to help you those small changes, and taking those small steps, well…you’ve come to the right place.
1. Walk more
A simple daily activity like walking can have a big impact on maintaining or improving your overall health. If you don’t walk much right now, consider starting daily 30-minute walks. If you can’t muster 30 minutes a day, less works too.
2. Cut back on booze
Cutting down your alcohol intake can help reduce the short-term and long-term health risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption. Setting yourself limits at the beginning of a social event, drinking slowly, alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and eating while you drink are just some of the ways you can keep your drinking at a healthy level.
3. Drink more water
Our bodies are made up of 50-80% water, so it follows that good hydration is fundamental to good overall health. It helps us move, aids our digestion, regulates our temperature, helps us process waste, and facilitates most of our body’s chemical processes. Everyone’s recommended water intake is slightly different, but the trick is to grab a glass before you feel thirsty.
4. Consider a meal plan
If you find your self-discipline yo-yoing when it comes to food, try and stick to a meal plan each week. Maybe that means you eat chicken or tofu, some vegetables and rice for dinner Monday-Friday, and allow yourself a little more freedom on the weekend. As long as you make sure you’re still getting enough nutritional diversity through the five main food groups, sticking to a meal plan has been proven to help people eat healthier more consistently.
5. Invest in new workout gear
Research has suggested that feeling good in your workout gear makes you more likely to actually work out.
6. Think about joining a gym
Even if you go just two or three times a week, you’re likely to be better off for it. Chat to a personal trainer and ask them to draw you up a plan that fits into your lifestyle. AIA Vitality offers a range of significant discounts when you sign up for a gym membership with Anytime Fitness, Fitness First or Virgin Active.
7. There’s an app for that
Fitness apps can be an excellent way to set goals, stay on top of your exercise routines, keep track of your progress, and provide extra exercise motivation when you’re working from home. AIA Vitality syncs with a wide range of fitness apps and offers discounts on Fitbits and Garmins to help you become your healthiest self.
8. Remove temptation
Worried about snacking on unhealthy food? Don’t bring any of it into your house, and replace it with healthier (but equally delicious) snacks and food instead. By the same token, try and only shop for what you’re going to actually eat in a given week. Studies have proven that – shock horror – humans tend to eat more when there’s more food around. Who’d have thought!?
9. Less sauce
Think of a simple burger: patty, bread, lettuce, pickles, cheese. All up, a burger made with organic or responsibly-sourced ingredients isn’t particularly ‘unhealthy’. But once you add ketchup, mustard, mayo, barbecue sauce or any of the other popular burger condiments, the sodium, sugar and calorific content of that humble burger skyrockets. Whether it’s sauce on your burger or gravy on your roast dinner – perhaps consider forgoing those less healthy sauces entirely, using less, or swapping them out for healthier alternatives.
10. Chuck the darts
There’s never been a better time to quit smoking. Countless programs with great success rates are available to help you every step of the way, including Allen Carr’s Easyway, which has an AIA Vitality member saving of up to 100 per cent.
11. Track every step
Every step you take gets you closer to your personal goals, so it makes sense to keep track of every one with a pedometer or smart watch. Seeing all your efforts logged will give you more motivation to keep it up, too.
12. Wake up a little earlier
Whether it means a chance to meditate, warm up your body and mind with a burst of exercise, or enjoy some time to yourself before the kids wake up, getting up at least half an hour earlier than usual can be the perfect way to start your day. If you’re not a morning person that’s okay, here are some steps you can take to become one.
13. Stretch it out
Improve your flexibility, posture, stamina, balance, blood circulation and overall athletic performance by incorporating stretches into your workouts and daily routines.
14. Believe in breakfast
Having a good breakfast every morning can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis (build-ups in the artery walls), improve cognitive function, and fire up your metabolism.
15. Learn how to brush
Keep your teeth healthy and white by making sure you brush them properly – with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and a gentle circular motion.
16. Give your brain a break
In the middle of a busy week, carve out time to do nothing. Studies have found that daydreaming or being bored can aid creativity, increase self-awareness, slow your heart rate and even make you kinder.
17. Have a heart
Performing acts of kindness produces oxytocin – known as the ‘love hormone’ – which helps to lower blood pressure and improve heart health. There’s no shortage of people and causes that could do with a helping hand out there – whether you decide to dedicate a day a month (or more!) to volunteer, cook a big meal for your neighbours, or offer up your professional services pro-bono, you’re in for a healthy dose of the warm and fuzzies.
18. Know your history
Investigating inherited conditions within your family can be invaluable when it comes to preventing or addressing future health concerns.
19. Ask your doc what’s up
Been putting off that full health check-up appointment with your doctor? Make it now and keep on top of things. Further, members of AIA Vitality can earn up to 6,000 Vitality Points while they’re at it.
20. Don’t forget your sunscreen
Experts recommend applying sunscreen every day as part of your regular skincare routine. If you don’t want to cover your whole body, you should consider just covering the parts of your body and face that will be exposed to sunlight. And don’t fret about feeling greasy all day – there are plenty of non-greasy sunscreens on the market.
21. Expose yourself…
Believe it or not, vitamin D deficiency is relatively common in Australia, with over 30% of adults having either mild, moderate or severe deficiency. On days when the UV Index is 3 or more, expose your bare skin to direct sunlight for just a few minutes to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D.
22. …but cover up
23. Ask for help
Asking for help when you need it isn’t just useful for solving a problem – it also has the power to develop your growth mindset, increase productivity, relieve stress and strengthen your relationships.
24. Talk it out
Talking about your feelings to someone you trust can be one of the best ways to release tension, clarify your thoughts and help you gain perspective on an issue. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to friends and family about the way you’re feeling, try speaking to your doctor, who’ll be able to help refer you to specialist help if required.
25. Stick to a sleep routine
Getting a good night’s sleep can be excellent for stimulating your metabolism, improving your mood, supporting your immune system and increasing your focus during the day. Research suggests that adults need at least seven hours of sleep a night, and that irregular sleep patterns can be detrimental to our overall health and wellness goals.
26. Avoid sleeping in on weekends
If you rise early during the week, sleeping in on weekends can disrupt your overall body clock. If you need the extra sleep, having a daytime nap is a better way to balance out a late night.
27. Have a cuddle
Giving a loved one a good cuddle is another way to stimulate oxytocin in your brain, which could lower your blood pressure, help you sleep and deepen feelings of connection with your hugging partner.
28. Get down and boogie
Aside from being heaps of fun, having a good dance can increase muscular strength, aerobic fitness, balance and flexibility. Having two left feet is no excuse either – your body and mind will still reap all the benefits of moving and grooving.
29. Visit mother nature
Whether you go for a big hike, a smaller ramble, or just to sit by a lake for a few hours – getting into nature can have positive benefits for our mental health. Aside from being proven to reduce stress, time in nature can also help improve our mood and concentration, and increase our social interaction. Some studies have even found that it can make us more creative.
30. Turn off your screen
Copyright © 2020 AIA Australia Limited (ABN 79 004 837 861 AFSL 230043). This is general information only, without taking into account factors like the objectives, financial situation, needs or personal circumstances of any individual and is not intended to be financial, legal, tax, medical, nutritional, health, fitness or other advice.
This inspirational content is brought to you by AIA Vitality
AIA Vitality is a science-backed program that helps you learn more about your health,
offers ways to improve it and motivates you with rewards along the way.
offers ways to improve it and motivates you with rewards along the way.