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Summer Lifestyle Choices?

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Good health habits can be formed in early life. Childhood is a time in which active play is a joy — fun with friends without even thinking about it as "exercise". Active youngsters are also more likely to enjoy sports activities at school and join local sports clubs, and a serious involvement in sports can often help discourage adolescents from taking up smoking. Childhood is also a time in which healthy dietary habits can be established — habits that can shape our attitude to food for the rest of our lives.

With the summer holidays now upon us, this may be a good time for parents, grandparents and carers to think about how they might help their children stay active and learn to acquire a healthy lifestyle. Playschemes, activity clubs and sporting events are happening locally this summer — so the "couch potato summer" can certainly be avoided with a little pre-planning and encouragement.

And summertime also offers wonderful choices of salads, fruits and lighter meals.

This is hardly "news" to most adults, but it may be a helpful reminder that the summer holiday period often provides opportunities for adults to spend more time with their children and grandchildren, and so help to encourage and model healthy lifestyle choices.

Such considerations may also help us to reassess our own lifestyle choices?

We've all read and heard the various "nanny state" utterances from the killjoy health promotion experts — but the medical evidence is very clear. Indeed, a research study published this week in the British Medical Journal provides further evidence, if any was needed, that basic lifestyle choices can have a profound effect on our health and wellbeing in the long term.

The researchers looked at the relationship between various potential unhealthy behaviours (physical inactivity, low consumption of fruit and vegetables, smoking and alcohol consumption) and the risk of disability in later life. This was a relatively large study looking at almost 4000 retired women, who were followed up for 12 years. The results indicated a clear association between low physical activity, poor diet and smoking and the chances of disability in retirement. The hazard of disability also increased progressively with the number of unhealthy behaviours: participants with three unhealthy behaviours had two-and-a-half times greater risk of disability compared with those with none.

One good piece of news for those who enjoy the odd glass of vino, though — low-to-moderate alcohol consumption didn't appear to have any significant impact on the disability measures — but don't tell the children!

Those with scientific leanings can read more about the study here.

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