How healthy is your lifestyle? Obtaining and maintaining good health does not just happen. It requires commitment, planning, time and wise choices. One of the most important things you can do to remain healthy is to be physically active.
In addition to controlling weight, being physically active has been shown to reduce the risks of diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, breast and colon cancer as well as having a positive effect on mental health. Exercise can also improve your mood. Being physically active stimulates brain chemicals that can leave you feeling happier and less anxious. You will also find that the more active you are, the more energy you will have.
It is important to maintain cardiovascular activity for heart health, strength training for muscle and bone mass and flexibility for range of motion as you age.
Cardiovascular activity can include any activity that gets you moving, from walking, cycling, hiking, tennis, dancing or swimming to taking a class or using the cardio machines at your local gym. Even active housework and gardening count! The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes a week of some type of moderate to high intensity exercise. Aim for at least 30 minutes of activity most days of the week. This can also be broken up into shorter periods across the day. Probably the most important thing when looking at ways to remain physically active is to find an activity that you enjoy. Also, don’t be afraid to try new activities and always make sure you have your physicians go ahead before starting something new.
In addition to cardiovascular training, it is important to do some form of strength training to maintain muscle and bone health. As we age, we lose approximately 5% of muscle mass every 10 years from the age of 30. This is totally preventable if you remain physically active and maintain a consistent strength training schedule. Strength training can be done using a variety of equipment either at home or at the gym. From machines to free weights to balls, bands and the TRX, there are many different ways to maintain strength. Strength training should be done at least twice a week per muscle group. If you have never done any type of strength training before, make sure you get some help with setting up a program, correct form and correct use of the equipment.
Flexibility and Balance
Maintaining flexibility in the muscles and ligaments, balance and reducing stress levels are also a vital part of maintaining a healthier lifestyle. Yoga is currently one of the fastest growing health activities and is the top group exercise across all age groups. Yoga uses strengthening and stretching poses combined with deep breathing, in conjunction with relaxation and meditation. Studies have also shown that consistent yoga practice improves symptoms of depression. There are many different types of yoga and the intensity depends on the type of yoga you choose. For those trying yoga for the first time, there are many gentler options such as restorative and gentle or slow flow yoga. Anyone at any fitness level can benefit from yoga by choosing the type of class that fits their needs and abilities.
Diet also plays a huge role in maintaining health. Eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables and healthy fat sources, and avoiding highly refined grains, sugars and processed foods has been shown to be highly beneficial to overall health. The Mediterranean Diet, which is rich in olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts and fish, is considered one of the healthiest.
There are a number of factors other than diet and exercise that are also important for good health. Getting a good night’s sleep, staying hydrated and managing stress and a work/life balance all contribute to our general health and well being.
As we enter a new year and New Year’s resolutions come to mind, take time to focus on your health. Set realistic, achievable health goals and then take the time and commitment to make them happen.