WE AREN’T BIG fans of making healthy resolutions on New Year’s just for the sake of it. But, of course, the holidays are ripe for people to slip up and indulge a little too much—prompting a reckoning after the new year begins.

Which is great—any steps taken to make healthier decisions is a good thing, and staying true to those intentions throughout the year can even lower your risk of cancer, says recent research from Cardiff University in the U.K.

To figure this out, researchers sifted through data from a half-million people enrolled in the U.K. Biobank study and looked at how many of those who stuck with healthy behaviors—low BMI, regular exercise, healthy diet, limited alcohol—ended up with any kind of cancer. They found that following healthy choices led to a one-third reduction in cancer risk, and a lower chance of dying from cancer.

“The take-home message is that healthy behaviors can have a truly tangible benefit,” said Peter Elwood, M.D., a professor of epidemiology at Cardiff. “A healthy lifestyle has many benefits additional to cancer reduction—it costs nothing, has no undesirable side effects…and is better than any pill. Perhaps the advice to take up one additional healthy behavior is the most acceptable message for most subjects. In our study, each additional healthy behavior was associated with a reduction of about 8% in cancer, independent of the effects of the other behaviors.”