Monday, December 27, 2021

Good health doesn’t have to be overwhelming


We’re to the point now that society has quietly come to grips with the fact that Covid isn’t going away. It’s endemic. It’s “seasonal.” It’s here to stay.


With that realization should come preparation for the future. We need to improve health outcomes, adding that to the arsenal of endeavors undertaken to combat this coronavirus, for Covid hasn’t been kind to those with health issues. So-called “comorbidities” like obesity, diabetes, COPD, and heart disease have conspired with the virus to bring a premature demise to far too many people.


It should be a primary goal of public health officials to highlight that and we as individuals to do the best that we can for ourselves -- and ultimately our families who could be left in Covid’s wake if we don’t.    


Because of that and the time of year, what with 2022 around the corner, there’s a chance that diet and exercise are on readers’ minds now.


But, sometimes, goals and achievement don’t go hand in hand. Surveys show that 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February 1st. It’s difficult to break old habits and make news one. A wholesale change of lifestyle can be a little overwhelming.


It doesn’t help that there’s an incredible amount of opinion. There are too many ideas out there of what you should and shouldn’t do and eat -- with a lot of those idea-makers looking to make a decent buck off you, for good or for bad.


I’ll add to that cacophony and tell you to take a step back. Simplify. Living a healthy lifestyle is far easier than what all the books, magazines, and gym rats will tell you. You can make your health a manageable priority by getting down to the basics.


I turned 47 this week. I’ve been pleased at where I’ve been, health-wise, in my middle age. Great blood pressure. A resting pulse in the 50s. A good BMI. This comes despite the constraints of running a business, volunteering, and coming home to a full house (not to mention everything that you expect to happen to your body as you age).


I’ve gotten to this point by really simplifying my approach to personal care a few years ago. I found the attainment of health to be easy under a handful of rules that will work for anyone, regardless of age or schedule.


Find exercise you’ll enjoy.


The best way to get physical activity is to make sure that it doesn’t feel like work. Find something you like doing that gets the blood following for at least a half hour at time, something that you won’t bore of and hate doing. You don’t need that expensive exercise bike or a full-featured gym membership – unless that’s your cup of tea. Choose running, kayaking, weightlifting, tennis; whatever you enjoy.


I like the outdoors and punching things. My workouts are either a brisk hour-plus hike or going 10 rounds with a heavy bag, mixing in pushups to exhaustion between each round. Those routines give me the aerobic conditioning, physicality, and added mental benefits that I need.


Realize that life happens.


It’s completely unrealistic for you, your doctor or trainer to expect you to get intense exercise every day. You have work, your kids’ activities, and your own social events. Don’t beat yourself up for missing a day here and there (it is believed that this guilt often drives people away from exercise because they haven’t met their or others’ expectations). If you get 5 days a week, even 4, consider yourself successful. You don’t have to live at the gym or on the trail to impact your well-being.


Eat a balanced diet.


Keto. Vegan. No sugar. High protein. Gluten-free.


Fad diets have become such a mess that some people, depending on the system, wrongly believe that fruits or all meats are bad for you.


Don’t rob your body and brain of necessary nutrients and energy. You’re always better off getting what you need not from vitamins and supplements but rather from a colorful and diverse palette of lean meats and fish, vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and healthy fats. Eat a little bit of everything (except processed foods). The fresher and closer to nature, the better.


Practice portion control.


The most important part of maintaining appropriate weight and not developing obesity and all that comes with it is portion control. I pack my lunch, brining with me a single, appropriately-sized serving of whatever my gruel might be. Small glass or plastic containers keep me from overdoing it.


Similarly, if I do find myself having a business lunch I tend to bring half of it home with me. American restaurants treat consumers well -- too well! -- and you really shouldn’t eat all they give us in one sitting. Remember, leftovers are just as tasty the second day (and they save you money).


Keep a journal.


It’s human nature to think we do better than we actually do. We might think we exercise enough and eat appropriately. By maintaining a small notebook noting what you eat and how you exercise you’d be surprised at how often we don’t follow our own rules. A journal will keep you honest, show where improvements can be had, and give you the ability to celebrate successes.   


Best of luck in the New Year and in the coming years. Hopefully these simple rules can help you get the results you want.


From the 20 December 2021 Greater Niagara Newspapers, Batavia Daily News, and Wellsville Sun.

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