The New Year has just dawned but whilst many may be starting a ‘New Year, New Me’ diet, it seems that Brits are actually in the minority if they view themselves as unhealthy. Today, new research from market intelligence agency Mintel reveals that just one in six (15%) Brits say they are either somewhat or very unhealthy, with half of the nation (50%) describing their general health as either very or somewhat healthy.

But when it comes to the amount of effort people put into staying healthy, very few put the ‘no pain no gain’ mantra into action. Indeed, around one in 20 (6%) say they are strict with themselves to ensure that they are as healthy as possible, with almost half (46%) saying they follow healthy habits most of the time. And whilst one third (33%) go through phases of being healthy and getting into bad habits, one in seven (14%) say they don’t put in much effort or thought into staying healthy.

What’s more, Mintel research highlights there is a gender gap in how much effort is put into staying healthy. Just one in 10 (10%) women say they don’t put much effort or thought into staying healthy, compared to one in five (19%) men.

46% of Brits say they follow healthy habits most of the time

Ina Mitskavets, Senior Consumer and Lifestyles Analyst at Mintel, said:

“Most Britons take a balanced approach to their health. Very few people admit to being strict with themselves when it comes to their health, with the majority of adults allowing themselves to get into bad habits at least some of the time. Furthermore our research shows that women are more likely than men to follow healthy habits most of the time. Some of this can be explained by the greater caretaking and nurturing role women tend to assume in their families and a bigger focus on their appearance.”

Indeed when it comes to what drives healthy lifestyles, it seems for women appearance in everything. The top reason women indicate as the most likely to prompt them to make changes to their current lifestyles is wanting to improve their appearance, with over half (54%) citing this reason, followed by feeling generally unfit (53%) and after advice from a GP or health professional (43%).

In comparison, men cite wanting to improve their appearance as the fourth reason that would prompt them to change their lifestyle (36%), behind feeling generally unfit (43%), after advice from GP or other health professional (41%) and serious illness (38%).

Despite this, overall men and women are agreed in attitudes towards leading healthy lifestyles. Indeed, two thirds (66%) of Brits agree exercise and healthy eating are equally important for staying in shape, whilst over half (55%) say that well-balanced meals are better for you than following a fad diet.

“Men are still, for the most part, considered to be the breadwinners, and being in a stable financial position rather than health is priority number one for today’s men. Perhaps one way of selling health to men is for health and fitness brands to put more focus on illustrating the positive impact regular exercise and balanced diet have on work productivity and mental focus, leading to higher earnings and a more satisfying career.”

Moreover, whilst the top three habits considered important for staying healthy are the same for both genders – with getting regular exercise (64%), limiting or not smoking (61%) and eating at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day (54%) topping the charts – it seems many don’t take there own advice. Just 47% said they actually got regular exercise over a year, whilst 52% limited or did not smoke, and 43% said they ate at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day.

What’s more, it seems that health priorities differ amongst different age groups. Approaching two in five (37%) 16-24s say that having an active social life or a good circle of friends is important to staying healthy and feeling well compared to 19% of those aged 45-54. What’s more, over half (57%) of those aged 45-54 say that limiting of not drinking alcohol is important, compared to 45% of those aged 25-34.

“Even though people know what they need to do to stay healthy, many struggle achieving their healthy goals, owing to a lack of time and/or money. The biggest deficit is evident in the amount of exercise people think they should be doing and that they actually do. To address people’s lack of time, fitness brands and operators could focus on the benefits of intense, short bursts of exercise that can more easily fit into busy routines.” Ina concludes.

Finally, Mintel research shows that the health of the nation actually shifted between 2014 and 2015. In August 2015, just over one third (36%) of consumers in the UK said they were somewhat healthy, down from 42% in April 2014. However, the proportion of consumers citing themselves as very healthy has risen from 11% to 14% in the same time period.

Press review copies of Healthy Lifestyles UK 2015 report and interviews with Senior Consumer and Lifestyles Analyst Ina Mitskavets are available on request from the press office.

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