We are convinced there two principle ingredients to improved health: eating better and being more active.
There are many ways to be more active. I will discuss the benefits of a regular exercise program in future habits but I started with just walking more. Gradually, over time I have returned to jogging, but I started with walking.
Heading out for a walk with the dogs
I walk every day, twice a day, with our two dogs: Bingley and Bear. We walk no matter what the weather (ok, if the wind chills is -30, we shorten it a bit but we still go). We walk a mile in the morning and another mile about supper time. It does them good and it does me good. Another way I walk regularly is by parking about 7 minutes from my office (where parking on the street is available) rather than in the parking garage across the street. It saves me the $60/month for parking and gives me a bit more walking time.
In addition to improving health, walking gives me time to pray, unwind from a busy day, give consideration to some matter that needs some time away from other distractions, or listening to a book on tape (in my case via Audible).
Health Habit 01- Decide to adopt health habits
The first “habit” I would like to focus on is the fact that healthy people eat and live differently “habitually” then those who do not. If you are reading this as a person who wants to be healthier, the answer is not so much in making temporary changes in what you eat (dieting), but to adopt new and long-term ways of eating and living that are more healthful.
It is no secret that Americans are fixated on “dieting” yet, as a people we continue to gain weight. Why? Because we change for a while and then return to our old ways, leading us back to the condition in which we started.
My wife and I have both been on the weight roller coaster before. Twelve years ago, my wife lost 35 pounds and she has kept it off. Five years ago, I took off 20+ pounds and have kept it off. The difference this time was adopting lasting changes to our diet and finding ways to add activity to our lifestyles.
So as you read about habits we have adopted to improve our health, I encourage you to give them serious consideration as potential ways to improve yours. Adopt those habits you can “live” with. Small changes that are applied consistently over years can make a big difference (as long as you don’t use them as an excuse for more excess elsewhere).
Don’t believe those that say you cannot lose weight and keep it off. It is not true; you can, but only by making changes in the way you think and what you do. Keep reading.
The goal is improved health. Improved health has meant more energy, improved sleep, a better outlook on life, more physical capability, freedom from medications, less illness, and the promise of not only a longer life but a better quality one as well.
Don’t let anyone tell you there is no sacrifice, it is. But it is worth it. Read on.
Driven by a family history of heart disease and diabetes and a job that is both high stress and low in physical activity, I have made exercise a regular part of my life. I started with 20 minutes a day and gradually built from there. Even though a regular part of my life, it is not always easy to get up and get it done. Is it worth it? How much exercise do I need? What type of exercise do I need? Not easy questions with all the competing information out there.
The First 20 Minutes, by Gretchen Reynolds, tackles these important questions. Ms. Reynolds seeks to provide today’s best answers to these questions by reviewing what science is currently telling us about exercise. She reviews what science says about its benefits, how much we should do, and what type we should do. And she uncovers a number of surprises uncovered by science in recent year.
In doing so, she has written a book that has helped me hone my exercise program and encourages me to keep it up.
While I think the book is worth buying and reading in its entirety, the greatest benefits will be gained in reading first chapter of the book (which may take more than 20 minutes).
While I hope to write more specifics later, here are some of the big ideas and specifics I got from the book:
- In regard to strength training and workouts, the book provides two primary lessons to me:
- In regard to the relationship between of exercise and weight loss: if you are exercising to lose weight, you are likely to be disappointed. Instead, exercise for the health benefits, not for weight loss. Research however, does find that regular exercise benefits weight control as most people who keep weight off, exercise regularly.
- Drink when you are thirsty; don’t over do it.
- Diet and exercise– The book confirmed my notion that there is no pill (or powder) you can take to get in shape or that will contribute significantly to fitness. You just need to eat well.
- High-intensity internal training provides a way to health benefits in even less time. Recent studies indicate there is little value in stretching(“flexibility is overrated”) nor extended warm-ups. Instead brief dynamic stretching is more effective preparation.
- For the more fitness and athletic-minded, you must push yourself. Yes there is a point where additional activity yields little in the way of benefits to health.
- There are profound additional benefits to our level of fitness for going beyond the first 20 minutes, and esp. with moderate intensity aerobic and strength training workouts. Recommended amounts of exercise for fitness is 150 minutes low-intensity exercise OR 75 weekly minutes of more vigorous aerobic exercise plus weight training twice a week. You can split them almost any way you want. I am doing the later (bolded) approach.
- We get significant benefits to our longevity from regular activity and/or exercise, esp. from “the first 20 minutes”. So, “Move More” .
- Our form matters. For example many damage their backs by doing core training, and esp. crunches, incorrectly. I do my strength exercises with a DVD with a trainer who leads a workout consistent with best practices. (see my recommendations).
- It is good to take care in activities to prevent injury as you are much more likely to get injured if you have been injured before.
- Exercise also provides very significant benefits to our mind and mood. The chapter is definitely an encouragement to me to exercise when I don’t want to (for more on this see my review on Spark, the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain)
Again, there is much more. I suggest you pick up a copy from the library and read at least the first chapter.
In our journey to improved health, exercise is a cornerstone. Our key advise here is to get started, start small, build, and vary it. Below are things that have or are working for us.
While we both formally used a health club, we are now exercising out of the home (we live out-of-town and thus clubs are not as convenient; and it saves us time and money). First thing in the morning is about the only time that works consistently for me.
I always thought aerobics was the more important than strengthening. But all my reading and experience says this is wrong. Both have their place in our routines and lead to better fitness, brain and body functioning, and mood.
What I (David) have used/use for strengthening (Cathy’s are below)
- During 2010:
- The Firm – Slim with the Gym by Annie Lee. I started with this as it has four 10-minutes segments. I did two on the first morning and two the next, and then did some aerobic exercise on the third day. So all you need to get started is 20 minutes a day.
- 15-Minute Workouts For Dummies by Gay Gasper. This was my second tape. It has four 15-minute workout. Again, I did two daily, 30 minutes a day. While I have moved on to, Cathy uses this tape regularly. It is a good starting point.
- For 2011, I have stepped to my “man” workouts from Men’s Health.
- The Belly Off Workout: The Strength Training Routine
- The Belly Off Workout: The Body Weight Routine
- These take about 50 minutes if you do not mess around. I do strengthening twice a week. I enjoy and am challenged by these routines built specifically for men, so I now make the time.They have great stretches at the end. Recommended.
- For 2012, I am using the Supreme90Day workouts. Cathy got it for me at the grocery store for $10. You can get it on Amazon for under $20. See my Sept 2012 post on the workout.
David’s aerobic routines
- Jogging in the neighborhood with the dogs is what I do most of the year. I have gradually built up over the year to 4 miles. I aim for 3 times a week; sometimes I only get in twice.
- Last winter we got an elliptical machine which I use when the weather was bad.
- Before then, I used “The Biggest Lower Power Walk” for a while. It was ok for a time. It has 4 levels of routines.
Cathy’s strengthening routines
- Here current staples include:
- 15-Minute Workouts For Dummies (see above)
- Body Fusion by Ellen Barrett – with “pilates and dance flow”
- The Firm Complete Aerobics and Weight Training (Body Sculpting System 2) with Emily Welsh
- She has also used:
- The Firm Body Sculpt (Jennifer Carma) and others
Cathy’s aerobic routines
- She current uses the Elliptical machine as her main aerobic routine.
- In the past she has used:
- 5 Mile Fat Burning Walk by Leslie Sansone. You can go anywhere from 1 to 5 miles depending on how much time you have.
- Walk Away the Pounds Express 3-mile Advanced Walk with Leslie Sansone.
I go to the library once in a while to check out new ones to try. Let me know of any of your favorites.