(Cheers to microlives! Image: Thinkstock)
If you followed up your 20-minute bike ride to work this morning with a couple of cups of coffee, congratulations: you’ve gained three microlives before noon.
What’s a microlife, you ask?
According to Dr. David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge, a microlife represents the time you lose or gain in a day, depending on the health choices you make.
Spiegelhalter, who authored a study on microlives in the holiday edition of the British Medical Journal, says he chose to do so because it provides a simple way to determine the immediate impact of a lifestyle or environmental risk factor.
Why determine the immediate risk?
Because many people look at the impact of their health decisions as something they won’t have to deal with until the distant future—which makes our daily decisions seem less important than they really are.
“A daily loss or gain of 30 minutes can be termed a microlife, because 1, 000,000 half hours (57 years) roughly corresponds to a lifetime of adult exposure,” he wrote.
In other words, you can control your lifespan with your behavior.
Each of the following behaviours can lose you 30 minutes of life: Smoking two cigarettes, having two extra beers or other boozy beverages, eating a burger or other portion of red meat, carrying 5 kg of extra weight, or watching two hours of TV.
Want to gain some microlives?
Treat yourself to just one alcoholic drink a day (one microlife), get 20 minutes of moderate exercise daily (two microlives), drink two cups of coffee (one microlife) and make sure you have lots of fresh fruit and vegetables in your daily diet (four microlives).
Since I rode my bike to work today for 20 minutes and had a smoothie with banana, blueberries and spinach for breakfast, I’ve already gained about four microlives today. Unfortunately, I also lost one just for living in Toronto and breathing in all that polluted city air.
I'm not worried though: I also gain four microlives each day just for being a woman. I like those odds.
What about you? How many microlives have you lost/gained today? Will this study help you look at your health decisions as more immediate?
-Katharine Watts, Associate Web Editor
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