New year resolve: the secret of a happier, longer life

Diabetes, cardiovascular issues and achy joints aren’t inevitable in old age, but can result from youthful excess. Don’t sweat festive overindulgence though – our online fix could change your attitude and your life forever.

The 'Healthy Ageing in 6 Steps' course is based on research which shows that many of us know what we should be doing to lead a healthy life, but are simply not doing it.

The course, developed by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Health Campus partners: the Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing*, the University of Copenhagen and TU Delft in the Netherlands, could help you lead a healthier, happier and longer life.

"Many health complaints, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or joint problems seem inescapable diseases of old-age, but originate mostly from our lifestyle," explains the course presenter David van Bodegom, who's spent nine years researching how our lifestyle affects our health, sometimes as much as 20 years later.

"A lifestyle that is dictated to a great extent by our environment. The mismatch between our 'old' genes – our evolutionary heritage – and the 'modern' environment is the reason that we cannot resist the constant stimuli that seduce us to make unhealthy choices. Do's and don'ts cannot help us."

Prevention better than pills

Co-instructor Rudi Westendorp reflects on his regrets as a doctor, where instead of prescribing pills to solve a problem, he might instead have intervened earlier to solve the root cause of people's health issues.

"This health course takes a radically different approach to showing you how to secure a lifestyle, which will keep you healthy as you grow older," he says. "We have to let the environment do the work for us. By making small changes at our home, work, school or neighborhood, healthier choices can become easier or even unconscious."

Redesign your environment

Throughout the course, practical assignments provide you with the skills to re-design your daily environment to promote healthy, longer lives for you and your family, colleagues and neighbors. You will also learn how to create your own healthy living zone.

The online classes, which take just a few hours to complete, are published on edX, an online learning platform founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2012.

edX is one of the largest massive open online course (MOOC) providers and offers high-quality courses from the world's best universities and institutions to learners everywhere. In 2016, more than 7 million students took more than 700 edX courses online.

*The Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing was established by Association Aegon and the Leiden University Medical Center in 2008, to conduct research on vitality and ageing, with the goal of adding value to the lives of the elderly and society as a whole.

The Leyden Academy works closely with the Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement in its mission to conduct research, educate the public, and lead a global dialogue on trends, issues, and opportunities surrounding longevity, population aging, and retirement security.