When it comes to exercise and healthy lifestyle habits, it is never too late to start. I see far too many times people say they wish they would have started their exercise programs earlier. When individuals realize just how good the exercise can make them feel and all the great benefits that activity brings, they realize it should have been part of their daily lifestyles all along.
Research shows even in middle age, adopting a healthy lifestyle can lower the risk for heart disease and premature death within years of changing habits. Eating five or more fruits and vegetables every day, exercising for at least 2½ hours a week, keeping weight down and not smoking are habits that can assist with improved health and a longer life.
This is good news for all of the baby boomers out there. We need to realize changing these habits now can make our lives more functional, allow us to be independent longer and improve our overall quality of life. Making even small changes like eating more fruits and vegetables instead of high fat and sugary foods can make a big difference when it comes to health.
This is not to say all of the younger people should not begin eating healthy and start an exercise program. We have seen a rise in childhood and adolescent obesity that has become a problem that also needs to be addressed. The point I am trying to get across is even if you have not had a healthy lifestyle previously, it's not too late to start those healthy habits and gain benefits.
The habits we need to focus on include eating more fruit and vegetables, exercising for at least 30 minutes or more a day, stopping smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight range for your age and body type. Typically, these healthy behaviors will elicit other healthy behaviors such as using less salt, eating less saturated fat, using the stairs and parking farther away in parking lots, and avoiding excessive alcohol. When it comes to your health, the more healthy habits you can adopt, the better.
So you know these lifestyle habits are good for you, and you are still not engaging in these activities? Why not? There are barriers that keep us from these things; however, you can make the changes if you put it into your mind you can do it for yourself. No one else will do it for you. Understanding the common barriers and strategies to overcome them may help you put some of these healthy habits into your every day life.
We will take the lifestyle of exercise as an example. Listed below are the top five reasons adults cite for not adopting or sticking to more physically active lifestyles, and what you need to do to change.
1. Do not have enough time for exercise: Identify available time slots. Monitor your daily activities for one week. Identify at least three 30-minute time slots you could use for physical activity. Make time -- schedule it in.
2. Lack of self-motivation: Plan ahead. Invite a friend to exercise with you on a regular basis and write it on your calendar. Join an exercise group or class.
3. No energy to exercise after work: Schedule exercise for times of the day or week you feel more energetic. Convince yourself if you give it a chance, physical activity will increase your energy.
4. Find exercise boring: Instead of always doing the same thing, try new activities. Walk at home, at a trail, join a class, try weights, do a video, hire a personal trainer, go for a hike in the woods, walk steps at the Capitol or a stadium, walk the golf course, play a sport with the children -- just get moving.
5. Lack of skill and fear of injury: Choose activities with minimal risk and less skill when getting started. Exercise with friends at the same fitness level. Ask for help. CRMC Fitness Center can do this.
Remember, now is the time to get started. You can develop healthy lifestyles for you and set examples for your family and friends. If you can stick to these things, the research shows that you will have more energy, lower your risk for heart disease decrease your chance of premature death, and improve overall quality of life.
Kay Benward is an exercise specialist and supervisor at the Sam B. Cook Healthplex Fitness Center. She has been with Capital Region Medical Center for 30 years and inspired many people to lead healthy lives through exercise. She continues to teach classes and enjoys training the mature adult for balance, posture and functional strength, as well as educating her clients, staff and community on exercise as medicine.