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Health Matters: Keeping up with a healthy lifestyle is what is important

By Dr Tim Allison

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A cyclist training in the countryside.
A cyclist training in the countryside.

The New Year is a time of change and a time of opportunity. We take down Christmas decorations and we make resolutions about how we will improve our lives over the coming year.

It is a time of looking forward and a time for optimism. Improving our health is something that makes a great focus at the start of the year.

We do face many challenges and difficulties; making ends meet in these times of austerity can be extremely hard and we continue to hear about terrible events in other parts of the world such as the war in Ukraine.

Covid and influenza are causing a lot of illness in the community and there are big pressures on hospitals. It may be hard to be optimistic now and hard to look to things improving in the future.

However, it is at times like these that it is especially important to look after our own health and wellbeing and that of our friends and family.

If we aim to keep as healthy as we can, then we will be less likely to need healthcare services and better able to look after others.

Read more: Health Matters: Highland team can help to support you on cancer journey

A healthy diet, physical activity and social contact with other people are all important in keeping ourselves healthy, but there is no single way to achieve this and no single prescription for a New Year’s resolution that will work for everyone.

Some people take inspiration from campaigns in January to avoid consuming animal products or not drink alcohol. Some people join up in organised activities whether a walking club or a gym. Some people, like me, set a goal to work towards later in the year. In my case it is being fit enough to do a long cycle ride.

We can be ambitious, but also need to be realistic in the goals that we set and realise that keeping up with a healthy lifestyle is what is important even if we don’t do everything that we want to do.

Dr Tim Allison, director of public health for NHS Highland.
Dr Tim Allison, director of public health for NHS Highland.

The lessons we learnt from 2022 and 2021 are still good for 2023 as well. Since respiratory illnesses are continuing to spread we must look after ourselves and others.

Vaccination against Covid and ‘flu is crucial and there is still plenty of opportunity for those who are eligible, but have not had the autumn booster, to be vaccinated.

It is not too late for anyone who has not been vaccinated at all either.

Many of us will be getting these types of illnesses with coughs and runny noses. We can look after ourselves and others by the tried and tested practices of good hygiene, wearing a face covering and staying at home when we are ill.

Doing this will help us all to have a great start to 2023.

– Dr Tim Allison is NHS Highland’s director of public health and policy.

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