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The secrets to a long and happy life

4 lifestyle behaviours that we can change to live a longer, healthier and happier life

As our excitement grows in the build up to Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee, we celebrate the incredible achievements of our Queen who has continued to serve her country well into her twilight years. Whilst there aren’t many of us who plan to be working into our nineties, one thing most people share is a desire to enjoy a healthy, active and fun-filled retirement. Taking that once in a lifetime trip. Spoiling the Grand kids. Really making the most of life.

So, what are the secrets to living a long and happy life? 

The good news is, according to scientists at John Hopkin’s University, there are four factors that seem to be related to healthy ageing. They studied over 6,000 men and women, during an 8-year period, and identified four key behaviours that reduced the risk of death during the study period, by an astounding 80 per cent. What’s even better, they are all behaviours that we can change, if we want to. If you’re keen to live a longer, healthier life, you might want to read on.

1. Don’t smoke, or stop smoking if you currently smoke

Whilst all these healthy habits are important, if you had to make just one change, the study suggests that stopping smoking should be the top priority. Quitting smoking improves both physical and mental health and wellbeing, and the sooner you stop smoking, the greater the health gains.

“When it comes to smoking, it’s never too late to stop,” said Greg Mell, Stop Smoking Lead at One You Surrey.  “Your body will start to recover within minutes of your last cigarette and the benefits last a lifetime. My advice to anyone wanting to stop would be to seek support from a Stop Smoking service, to really boost your chance of quitting.”

2. Maintain a healthy weight

Researchers observed that the healthiest people in the study were able to maintain their weight within a healthy range at a Body Mass Index (BMI) that was below 25. BMI is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out of you weight falls within a healthy range. For most adults, a healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9. It’s also important to note, that your ethnic group can also affect your risk of certain conditions and a lower BMI range may therefore be recommended.

“Maintaining a healthy weight is important for your health and wellbeing and losing just 5% of body weight may help to lower your risk of some diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers,” said Lisa Sayburn, Weight Management Lead at One You Surrey. “We know that the best way to lose weight, and therefore reduce BMI, is through a combination of diet and exercise. Our weight management programmes encourage and support participants to focus on small, realistic lifestyle changes, to move away from the ‘dieting mentality’ and towards healthy, nutritious and balanced eating, helping them to address bad habits and lose weight for good.”

3. Keep moving

Another behaviour that we should prioritise for our long-term health is physical activity and movement. Physical inactivity is associated with 1 in 6 deaths in the UK. Around 34% of men and 42% of women are not active enough for good health. According to The UK Chief Medical Officers’ Guidelines, we should aim for a minimum of 150 minutes moderate intensity activity, 75 minutes vigorous activity, or a combination of both. Safe and correct resistance training is also incredibly important as we age, with two strength training sessions recommended each week.

“Physical activity is so important for our overall health and wellbeing, yet as we age, we tend to be less active, especially in our older years and we may also feel uncertain about the best type of physical activity for us,” said Juli Mey, NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist and Weight Management Practitioner. 

“I would encourage everyone to find some form of movement that they enjoy and love. Writing down what you enjoy doing and why, can help you to develop healthy habits and a positive relationship with physical activity. Why not try dancing, gardening, walking? Even better, find an activity that you can do with friends or as part of a social group and enjoy twice the benefit!”

4. Follow a Balanced Diet

Another thing that the healthiest people in the study had in common was that they all followed a nutritious, balanced diet. The diets consisted of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, healthy oils, fish, whole grains and olive oil. Some of the strongest evidence for nutrition that supports healthy ageing is for a Mediterranean style diet (such as that observed in this study), which provides a wide variety of nutrients and energy needed to support the body.

Klara, Specialist Mental Health Weight Management Practitioner, said: “As we age, our body continues to require a wide variety of nutrients, and our protein requirement increase, yet our appetite may decrease. The best way to combat this is to include a variety of good quality proteins, legumes, fish, healthy fats, wholegrains, fruits, and vegetables in the diet; eat a rainbow. Tinned, fresh, frozen, dried, it all counts!”

At One You Surrey we offer a range of FREE programmes to help you stop smoking or to achieve your weight loss goals. Ready for a new you? To find out more about our services, or complete our referral form, click below.


Haitham et al., (2013). Low-Risk Lifestyle, Coronary Calcium, Cardiovascular Events, and Mortality: Results From MESA, American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 178, Issue 1, 1 July 2013, Pages 12–21, https://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kws453


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