What is Lifestyle Medicine?

Lifestyle Medicine is defined as, “The application of environmental, behavioural, medical and motivational principles to the management (including self-care and self-management) of lifestyle-related health problems in a clinical and/or public health setting” (Egger et al, 2017).

Or put another way, “Lifestyle Medicine provides an interdisciplinary, whole-system approach to the prevention and reversal of chronic and lifestyle-related diseases through the modification of the behavioural, social and environmental drivers.”

There are various definitions of Lifestyle Medicine around the world, some focusing more on the behaviours that can be changed in a clinical therapeutic setting with a Lifestyle Medicine trained practitioner, however Prof Garry Egger’s definition is the most comprehensive, suggesting that Lifestyle Medicine extends to public health settings and there is a role for the health consumer too (self-care and self-management). This makes sense because change needs to be driven from all levels of the system.

Lifestyle Medicine is also often described in terms of its ‘6 Pillars’ (diet/nutrition, physical activity, smoking cessation, alcohol harm reduction, sleep and stress, and of course social connection), but of course there are many more pillars of health, from the immediately modifiable ‘top four’ or ‘top six’ behaviours, to the numerous societal and environmental drivers which are more difficult to modify and require social change and political will.

In practical terms, Lifestyle Medicine bridges the gap between health promotion and clinical practice. It involves clinicians, public health professionals, healthcare executives, researchers, scientists and educators working together to prevent, manage and treat conditions that result from:

  • Poor diet or nutrition
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol overconsumption
  • Chronic stress and anxiety
  • Poor or inadequate sleep
  • Lack of connection to family, friends, community
  • Social isolation
  • Loss of culture and identity
  • Health inequity
  • Social injustice
  • And many more influences of society and environment

In fact, the future of Lifestyle Medicine, while rooted in clinical practice and health policy, will be innovative community applications of the principles of Lifestyle Medicine (both small and large scale), and by utilizing technology to improve processes, outcomes, cost effectiveness and accessibility.

Lifestyle Medicine is growing in popularity around the world as a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to the challenges faced by our society and our health system. 

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