Healthier lifestyles

gillBy Gill Price

Typically, in January as part of their new year’s resolutions many people embark on a healthier lifestyle journey involving exercise or balanced eating habits.  For some this becomes a way of life that leads to a healthier and better-rounded person.  

Sadly, most people fall back into their old habits after a few weeks and return to a sedentary existence, which poses a number of health risks, including obesity. 

Obesity is one of the biggest health issues faced by people around the world. According to the World Health Organisation, obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, claiming at least 2.8 million lives annually, while 1 in 8 people in the world were living with obesity in 2022.

The World Obesity Atlas tells us that half of all adults in South Africa are overweight (23 percent) or obese (27 percent), and in the African region, almost a quarter of preventable non-communicable diseases and 22 percent of deaths are linked to having a high Body Mass Index. 

The rise in obesity poses a serious challenge to public health worldwide, with South Africa being amongst the countries with the highest overweight and obesity rates. The increased prevalence of overweight and obese people contributes to the onset of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and cancer, which are currently the biggest threats to health and development among populations. 

These figures are deeply concerning and are likely to increase unless all of us take action now. Fortunately there are a number of things most people can do to improve their overall health and well-being.

Simple interventions such as improved diet and physical activity can help to address obesity. But as with all things in life there must be a balance between exercise and diet. A good principle to follow is the 80/20 rule for weight loss, where nutrition contributes 80 percent and exercise contributes 20 percent. 

Healthier food choices are key and when coupled with exercise the benefits to your overall health and wellbeing will begin to show.  Embarking on a healthier lifestyle journey can be as simple as making a few small tweaks to your daily routine.  

Choose to have water or another healthier alternative, instead of having a cool drink with every meal.  Gradually begin to cut down your sugar intake in regular food items such as your daily tea, coffee or cereal.  Make the move from white bread to Low GI whole-wheat or options such as rye. 

Small changes add up and can make a big and lasting change if you stick to them.  You can make similar lasting changes in your exercise routine by simply choosing a routine that works for you and sticking to it.  

A brisk walk daily does wonders, and you have the added benefit of getting out of the house.  Alternatively, you could consider joining a sports club or a gym, or even exercising at home.  There are so many ways to start your healthier lifestyle journey, and once you start you might find that you are hooked!

Gill Price is GCIS Director: Communication Resource Centre