As active contributors in research, sometimes it’s nice to take a step back and reflect how our work evolves from novel treatment to everyday practice.

So much of how we choose to live our life now was determined by past evidence. But with the volume of information out there, it’s difficult to sift out the ‘duds’ to make the right choices in time poor settings.

In this edition of the George Clinical newsletter, we asked Julie Redfern, Head of Public Health and Health Services within the Cardiovascular Division of our partner in research, The George Institute, to give us some quick tips, based on evidence of course, on how to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Top tips for a busy professional to stay healthy

Well don’t we all know the answers? We need to be active, eat healthy, enjoy ourselves, not smoke and not drink amongst many other things. But hang on a minute – what if some of us work and never seem to have time for ourselves. How does it work when there are children and their growing list of activities to juggle, chores to do and parents to help out? Oh! And what about those of us who receive hundreds of emails a day, travel to all corners of the globe and have meetings at any time of the day?

Clearly we know what needs to be done – it is just about finding a balance and working out how to fit things in with the ever-increasing and competing demands we all seem to face. The evidence continues to mount that modernizing societies are spending more time being sedentary. We can’t change this fact overnight – so what is a simple but effective guide for us to balance our time in maintaining good health?

1. Time management and work-life balance

Clearly, for many of us this is the biggest challenge. We know what to do but we just can’t fit it in. There is no easy answer here but some suggestions include writing lists, making ‘exercise bookings’ in our diaries. For some of us task-oriented and goal achieving people this helps us ‘get the job done’. Ideally, we should all maximise the efficiency of our working time so that we can switch off once we leave the workplace – this is easier said than done of course. Are you that person that puts on an out of office note on the system, and then continues to check your email every minute?

2. Connect with others

Ideally, we should try and allocate some regular time to develop and maintain strong relationships with others because these people whether they are family, friends or colleagues. These people can provide support, joy and happiness that humans thrive on. You could join a walking group, a social sporting team or an art class – using our creative skills can be a wonderful outlet. Everyone is different and everyone can find connections in different ways so explore what works for you in your own ‘world’.

3. Try to fit things within your already busy life

Walking the dog is a good idea to increase physical activity levels. Or, go for a walk while your kids are at swimming lessons or during your lunch break. Some people are able to ride or walk for their commute to work but actually a good hidden option is shopping! Yes, whilst walking up and down shopping centres, we can actually clock up a kilometre or two. When eating out, grilled fish meals with salad or stir-fried vegies are good options and it’s important to ask for no added salt.

4. Find time to smile, laugh and relax

There is evidence that smiling and laughing helps release endorphins and hence can make us feel better. Our wellbeing can also be improved if we ‘pay if forward’ – if we do something positive for someone else, or tell them something positive we help not only the other person but also ourselves to feel good about ourselves.

5. Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t forget to relax

At the end of the day we can only do what we can do. Try find activities that are enjoyable and aim to be as healthy as possible but we cannot all be perfect all of the time.

Is there a fancy diet, a special exercise program or a simple solution? When we encounter so many different messages on what it means to be healthy, it helps to remember what measures have been proven to matter. A great place to start is a visit to your local GP for a health check. Measures such as your cholesterol levels and blood pressure give a good indication of your heart health. You can also calculate your own body mass index here  or waist circumference here.

There isn’t a strategy that works for everyone at all times in their life. Ultimately, it is about maintaining healthy balance within our lives. This involves peaks and troughs, ups and downs. If we can maintain regular physical activity and a healthy diet as part of our everyday lives, this will be the most effective strategy for most.