What is Lifestyle Medicine?
Lifestyle Medicine is an evidence-based discipline which aims to support patients to prevent, manage and reverse certain chronic conditions, using supported behaviour change skills and techniques to create, and sustain lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle Medicine focuses on helping patients to eat more healthily, stay active, sleep better, improve social connections and mental health, and reduce harmful substance use. It also considers broader factors impacting on individuals’ health and wellbeing including ecological health, poverty and health inequality.
A Multi-Disciplinary Multi-System Approach
To be an effective antidote to the chronic disease problem, lifestyle medicine requires
a multidisciplinary multi-system approach – which embraces and works alongside
other approaches such as self care, self management, social prescribing and group
consultations. It requires clinicians, public health professionals, researchers, scientists
and educators working together to affect change.
The principles of lifestyle medicine must be applied not only at the clinical practice
level, but must also encompass public health policy and prevention. Healthcare
professionals, individuals and governments and policy makers must play their part.
The Principles of Lifestyle Medicine
The Six Pillars Of Lifestyle Medicine
Learn the evidence behind the six key pillars that form the lifestyle medicine principles
Lifestyle medicine teaches proven techniques to reduce stress and help people with relaxation. Practitioners support people to find purpose in life and improve health through connection with nature.
Minimising Harmful Substances
Lifestyle Medicine supports people to stop smoking, reduce excessive alcohol consumption, avoid addictive substances and behaviours such as gambling or excessive internet or social media use.
Lifestyle Medicine supports people to develop and sustain healthy and meaningful relationships and increase social connection to reduce stress and promote both physical and mental health.
Lifestyle Medicine supports people to reduce consumption of ultra-processed foods by teaching the knowledge and skills required to follow healthier eating patterns of people’s own choosing.
Lifestyle Medicine supports people to achieve good quality sleep and to avoid behaviours which have the potential to impair sleep quality.
Lifestyle Medicine supports people to choose ways in which they could incorporate more physical activity in their lives, as well as reducing time spent sitting down.
The Skills of Lifestyle Medicine
Find out about the different evidence-based techniques used to support behaviour change
Ensuring lifestyle medicine education gets to those that need it the most is critical,
but education alone is not enough to create sustainable lifestyle changes. There are
various skills (interventions & tools) that have proven to be successful in supporting
patients in this regard.
Lifestyle medicine calls for a move away from the traditional doctor-patient
relationship where the clinician is the expert information provider. This is needed
because we now know that giving simple lifestyle advice such as “eat less and
move more” is often ineffective1 2
To be effective in supporting lifestyle change, lifestyle medicine uses knowledge of
behavioural science to work with patients. This way we can work with people and
their values to support problem solving and equip them with skills to make the
changes they want to make. Some of these techniques have been shown to be at
least 80% more effective in supporting behaviour change than traditional advice
A Global Movement for Change
Lifestyle medicine is a mainstream, global movement for change. In the last decade,
lifestyle medicine societies and colleges have been founded across the world. Why
not become part of this movement and join the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine
Supporting individuals to make positive changes
The lifestyle medicine approach seeks to support individuals to make positive
behaviour changes. It is not about blaming or lecturing people.
It recognises the need for, and the continued importance of, other therapeutic
interventions in healthcare including surgical and pharmaceutical where these are
determined to be necessary, appropriate and effective. Where it has the proven
potential to have the most impact, however, lifestyle medicine simply needs to be a
greater part of the healthcare mix.
- Kelly MP, Barker M. Why is changing health-related behaviour so difficult? Public Health. 2016, 136, 109-116.
- Melvyn Hillsdon et al, Advising people to take more exercise is ineffective: a randomized controlled trial of physical activity
promotion in primary care, International Journal of Epidemiology, 2002, 31, 4, 808–815
- Rubak S et al, Motivational interviewing: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Gen Pract, (2005), 55, 305. McGinnis J et
al, The Case for More Active Policy Attention to Health Promotion, Health Affairs, (2002), 21, 2