What do we want for the second half of our lives? Health and mobility are at the top of my list.
Keeping all my marbles into my old age is right up there too. Financial security is nice but without those other three, it's a distant fourth. So how do we do it, maximize our chances of health into our old age?
We all know how. Eat healthy, exercise, get regular checkups, reduce stress. It's a simple formula. So why is it so hard to do?
You know, I don't think it's hard to do, but I do think not doing it is a lot easier. The path of least resistance is paved with delicious processed foods, wines and spirits that hit the spot at the end of a day, lounge chairs that give you a massage and play your favorite tunes, remotes and DVRs that offer sedentary adventure with the push of a button, games that appeal to your inner super hero. It's a long list and it's become our way of life. Who wants to eat healthy, exercise, yada yada yada when you've got all that?
Well, if you want a healthy second half of your life, or maybe a second half at all, I suspect you do.
So, I'd like to offer a method that may take some of the sting out of making the necessary lifestyle changes.
· Start by adding one good thing. Don't take away anything just yet. Just add one good healthy thing and try to make it something important enough to keep it going for a lifetime.
Make your own list of good things. But may I suggest starting with exercise as the first good thing. It worked for me and I've found getting moving, and eventually fit, helps my clients feel motivated to make all the other changes on their list.
Here's a short video that will give you the beginner's fitness formula I use with my clients.
· Ease in to adding that new good thing.
Too much of a good thing tends to be short lived. Pamper yourself a bit. Stay in your comfort zone while moving gently but steadily forward
· Add a second.
Once the first healthy thing is solidly a part of your life, add another. It can be anything good like eating more fruit or stopping for a slow count to 10 and a few deep breaths when you feel stressed.
· Cut one bad.
Once you've got two going try cutting out an unhealthy or less healthy thing. See where I'm going here. Gradually add two good, cut out one bad. Substitute old favorite foods for new healthier favorite foods. Add taking a walk; get rid of sitting around watching as much TV.
· Easy does it.
There's no need to go to extremes. Keeping it up is the key. Little by little you'll be substituting a healthy lifestyle for a less healthy lifestyle. It's a constant journey. You'll never arrive because your destination keeps changing. The more you do the more you'll want to do. You set a goal and achieving it puts you in sight of a new goal.
· Expect speed bumps
Lifestyle changes are not an exact science and one size does not fit all. You'll need to experiment and find the methods that work best for you. Attitude is key. If you can stay relaxed enjoy ever little victory and shrug off every little setback, the road should feel smoother.
It may be hard to see your progress except in retrospect. Looking back at where you started after a year, you may marvel at the changes you've made. Feel free to congratulate yourself.
*Physical Fitness and All-cause Mortality Blair et Al Jama 11/3/89
Mortality trends in the general population: the importance of cardiorespiratory fitness
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Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence: CMAJ. 2006 Mar 14; 174(6): 801-809.