Some Baseline Activities for a Longer, Healthier Life
People talk themselves out of maintaining a healthy lifestyle for endless reasons. Still, making excuses for not exercising and eating well is ruinous. Life is too short and precious for that. In most cases, it’s not really that hard to take care of yourself. Here’s a simple thumbnail sketch of some strategies for a longer, healthier life.
First, do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week. “Aerobic” means “with oxygen,” so anything that increases your heart rate and breathing for an extended period of time is an aerobic exercise. This includes walking, bike riding, jogging, swimming, and skiing. But moderate-intensity exercise also includes things like gardening, carrying groceries, vigorous house cleaning, walking the dog, and so on. At a minimum, doing any of these things for ten minutes at a time will improve your health considerably. Being active lowers stress, strengthens your heart, reduces multiple cancer risks, promotes brain health, and, as recent research indicates, slows the aging process at the cellular level. Be sure to do various forms of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise at least 3-4 times a week.
You should also do anaerobic exercise at least twice a week. “Anaerobic” means “without oxygen,” or working at high intensity with an oxygen deficit. In this case, your body’s demand for oxygen is greater than the available oxygen supply. Anaerobic exercises are high-intensity, short-duration activities. They’re especially important for building and preserving muscle mass, improving joint protection, reducing soreness, and increasing bone strength and density. Anaerobic exercises include sprinting, interval training, weightlifting, isometrics, or any rapid burst of hard exercise.
Be sure to work on and maintain good flexibility, too. Stretching before and after workouts reduces muscle tension, increases your range of motion, and prevents joint strains. Yoga also proves effective in these regards, and it lowers blood pressure while reducing the risk for heart disease and hypertension. Many argue that yoga even lessens symptoms of depression, and some research indicates that it helps with weight loss. The key, here, is to realize that most forms of physical activity affect the body in positive and enduring ways.
Concerning diet, you’ll want to reduce your intake of red meat, dairy, gluten, and refined sugar. Simply avoid overindulging in any of them, but especially avoid refined sugar as much as possible. High-sugar diets lead to obesity and heart disease, and cancer feeds on sugar. Conversely, it’s a great idea to maintain a healthy intake of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and certain fish like sardines, Alaskan salmon, and herring. Remember that diet, not exercise, determines weight loss or weight gain more than anything else, so it’s better to eat three to four meals a day with smaller, low-fat portions than to eat two or three large, fattening meals a day. Be careful what you eat before going to bed, too, keeping in mind that eating before bed might equal an extra unnecessary meal that adds calories to your daily diet.
Of equal importance, be forgiving with yourself, knowing full well that you won’t always be able to live up to your exercise and diet goals. This is normal and to be expected. Never push yourself to the point of wanting to give up on your regimen. Doing your best has to do with how well you perform in the moment, not how well you perform in the grand scheme of things. Feel good about what you’re doing, enjoy it, and know that you can always start over at the outset of a brand new day. None of us will ever be perfect, which is half the charm of taking care of ourselves.