I wonder how many of you listen to Michael Mosley’s popular BBC programme, Just One Thing?

It’s quite a seductive title, isn’t it? The fact is that most of us know we should make changes to benefit our health, but often feel overwhelmed at the thought.

So, it’s a very attractive notion that “just one thing” might make a significant difference. However, as a doctor friend commented the other day: “It’s not just one thing though. Every week there’s another one and it adds up to rather a lot!”

He’s right; but my view is that anything which gets us thinking about improving health and fitness is useful. And though this often takes considerable effort, sometimes altering our mindset or behaviour can be easier than we anticipate.

For instance, I know many men and women who piled on the pounds over the years and resisted cutting back on what they ate till they received a worrying diagnosis, such as type 2 diabetes. Then, they determinedly lost weight without too much trouble, and wished they’d done it sooner. Fear is great at galvanising us into action!  

So, to come back to Michael Mosley’s approach, let’s look at some areas where making simple, new choices about our habits could genuinely help our health, even after decades of unwise living.

I rarely write about smoking because, thankfully, there are fewer smokers around these days. But if you do smoke, please take note that all health experts agree if you stop, you boost your chances of a longer and fitter life. And though various studies show you derive more benefits if you’re younger, you can improve your situation at any age.

For a start, being a non-smoker will increase your immunity against colds and other viruses. You will also reduce inflammation in your body.  

And even if you’ve already been diagnosed with heart trouble, you can slow the progression of cardiac disease as well as diminish your risk of stroke. More than that, recent research shows that even in adults who have been smoking for decades, and whose lungs are in a sorry state, the probability is that they have a proportion of lung-cells which have remained healthy.

As soon as someone stops smoking, it seems these good cells increase and start replacing some of the many damaged ones. So, is it worth stopping? Definitely.  

Last year, I wrote about a report which stated that 40 per cent of dementia was avoidable. It highlighted alcohol as an area of concern because of the rise in numbers of people who have Alcohol Related Brain Damage (ARBD).

These individuals are not necessarily alcoholics or prone to drunkenness, they tend, actually, just to be adults who drink habitually and exceed the recommended levels of booze.

The good news though is that ARBD can be reversed to some extent. So, if what I’m describing applies to you, do consider cutting back or giving up.

Your brain will thank you for it. And with luck your memory will improve, and your mind will seem sharper.  Your skin will look lovelier too, which is a bonus.

And what about diet?

Recently, I listened to the latest Zoe.com podcast on healthy eating. The best thing you can do, according to their boffins, is to introduce more plant and whole foods into your diet, and eat fewer animal-products which tend to be low in fibre and high in saturated fats.

It’s reckoned that 40-year olds can add 10 years to their lives if they make such changes. But even those of us who are 70 or over can expect to add about five. Are you up for giving it a try?   

Finally, let’s look at exercise. Now, this is really, really important and can make a colossal difference to both mind and body.

But the key point here is to find some form of activity that you like – otherwise you won’t stick at it. However, there are masses of ways to keep active, and there’s something for everyone. We just have to find what works for us.

The reward for increasing the amount of exercise you do is that you’ll experience an almost immediate uplift in mood and a sense of satisfaction that you’re doing yourself a power of good.

And within two weeks, you should realise that you’re no longer so breathless when climbing stairs and you may well feel less fatigued than usual.

After six weeks or so, it’s likely that your fitness levels will have reached a point where other people begin to notice, which is always gratifying. And you may well suffer fewer aches and pains in the shoulders, lower back, and elsewhere. Your energy will keep increasing too, and that can feel amazing.

These are simple but effective tactics. Will you try just one thing?

Give it a go!