Studies have shown that rich people have almost a whole decade more of living in good health, as opposed to poorer counterparts. Some reasons are obvious - like better health and nutrition; others are more subtle, such as the stress and resulting health conditions among the cash-strapped. To keep yourself in the best shape, try to do the following:
1. Avoid a sedentary lifestyle
How much exercise do you think you need to do, to live longer? Hours at the gym everyday? Marathon training?
Try just 2.5 to 5 hours a week. That’s only around 30 to 45 minutes a day; and it’s been proven that you’ll not only live longer, but also have more years in good health (who wants to live longer if it means being miserable in a hospital bed, right?)
On top of that, a sedentary lifestyle leads to issues like obesity, and contributes to health conditions such as Type II diabetes. This is one of the fastest growing health complications for Singaporeans; and once you’re diagnosed with it, your insurance may not be able to cover related issues - it will count as a pre-existing condition.
All you need to do to prevent this is a short brisk walk, in the morning and evening; you can also try getting off the bus one stop before, and walking the remaining distance. It won’t get in the way of your work, hobbies, etc., and it’s worth it to feel and be better.
2. Have a sustainable healthy diet
Like many other countries, Singaporeans have picked up on the trend of fad diets. Every few years, a new one comes along on the internet - but studies have shown that many of these diets, especially the more extreme ones, are bad for you.
Extreme diets tend to be unsustainable, causing you to put back more weight the moment you stop. They’re also unrealistic in two ways: first, it assumes an unlimited degree of self-control, where you’ll eat such a diet for the rest of your life.
Second, extreme or fad diets can be expensive. Some of them are an outright financial scam, requiring you to spend hundreds of dollars every month on meal replacement products, powders, formula, etc. As the cost is not sustainable, you’re unlikely to be able to maintain such a diet (even if it works).
Stick to the My Healthy Plate system instead; this is realistic in terms of cost, and practical benefits (when coupled with exercise).
3. Don’t fall prey to sleep deprivation
In recent years, Singapore has been the third-most sleep-deprived city, in a survey of 43 cities. Singaporeans love to work or game till late, and many of us have seen the sun rise from over the top of our laptop screens.
However, sleep deprivation can cause a wide range of health problems, including heart problems, diabetes, and mood disorders. It also impacts your financial health in the long run: when you’re constantly fatigued and “burnt out”, you won’t be able to do your best work - and this will weigh on your job performance.
It’s advisable to get at least seven hours of sleep a day, as anyone who has been through National Service might remember. That’s probably why you were so much more energetic in your NS days!
4. Have a little less screen time
Singaporeans have a serious addiction to their Netflix, YouTube, and social media. Our children in particular are badly affected, but our adults are guilty of the same habits.
Many adults spend at least two hours a day just staring at screens, using social media - and this is before we factor in other forms of screen time like TV, or playing video games. Excessive screen time leads to chronic back and neck problems, mood disorders, and even financial difficulties.
This can come from an addiction to in-game purchases, such as the time an 18-year old student racked up $20,000 in credit card bills from a mobile game. Beyond this, video game addictions also interfere with our job performance or further studies. That includes adults, who would rather waste hours on their Xbox live than go for skills upgrading programmes.
A little bit of screen time is fine, but it’s best to keep it under two hours a day (not counting work).
5. Spend on experiences, not material goods
Studies have found that people who spend on experiences, rather than material things, tend to be happier as well as healthier.
For example, consider spending $10,000 on branded clothes, as opposed to $10,000 on a mountain climbing trip in an exotic country. The clothes are nice, but like most material purchases, the novelty fades with time. The experience of climbing a famous mountain - even just for a short distance - can last a lifetime.
At the same time, consider that the experience is also making you more physically fit. Activities like sky-diving, hiking, backpacking, etc. aren’t just memorable - they make you get up and be physically active.
Spending on experiences can also help to avoid compulsive “retail therapy”. Studies have shown that shopping for items does help to alleviate bad moods; but at the same time, you can become reliant on it to do so. This results in a need to shop and buy expensive things to cope with stress - and that can saddle you with growing credit card bills.
Try not to “buy” your way out of stress. And if you need to spend money to refresh yourself, consider a new activity, rather than a new gadget.
6. Include self-care in your financial planning
Who says budgeting is just about controlling expenses for bills? Budgeting can also be a vessel for mental health and happiness.
A healthy and effective approach to financial planning is to use conscious spending. This means you also budget for things that you enjoy, such as for a vacation, or a month of unpaid leave for a sabbatical.
By actively budgeting for these costs, you ensure the money doesn’t disappear into impulse expenditures. For example, you may find that all the “fun money” you set aside was spent on overpriced coffees and taxi rides, rather than something you really wanted - like that diving trip in the Maldives.
Don’t think of financial planning as just being for dreary costs and expenses - it’s also a way to empower your self-care. This can ensure you have the funds to take a break when fatigued, or that you don’t stress out about costs when you’re on holiday.
Ultimately, health and wealth are interrelated - if you nurture one, you’ll end up nurturing the other; and it just takes a few small tweaks to make it all work.