Being physically and mentally fitter and healthier have never been more important. We all know though that lifestyle changes can be daunting, hard to incorporate and hard to stick to too. So, what can we do to make our lives healthier without feeling that we are about to climb Mount Everest?

So, this month I would like to talk about a concept that might be familiar to some of you who have trained or performed on a more competitive and professional sporting level. It is the concept of marginal gains. I’ve borrowed this from, Sir Dave Brailsford, you may have heard of him in conjunction with team Sky. He did a lot of work with a lot of sports teams and it was around this principle of the aggregation of marginal gains.

What Is Aggregation of Marginal Gains?

What he means by that is if he could get a 1% improvement in an athlete’s sleep, a 1% improvement in their mental wellbeing, 1% improvement in their energy levels that all snowballs and actually the cumulative effect at that elite level is the difference between getting on the podium and not. Here are just a few examples of what that looked like: Sir Brailsford tested different types of massage gels to identify which one would support faster muscle recovery. He also asked a surgeon to teach each rider how to wash their hands more effectively in order to reduce the likelihood of getting a cold. Sir Brailsford also introduced the type of pillow and mattress that would lead to the best night’s sleep for each rider.

The accumulative effect of these and the other small improvements he introduced had a massive impact on the performance of the British Cycling Team (Olympic Games in Beijing 2008, British Cycling won 60% of the gold medals available. London 2012, the British Cycling Team set nine Olympic records and seven world records.) I think we can borrow this concept as well.

How Can I Use the Aggregation of Marginal Gains to Improve My Wellbeing?
So my challenge for you is just one thing. What one thing can you think about changing or tweaking or bringing in or taking out of your routine, that’s going to significantly improve your wellbeing over time. It’s really simple.

What is the Minimal Effective Dose?

I also want to choose another concept of the minimal effective dose. What is the smallest thing that you could do so small, you might even think, oh, come on, I can do more than that. Implement that, bed it into your routine and your lifestyle. Then look for something else. The aggregation of marginal gains, health is a long game, you see. So this is the most effective way to get that consistency and get these lasting, sustainable changes.

What Is Your #JustOneThing?

What is that one thing that you’ll work on today? As always give it a go.

This article first appeared in the September issue of SE21.