Keeping the Physical Body Healthy
Why is it important to keep the physical body healthy?
Given advances in modern day science, we are all probably going to live to be 100 years old. Shocking, right? We don’t often think that far in advance.
What can you do today to take care of your health?
Humans can now be expected to outlive our ancestors by decades. In much of the world today, we no longer face scourge by disease or calamity. We can take pills to control blood pressure, blood sugar, and bacterial bugs. Even if we choose not to partake in these rather artificial ways of controlling our health, it’s important to look beyond the immediate health risks posed by disease.
Even without disease, muscle weakness caused by disuse and deconditioning decreases quality of life. Normal joint aches and pains might cause folks to stop walking as much. Balance problems makes people scared to walk as much because they don’t want to risk a fall, but not walking as much makes weakness worse- and lack of weight bearing exercise makes bones brittle, and makes a fall that much more dangerous.
Just as we plan for our financial future, it’s also important to look at planning for physical health in the future.
Here’s a quick guideline that can help show you simple things you can work into your schedule now to maintain a healthy, happy body well into your 80’s, 90’s, and beyond!
Get a good balance between aerobic, strength, flexibility, and functional movement.
AEROBIC: Aerobic exercise is anything that gets your heart pumping! Even walking can be aerobic. You’ll know you’re doing it right if you break a light sweat, and can hold a brief conversation while working out. Swimming, biking, hiking, etc. all fall under this category.
STRENGTH: This means lifting weights. Weights aren’t just for sweaty men at Gold’s Gym. Increased muscle mass makes bodies look toned and sleek, as opposed to flabby and pouchy. You can get this effect by learning a weightlifting routine that you can do 3-4 times a week, for 30-40 minutes, every week. Find a routine online, hire a personal trainer, or take a course. There are plenty of reputable sources out there. Go do it! Even once a week is better than nothing.
FLEXIBILITY: Flexibility is when you stretch. Flexibility is about elongating your muscles, without weights. Flexibility is about relaxing, and breathing. Hold a stretch for at least 30 seconds for the best results. You can find good stretches online, from a good personal trainer, or in a stretch class. Find some you like and practice them every day.
FUNCTION: Function means anything that combines strength, flexibility and possibly aerobic exercise into one. This could be playing a sport- ie. Practice that jump shot! Shoot for a goal! On a simpler level, function includes balancing exercises, like standing on one leg while brushing your teeth. Function could include things like doing laundry, carrying groceries from the car, setting up a campsite, dancing in high heels. Human bodies were made for movement. Savor it!
BONUS: BRAIN FUNCTION: Did you know that regular exercise also helps ward off dementia? Exercise makes you breathe heavier, which sends more oxygen to your muscles, and also to your brain. The brain thrives on oxygen! Also, studies have shown other aspects of exercise that help keep neural pathways in the brain firing- like learning a new task, or getting better at something. The better you can do something, the more efficient your body becomes at doing it, and the faster/better/more complex you can do it. Take a dance class, ride a horse, do something that at first makes you feel like your head is on backwards, because learning to use your body in a new way will strengthen not only the muscles but the brain that controls those muscles.
Make it personal. Make it specific to YOU! Look within. If you have any preconceived notions about exercise and how it WON’T work for you, throw them out! Look for ways that work with your personality.
For the social butterfly: Are you a social person? Do you like to go out for drinks and dinner with friends? You would probably enjoy going on a group hike, or roller blading by the beach, anything where you are interacting with people in a social way, and exercise is the glue that brings your together.
*Look out for… Talky Tina! Try to work hard enough that it’s just a little bit difficult to keep a conversation going! It’s always nice to have a good catch up with a friend while exercising, but make sure to get the exercise in as well!
For the hard worker: Are you someone who works all day and all night and forgets to eat? You might need a fitness goal to keep you motivated to get up from long hours focusing on work. You might benefit from wearing a device that tracks your steps, so you can work towards getting 10,000 steps a day. You might want to think about training for an event, like a 5k, or completing a destination hike.
*Look out for… All work and no play. Make movement a habit, so that it’s part of your regular schedule.
For those who “go go go!”: Are you stressed out by all the things you have to do? Have you over-scheduled yourself to the point where exercise sounds like hell, and you feel guilty about all the other things you can’t do if you go exercise? Then back off… It’s ok to take a break.
*Look out for… Dark circles under your eyes. Take a step back and look at your priorities. Living a stressful life, day to day for years, is even worse for your health than merely not exercising!
Fact 1: You will not always feel motivated to exercise. You will not always love it.
Fact 2. Your body needs regular, consistent exercise. You may have to push yourself to do it, even if you don’t really want to.
Here are some ways to hack your lazy brain!
Find your Inner Why. Look at your value system. What do you value in your life? Do you value spending time with your family? Exercise so you can continue enjoying family time with children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren! Do you enjoy spending time in nature? Exercise now at the gym so you can handle long hikes in the woods when you get a chance! Do you have a vacation goal in mind? Train yourself for long days on your feet sightseeing. Look to these reasons daily to connect you to WHY you are deciding to exercise.
Make it Non-Negotiable. It takes energy to make a decision. If you leave the decision making until the last minute, your brain will almost always take the easy way out. Make the decision in the morning, or the day before. Get everything ready that you will need, in a bag by the door. Keep a pair of sneakers in the trunk of the car. Then you don’t have so many excuses when the time comes, just do it!
Get Accountable. Share your exercise with a friend, with family, with the world! Update your facebook status, write a blog post, let your family know. Tell them your Big Why. This will establish yourself as “a person who exercises.” “A person who is healthy.” “A person who values themselves and their loved ones enough to invest in their physical health.” Is this who you want to be? Then own it!