A balanced regular exercise routine is important for our overall health and completing regular daily activities.
Physical fitness isn’t just about being a weightlifter, marathon runner, or having a bikini body. Good physical health is important for your overall health and mindset. Being purposefully active regularly has everyday benefits. For example, a fall can have serious consequences. According to the CDC, one out of five falls results in an injury. So, making sure we do regular balance and strength exercises can help prevent serious injury if we are to fall.
The minimum exercise guidelines for an adult (ages 18-64) are 150 minutes of moderate activity a week and 2 days of strength activities. That looks like, five 30-min brisk walks and two strength videos on YouTube. For 65 and older, the guideline is the same and in addition, add balance activities. That looks like, a 1-hour long yoga class and two 45-min brisk walks.
There are four types of exercises we should do every week: balance, flexibility, strength, and endurance.
Balance exercises are important for carrying out everyday activities. This movement will help prevent falls or more serious injuries.
Flexibility exercises have benefits like injury prevention, less pain, improved posture, a better mindset, increased strength, and overall better ability to move.
Endurance exercise is what we often think of when we hear “exercise”- aerobic activity. Something to get your blood flowing. It is good for your heart and makes everyday activities easier (like going up stairs).
Strength exercises also make everyday activities easier and can protect from injury and reduce fall risk. Building strength builds muscle which improves balance.
Each exercise session doesn’t need to focus on one type- often different types are combined. Like Yoga combines flexibility, balance, and strength.
Where to start: Doing a little homework is important and checking with your doctor to make sure you are physically ready. Check out your local gym or YMCA and schedule a session with a trainer. Ask your favorite health coach for advice on how to get started. Getting some tips from a professional makes it more fun, tailored to you, and prevents injury.
Start slowly, and try different things until you find what works for you and what you like. If you don’t like a type of exercise even though your neighbor raves about it, don’t do it! The more you enjoy it, the more regularly you’ll do it.
Eat a healthy diet and avoid heavy meals late at night.
No nightcaps! Alcohol disturbs a good night’s sleep.
Watch caffeine intake. Especially later in the day and evening.
Go to bed earlier. Don’t start the next episode of your favorite show.
Keep big projects and work for the morning. Starting big projects or doing work close to bedtime will keep you from relaxing into a restful sleep. Even though the house is quiet, and it seems like a good time to get things done it’s better to get to bed. Then try the opposite to get that to-do list tackled, wake up early you’ll find your brain is fresher and more alert.
Tomorrow’s to-dos-keep a notepad by your bed and if something is keeping you up jot it down instead of losing sleep over it.
Go to bed at the same time each night. No matter what day of the week it is!
Set the bedroom up for sleep. Keep it dark, and cool, and consider removing the TV and devices.
No iPhones at bedtime!
Clear stuffy noses. A stuffy nose will make breathing during the night more difficult which will lead to insufficient oxygen intake. Open-mouth breathing is not restful. Take allergy medicines, use an air purifier or take a warm shower to clear your airways.
Be aware of snoring or irregular breathing at night. Those are common signs of sleep disorders and should be addressed with your doctor.
Listen to sleep sounds or white noise. These will help a busy mind calm. There are many apps with sleep sounds.
When we think about health measurements, we hear BMI a lot. What exactly is it and is it an accurate way to measure our health?
What is BMI:
BMI stands for Body Mass Index. It’s a calculation of height divided by weight in pounds, times 703 that Doctor’s offices often use. There are many BMI calculators online to check your own without having to do the math! See the chart below for the ranges to determine where you fall.
What you should know:
BMI is a starting block for understanding your overall health. BMI does leave out some important factors.
When understanding fat, it is important to understand the two types of fats that the body carries. There is visceral fat and subcutaneous fat. Subcutaneous fat is the fat that sits right under our skin-think cellulite. It’s stubborn to get rid of but doesn’t bother our bodies. Visceral fat on the other hand is different. Found in the abdominal cavity around the organs, visceral fat is more dangerous because it secretes waste that can lead to chronic diseases like heart disease. But with a healthy diet and exercise, visceral fat is easier to lose than subcutaneous fat.
What does this have to do with BMI? When we only look at BMI it does not consider what type of fat is in our body. This can leave us with an incomplete picture. You may have a low BMI but carry excess weight in the belly area. This is where another simpler way to measure your health comes into play. Waist circumference. Simply put, it’s measuring your waist. For women, it should be less than 35 inches, and for men, it should be less than 40.
One other point about BMI, on the flip side of abdominal fat, is muscle. For very active, muscular individuals BMI may not be as accurate because muscle weighs more than fat. So, another reason to check that waist circumference.
Here is the health coach take away: Understand what your BMI is and measure your waist. Use those numbers together as a place to start to get a clear picture of your overall health. The closer you are to “normal” BMI ranges and waist circumference the less likely you are to develop serious chronic health issues.
For the past 12 years, US News and World Reports put out a listing of the “Best Diets”. It is interesting to see the opinions and compare them to the diets we hear about from our friends and neighbors.
This year the top three diets are very similar- and this tells us something from the experts. All three of the “diets” focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and limited high saturated fat and sugar.
The Best Overall Diets are:
The Mediterranean Diet
The DASH Diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension)
The Flexitarian Diet (think Flexible + Vegetarian)
Besides their similarities in the foods, all three of these ways of eating are at their core simple and sustainable. There are no strict rules or restrictions. This makes them sustainable. And the more consistent and long-term, the better the overall health results. This leads me to the next benefit of these types of eating plans…..
All three lead to significant long-term health benefits. Decreases in risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and obesity come along with all three of these ways of eating.
There are a few popular diets that I had to search for on the list. Intermittent Fasting (#27 Best Overall), Paleo (#30), and Keto (#37) are all so popular these days. Why are they so low on the list if there are success stories in our neighborhoods? Bottom line, all three are complicated, restrictive, and difficult to stick to long term.
Clearly, I am all about balanced, simple, non-restrictive ways of eating so my advice is to do your research and check with your doctor before you start any new eating plan. Each one of us is unique and has different needs. Just because your neighbor says Keto is the best…do your research. And likewise, for The Mediterranean Diet! And this listing is a great place to start your research (find the link below).
Healthy and motivation are two words that get used together. Understanding what is motivating us to improve our health can help long term success.
Let’s have a brief psychology lesson to understand the drives to do things.
The definition(s) of motivation are: the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.The general desire or willingness of someone to do something.
There are a few types of motivation. First, extrinsic motivation is when we do something because of an external influence. An example is, “I am going on a diet so I can fit into the dress for the wedding”. The reward may be appealing, and doing some new behaviors are acceptable; however, the changes may only last for a short amount of time. Also, some motivation may lie in not wanting to disappoint or you feel obligated to others. In which case, you do it just because you want to avoid conflict. Extrinsic motivation can sometimes be helpful to get the ball rolling but usually we need a little more behind the behavior to make it stick.
The next two types are intrinsic and autonomous motivation. Instead of someone telling you to do something, you want to do it out of your own desire. Intrinsic motivation comes from our deep desires, values and beliefs. For example, “I am going to eat salmon 2 times a week because I know it will benefit my health. I want to be in good health to live a long life to watch my kids grow”. The motivation comes from loving the family and the benefits of overall good health.
Autonomous motivation is when we get enjoyment from an activity. An example would be, “I am going to walk in the park this afternoon, because I am feeling stressed, and the blooming flowers will help me relax”. There is enjoyment felt by this activity and the reward of less stress.
Self-motivation, like intrinsic and autonomous, brings an energy that is more successful. Intrinsic and autonomous motivation are more likely to lead to long term success with lasting changes. When there is a genuine interest and enjoyment out of doing the new behaviors, there is more success. It’s like when people ask what is the best type of exercise? The answer is the one you LOVE to do, because it is the one you’ll do. There must be a vested interest in whatever the change is we are trying to make.
How does this impact a health goal? The doctor, parent, nutritionist, best friend, etc. can try to tell you to make changes. Nobody likes to be told they must do something. We want to do the things we want to do and are in line with our desires, values, and beliefs. If the behaviors are not meaningful, the more challenging, frustrating, and possibly unsuccessful the work. So how next time you hear your neighbor tell you about the world’s best and easiest diet but you are truly not interested, just tell her good luck.
Now how do you get motivated if you need to make a change…like doctor’s orders? Think about why making changes could tie into what’s important to you. For example, say you were just diagnosed with high blood pressure. Lifestyle changes are one great start for helping this. The only thing you hear is how the diet for high blood pressure is bland and no salt. One of your passions is gardening, especially vegetables and herbs. What if, to get started on the new eating plan, you use your passion for gardening and turn what you grow into exciting new foods that are naturally lower in salt and high in flavor. PLUS, you’ll be getting activity which is also helpful for blood pressure. With this positive mindset, the motivation for addressing the “doctor’s orders” may be more appealing.
Motivation is the general desire or willingness to do something. Get clear on what is your desire for making changes and that will drive your success.