Building positive actions into your day can have a major influence on your health.

The brain’s capacity to make behaviour automatic can either make or break a person’s quality of life and longevity, according to the Cancer Council’s Terry Slevin.

Mr Slevin says habits, good or bad, can have a massive effect on overall health and the fact that people can harness their ability to make certain behaviours automatic means they have the power to create better lives.

“Habits have a big influence on our health, ” he said.

“We have all heard the health messages about breaking bad habits like smoking and drinking but, on the flip side, there is also the fact that we can create healthy habits which not only help us to live longer, they also improve our quality of life.”

Mr Slevin said exercising regularly was one of the most powerful positive habits that people could create. During his three decades of working in public health, new information had constantly become available. In that time, the protective mechanisms of physical activity had become abundantly clear.

“Physical activity is without a doubt the area where the evidence has grown to the greatest degree, ” he said. “By building it into your regular routine, making lots of little changes to make sure it is incorporated into your day and making the effort to build some sort of rigorous activity into your schedule — you can really set yourself up for a happier and longer life.”

He said regular exercise not only provided protection from chronic disease, it also improved mental health, mobility and confidence.

Making a habit of taking the stairs instead of the lift, walking or cycling instead of driving, standing to work instead of sitting and participating in rigorous exercise at set times of the day and week were the types of things that could really improve overall health.

Other healthy habits included eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, drinking water and getting plenty of sleep.

Conversely, he said habits such as smoking, drinking, eating junk food, engaging in excessive screen time and spending too much time unprotected in the sun could all lead to an early demise.

Sometimes the challenge was to replace bad habits with good habits.

“Essentially, what people need to do is engage their brain on a few levels. They need to figure out what changes they want to make and then be prepared and open to do the work.

“The next part involves applying some determination and deciding that you are going to give yourself a proper chance to establish the new behaviour. It will take time, it will take effort and it will take some grit, but eventually it will pay off.”


© The West Australian

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