Is a lifestyle intervention the key to living healthier?

Need to hit the reset button on your health goals? A lifestyle intervention might be the solution you’re looking for. Here’s how to get started.

Whether it’s losing weight, boosting our energy levels or improving our overall wellbeing, most of us have a wellness goal – or five!

But in the whirlwind of our fast-paced lives, it can be easy to lose sight of what we’re trying to achieve.

This is where lifestyle interventions come in.

What exactly is a lifestyle intervention?

According to Sports Nutrition Association founder Alex Thomas, a lifestyle intervention is about making positive changes to your health and your life.

“Whether it’s losing weight, getting more exercise or better sleep, eating healthily or managing stress, simple interventions can help you lead a better life,” Alex says.

A 2010 Swedish study looked at lifestyle interventions involving diet and physical activity and found them to be cost-effective ways to delay or prevent the onset of diabetes and cardiovascular disease and reduce the risk of other chronic diseases.

How does a lifestyle intervention work?

You can manage your own lifestyle intervention or be supported by experts like sports coaches, nutritionists and psychologists, depending on your goal.

But making the decision to invest in healthy changes is more than just hitting play, cautions fitness professional from EFM Health Club Rocco Pascale.

“Making sustainable change that’s going to last and become part of your everyday lifestyle takes time, effort and patience, and there’s no one size fits all,” Rocco says.

So, how do we make an intervention work for us? Our experts had these three top tips:

Find your ‘why’

“The why is such a powerful source of motivation; I see this all the time in what I do,” Rocco says.

“If you want to be fit to keep up with your kids as they grow up and join in activities, you’re more likely to stay committed and persistent, even when it’s hard.”

But because no two people are the same, Rocco says you need to determine what you want to achieve and what your likes and dislikes are in order to set up an effective plan.

“If you hate to run, an intervention that has you on the treadmill every second day isn’t going to work, but there are lots of other ways you can achieve this, depending on what you enjoy.”

Set realistic goals

To increase the likelihood of your lifestyle changes sticking, you need to “reduce the resistance”, Alex explains.

“A 45-year-old professional mum of three who wants to lose weight has 24 hours in her day in the same way a 22-year-old uni student does, but they’re not going to be the same 24 hours,” he says.

“Advising her just to track all of the food she eats isn’t going to work, whereas habit stacking –

grabbing an apple instead of biscuits for morning tea, swapping fizzy drinks for water and so on – combined with education on nutritional choices, probably will.

Alex says while it may take time to build those habits, the goal is to create habits that will stick.

Track your progress

“Finding someone who is like-minded with common goals and who will keep you motivated and accountable can make a big difference, and it’s also someone to talk to and share your progress with along the way,” Rocco says.

Alex recommends tracking your progress, so you can see how far you’ve come and how far you’ve still got to go.

The alternative to having a plan or intervention, our experts say, is an ad hoc approach with no goal, no accountability and no tracked progress, which often makes being successful harder.

So take some advice from American actress Mae West, who said: “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

More tips for achieving your wellness goals:

Written by Liz McGrath.