“If we do the right things, we maximise our chances of aging well.”—Martin Bending, NSW State Services Manager, Remedy Healthcare
- Even if you’re already relatively healthy, regularly reviewing your daily habits and lifestyle to see which areas need improvement can help you to achieve better long-term health.
- Visit your GP regularly for a check-up and screening tests, and do your own assessment of your lifestyle. Be honest about which areas need attention—you probably already have some idea of what they are.
- Set SMART goals and figure out what motivates you. Ask your family and friends for support in making changes. And then repeat.
When it comes to being healthy, there’s always room for improvement. But how exactly do you go about tweaking your current formula—especially if it’s already pretty good? We asked our experts for a step-by-step approach to better health.
Step 1: Find your baseline
No matter if you’re in your 40s, 50s or 60s, the first stop on your journey is your GP—aka the core of your care team.
“I would always recommend going to your doctor probably at least twice a year and just asking them for a general health check-up,” says Kate Miocevich, an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Health Coach at HealthierMe™, a program run by Australian Unity’s partner Remedy Healthcare. “So, first up, getting some blood tests and seeing where things are at, like your cholesterol, blood pressure and vitamin levels.”
Before your appointment, Kate also suggests having a think about:
- your exercise routine
- your diet
- your sleeping habits
- your energy levels
- any risky behaviours, including smoking and/or alcohol consumption
- your relationships and social connectedness
- your mental health
- your stress levels
“I recommend doing a self-assessment of your lifestyle, and then getting a more-concrete assessment from the GP,” says Kate.
Step 2: Set some SMART goals
Goal-setting can be a great way to provide focus to a healthy lifestyle—and SMART goals (which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) are one tried-and-trusted method that can help you make goals you’ll actually stick to.
If your doctor finds an area of concern, such as high blood pressure or increasing cholesterol levels, your first SMART goals will naturally prioritise addressing those. But if everything’s normal and you’re looking for some goal-setting inspiration, you could start by reviewing the latest government recommendations for healthy eating and exercise to see how your lifestyle compares.
You might also want to seek out expert advice and guidance from allied health professionals who specialise in whichever areas you want to work on.
“It's really about looking at some of the key elements of your lifestyle,” explains Martin Bending, accredited exercise physiologist and NSW State Services Manager at Remedy Healthcare. “So, are you doing all the right things versus the guidelines? For example, particularly for that 40s-to-60s age group, are we doing aerobic exercise? And are we starting to incorporate more strengthening exercises, which is something a lot of people tend to miss as they age?
“Then looking at things such as eating habits—are we eating to the right guidelines, something as simple as two fruit, five veg? And sleep—are you feeling energetic throughout the day? Are you going to bed and responding to those signs of tiredness at the correct time?”
The truth is you probably already have an inkling of which areas need attention.
“In a lot of my consults, I find a lot of people know what the problems are and how to potentially address them,” says Martin. “So I think part of it is just being honest about what elements of your lifestyle you need to improve upon. But also, for those who maybe need some guidance, it's about getting the help from the right people.”
Step 3: Figure out what motivates you
When setting your goals, be sure to consider why you want to make any changes.
“Do you want to maintain this healthy lifestyle because you want to travel around the country when you retire? Or you want to be well enough to play with your kids or grandkids?” asks Kate. Find your motivators and use them to stick to that healthy lifestyle.
“It can also help to get others involved, so talk to your family and get other people supporting you and helping with accountability. Make it a little bit easier on yourself.”
Step 4: Rinse and repeat
Remember, there’s always room for improvement, so keep cycling through these steps—getting check-ups and reviewing your lifestyle, setting SMART goals and doing your best to implement your new healthy habits before beginning the process again.
Not only will it be deeply satisfying to track your progress as your successes accumulate, you’ll also feel the benefits for years to come.
“If we do the right things, we maximise our chances of aging well,” says Martin. “I've seen a lot of clients who have invested into their lifestyle, health and exercise in that 40-to-60-year age group, and then see a massive difference when they're starting to get into their 60s, 70s and 80s.
“They're living substantial, fulfilling lives, with less incidence of disease and things that are slowing them down.” And that, after all, is what we all want from our health.
Information provided in this article is not medical advice and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest.