Isn’t it interesting how certain “significant” birthdays can make us evaluate our life? We tend to look back and ask ourselves thought provoking questions such as:
• What have I accomplished?
• Has my life really mattered to anyone else? (Have I made a difference?)
• What do I still want to accomplish?
• What are my priorities?
I had one of those birthdays recently. Without divulging my age, I’ll say that I have many years to look back on with many things still on the agenda! I’m thankful to have raised two healthy and successful young men who have given me wonderful daughter-in-laws, grandchildren and even a grand dog. My “later in life” fitness career has given me the opportunity to help many people become stronger and healthier individuals, and pushed me to emulate that lifestyle. And I’m lucky enough to have a spouse who enjoys the same physically active lifestyle as I do. So what are our priorities?
• Be thankful for every day.
• Be active.
• Be healthy.
• Be able to enjoy our future.
Age is a number, not an excuse
Similar to an automobile, our bodies have a kind of built in obsolescence. Automobiles won’t last forever, but with proper preventative maintenance, the length of their useable lives is enhanced greatly. The proper fuel, regular fluid changes, and following the recommended maintenance schedule will enable you to drive that car for many years.
Our bodies have similar issues. With age, certain breakdowns will occur without the proper maintenance. They include:
• Loss of strength
• Decline in aerobic capacity
• Lower energy
• Loss of bone mass
But should we just accept all these conditions as “part of the aging process”? Definitely not! So much is preventable with proper exercise and nutrition. Here are 8 medically based reasons to exercise given to us by The Methodist Hospital in Houston:
1. Exercise helps keep arteries flexible for heart attack and heart disease prevention.
2. Weight reduction can reduce blood pressure, glucose, triglycerides and total cholesterol – all contributors to heart disease. 3. Exercise inhibits fat growth around the midsection (belly fat), which contributes to diabetes.
4. Exercise is a drug-free antidepressant.
5. Exercise can be social, which has been shown to improve general happiness.
6. Strength training improves bone density, which helps prevent osteoporosis.
7. Strength and flexibility training helps protect the body against injuries during activities of daily living.
8. Exercise can help tone muscles and create a leaner appearance.
Consistent exercise must be accompanied by healthy eating, however, for a truly healthy life. Just as automobiles don’t run well on the wrong grade of fuel, our bodies don’t perform as they should on a diet of junk food. Here are a few tips to think about:
1. Eat frequently. Eating smaller, healthier meals and snacks every 2 to 3 hours keeps energy levels up and prevents gorging at meals.
2. Cut out simple carbs. Carbohydrates are essential to a well-rounded diet, but they need to be whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice and pasta, and whole grain bread. Get rid of the white stuff!
3. Drink water before meals. We often mistake thirst for hunger. Drinking water before a meal can make us eat less.
4. Include protein. Protein takes more energy to digest than fat or carbs. It also helps workout recovery and builds muscle.
5. Eat fiber. Whole grains, beans and vegetables all contain lots of healthy fiber, which makes us feel fuller.
6. Snack on carbs plus protein. A healthy carb with protein as a snack – such as peanut butter on whole grain crackers or fruit with almonds – can satisfy hunger more effectively than either type of food alone.
7. Don’t keep unhealthy foods around. Is that package of cookies or bag of chips just too tempting to ignore? You can’t eat it if it’s not in your house!
8. Don’t eat out of the container. This has everything to do with moderation. A small bowl of ice cream is a good treat, but the whole container is a disaster!
Are you motivated yet?
All those reasons for exercising and eating right make perfect sense (at least to me!), but unless they matter to you, those lifestyle changes most likely won’t happen. When we have choices, the things that most often get accomplished are those things at the top of our priority list. Do you have a list? What’s on it?
If you’re fortunate enough to be at the stage of your life when you can devote more time to your interests and less time actually making a living, congratulations! Your priority list probably includes fun things like pursuing hobbies (maybe a little golf or tennis), traveling (have you walked up those 200 year old steps in Europe yet?), and spending more time with family and friends (those grandchildren can be hard to keep up with!). All of those activities require health and fitness. Don’t spend all your working years glued to your chair and then expect to be in prime physical shape when you actually have time on your hands. It won’t happen! More of your golden years will be spent at the doctor’s office than on the golf course. Not what you had in mind, right?
We all must have our own reasons for becoming and staying fit. Here are a few things to think about when you’re looking for motivation:
• Accept the fact that you have to exercise. No pill or surgical procedure is going to take its place. Being active every day is the only way to health.
• Acknowledge your lifestyle. Most of us are somewhat consumed by technology, all of which puts us in a chair instead of doing physical labor. So, we need to make the time to exercise – regularly.
• Make exercise mean something to you. If it’s going to be a long-term habit, it needs to have purpose. You can’t do it just because someone else tells you to do it. It must have an intrinsic purpose to you. Does it make you feel good? Do you like the way your body is starting to look? Do you feel mentally refreshed? Make it personal – make it matter to you.
• Find your own path to exercise. You’re not going to stick with an activity that you hate. There are lots of choices out there. Some people like the camaraderie of a fitness center or a class, where others like solitude. Some people need to get it out of the way in the morning, while others like to look forward to working out at the end of their day. What you like is what you’re going to continue to do.
• Be consistent. At the beginning of every week, write your planned exercise schedule on your calendar, and treat it like an appointment. Show up!
• Be accountable. After every workout, take advantage of a fitness app on your phone or computer and log your workout. You’ll get an email on a weekly basis to let you know your progress. Good ones to try are MyFitnessPal.com or MapMyFitness.com. Keep track!