Lifestyle goals that will improve your health

It’s no secret that setting goals can be an effective way to make good things happen, but when you’re after genuine health benefits, which goals work best?

For starters, research suggests ‘do this’ goals are more powerful than ‘stop that’. For example, if you’re trying to be less sedentary, a ‘take some steps every 30 minutes’ goal is likely to work better than a ‘don’t sit still for more than half an hour’.

It also helps if your goals are accompanied by an ‘if-then’ plan – for example ‘if my 30-minute timer goes off, then I’ll stand and walk around for one minute’. If-then plans help to build habits and are a good strategy to help you achieve your goals, from being more active to losing weight or improving sleep.

As for which specific goals can help to change your health for the better, here’s a handful to consider setting.

Rack up at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week

Aim for around two and a half to five hours of moderate intensity physical activity. This can be anything from a brisk walk and golf to mowing the lawn and swimming.

Make sure you spend some of those minutes doing strength-building activities. Three quarters of adults in Australia aren’t hitting those targets, yet research shows doing regular exercise at midlife is one of the best decisions you can make to protect against dementia later on.

Research also shows that when it comes to enjoying the physical improvements linked with exercise – like building and maintaining muscle mass to help protect against everything from diabetes and frailty, to falls and bone fractures – it’s never too late to start.

Pack your plates with a variety of plant foods

This means filling up on a variety of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, seeds, nuts, legumes, beans and oils. Studies have shown that compared to people who consume just 10 types of plant foods every week, people who eat at least 30 different ones have a much more diverse population of bacteria living in their gut. And that’s a very good thing! Without intervention, gut bacteria diversity tends to shrink with age, something that’s been linked to an increased risk of a number of different health conditions.

Make the effort to be social and busy

Recent research from the University of Queensland found a clear link between having satisfying, quality relationships in our 50s and being less likely to experience poor health later in life. Plus, maintaining an active social life as we grow older can make it easier to cope with any age-related health challenges if they do crop up.

Researchers have also made the link between greater levels of day-to-day busyness as we get older and better cognition. Specifically, the research shows regardless of age, people past 50 years of age who have busy lifestyles tend to enjoy better memory, have superior reasoning skills, and can process and complete mental tasks faster.

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