New research reveals turning 30, 40 or 50 pushes millions of Britons into a lifestyle overhaul

13 August 2018 . United Kingdom

Taking part in a Tough Mudder style event, a 10k run or a marathon has replaced the stereotypical convertible sports car, that marks a milestone birthday, new research has revealed.

  • Half of Britons change their attitudes to health after hitting a milestone birthday
  • 13 million Brits sign up to a Tough Mudder style event as they approach a new decade
  • Women make positive changes when they reach 30, a decade earlier than men
Couple exercising

The research by Bupa Health Clinics found that almost a quarter (24%) of Britons - that’s 13 million people - sign up for a competitive event, such as a 10k run, marathon or Tough Mudder style event to mark a significant turning of age. Meanwhile 53% of us cut down on alcohol or give it up completely, and half (50%) of us are booking in for a health MOT, following a new trend dubbed ‘The Zero Effect’.

The turn of a new decade prompts around half (47%) of us to make a positive lifestyle change, but the point at which we do it is different for men and women. On average, women are more likely to make changes a decade earlier than men. Women take stock of their health when they reach 30, while men are more likely to make health and lifestyle resolutions at 40.

For a fifth (20%) of women, they see a milestone birthday as an opportunity to reassess all areas of life and think about what’s really important, adopting a new healthy eating plan (67%) and joining the gym (48%).

For men, becoming a vegan (24%) and signing up to a competitive event (31%) seems to be key indicators of a midlife turning point – motivated by more than one in 10 feeling the need to get fitter to keep up with a younger partner (6%) and wanting a new challenge (5%).

Tracey McAlpine, 58, author of lifestyle blog Fighting Fifty, explains why she changed her lifestyle at 50: “As 50th birthday cards came through the post, so did details of a walk-in bath, a chairlift, and funeral planning. Was that really my future?

“Hitting my fifties made me immediately think differently about my health. I realised that I wanted to make some changes. I wanted to ensure I remained fit and healthy to avoid needing any of the services I was being shown. I looked carefully at what I ate and added more fruit, vegetables, and pulses into my diet. I started to train with weights to retain muscle mass and took up Pilates to help with flexibility. I’m now 58 and feeling great.”

Other big lifestyle changes include giving up smoking (40%) with men (46%) being more likely to choose this than women (34%). Seeking a better work / life balance is something both men (38%) and women (37%) agree on according to the report by Bupa Health Clinics.

Jake Williams, Lifestyle Health Adviser at Bupa Health Clinics, says: “Entering a new decade is one of many triggers that can prompt us to think about our health. In our clinics, we often see customers coming in for a general health check shortly before, or after turning, an age ending with a zero.

“This is supported by our research which found many of us book a general health assessment and get specific health concerns checked - a third (32%) see a physio and almost a quarter (24%) visit a dermatologist.”

However, while a significant birthday prompts a health and lifestyle overhaul the study shows the changes last on average three years, although a quarter of Britons (25%) relapse within the first 12 months. Only a handful (5%) maintain their new regime for eight years or more.

Jake Williams, Lifestyle Health Adviser at Bupa Health Clinics, continues: “While taking stock of our health is something to be embraced and encouraged, it’s important we don’t ignore health for the other nine years. One of the most alarming stats in our report showed that 54% saw a medical professional about a symptom they’d been ignoring when they hit a milestone age. Anything unusual or concerning should be checked and dealt with as soon as it comes to our attention.”

The research, which polled just over 3,000 adults, also found the psychological effect of a new era made almost half of Britons (47%) feel much older and aware of the importance of their health. Over a quarter (27%) said they worry about ill health in later life and moving into the next decade made it feel closer.

The top 11 actions following a milestone birthday for Britons are

  1. Starting a new healthy eating plan
  2. Getting a niggling symptom checked
  3. Cutting down or giving up alcohol
  4. Getting a health MOT
  5. Joining a gym
  6. Going travelling
  7. Giving up smoking
  8. Seeking a better work / life balance
  9. Seeking help with a mental health problem
  10. Signing up for a competitive event such as a 10k race, marathon, Tough Mudder.
  11. Going vegan or vegetarian

About the research 

The research surveyed 3,000 people over the age of 16 and was commissioned by Bupa Health Clinics and carried out by Censuswide in April 2018.

About Bupa Health Clinics

  • With more than 50 Bupa health centres across the UK, we offer a range of trusted health services close to where people live and work.
  • Bupa clinics are open to everyone, whether you have Bupa insurance or not.
  • Our health and dental clinics offer a range of everyday health services from GP and physiotherapy appointments and health assessments to general, cosmetic and specialist dentistry.
  • Bupa’s range of health assessments give people a snapshot of their health and help them make informed decisions.
  • Our health assessments are designed to make sure people engage with their health before the assessment, and have continued support to meet their goals afterwards.
  • Your Health Assessor will also help you set relevant goals, give you access to the Bupa Boost app to keep you on track and your advisor will call you in the months following to coach and help you. You'll also have 24/7 access to a GP for a whole year for yourself and family who live with you.
  • Bupa clinics are on the high street across the country and offer: health assessments, health services like GP appointments, dental appointments including orthodontics and cosmetic dentistry, dermatology, physiotherapy, osteopathy and podiatry.

About Bupa

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