A bear, however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise.—A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
Sitting on a plane during a five-hour cross-country trip, I heard flight attendants counting to twenty; then there would be silence and they would walk around the cabin assisting passengers. I’d hear them counting again to twenty, then it would stop.
They were behind the galley walls, so I couldn’t see what they were doing. I just happened to get up to go to the bathroom while they were counting. (That’s not entirely true. I had totally planned it!). They were doing squats! Twenty squats, five times throughout the flight equaled one hundred squats. Kudos to those flight attendants for creating a healthy work environment.
You workout – or maybe you don’t. You eat clean – or maybe you don’t. Overall, you think you’re pretty healthy, but are you really?
Here are a few simple things you may have overlooked in keeping yourself and your family healthy.
The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.
This is gonna hurt. I’m sorry, but it’s time to be truthful. Look at yourself in the mirror in just your undies. Do you have love handles and cellulite? We all have something we want to change. Coming face-to-face with the truth can be incredibly motivating, while putting clothes on just covers the problem, doesn’t it?
Throughout the day, you know what you’re hiding; numbers don’t lie. Weigh yourself and take your measurements. Are you content with those numbers? Do you want to look better and feel better? Have no fear! Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you didn’t get that body overnight.
We all know the basics of banking; you cannot withdraw money you don’t have in your account. What if we looked at our bodies as bank accounts and the healthy choices we make as money deposited into our account? Every time you exercised, ate healthy meals, slept well and had a positive mental attitude you’d receive more cash flow! But all the unhealthy choices, like smoking, excessive drinking, too much stress and lack of sleep would be withdrawals that may result in poor health, depression or injuries.
There will always be times in life when we are unexpectedly hit with a curve ball and we’ll have too much stress, miss a night of good sleep, indulge in junk food, or have one too many glasses of wine. After those occasions we feel a little less perky, more sluggish and even run-down. Our body functions at a lower vibrational frequency and if we make yet another withdrawal on the body bank account we risk becoming overdrawn. Injuries and illnesses are more likely to occur when our immune systems have been compromised. In our twenties or thirties, we may have been able to get away with a few too many drinks and lack of sleep from partying but eventually, our bodies will rebel in the form of a cold, headache or something worse.
An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.—Henry David Thoreau
Getting regular exercise doesn’t mean you have to work out an hour or more a day. Who has time for that? Short bursts of strength-training moves and at least two days of cardiovascular exercise weekly can help you keep fit.
Many of us use the lack of time as an excuse to not exercise. If I’m not teaching a fitness class, I can come up with more excuses than anybody about why I’m too busy to exercise. Laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc.—life gets in the way, right? Wrong!
I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing.—T. S. Eliot
Close your eyes, put your hand on your chest, and feel your heartbeat. Focus on slowing down your breath and relaxing every part of your body, beginning at your head, down through your jaw, shoulders, chest, arms, legs, and toes. Imagine that every cell in your body is operating at its utmost potential. Envision every muscle and bone healthy and strong. Bring your awareness to your breath. Pretend you’re breathing through a straw slowly. Inhale to the count of ten and exhale even more slowly. Try to slow your heartbeat.
Studies show that we can reduce stress, lower blood pressure and the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and diminish anxiety just by being still and calming our bodies and minds. Meditation helps the mind find a happy ground where it’s not working so hard and spinning out of control. It helps control anxious and negative thoughts.
Have you been ignoring minor or major aches and pains? Is your body trying to tell you something? Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to my body and became deathly ill.
I have been a group fitness instructor since 1980. I’ve appeared in exercise videos and cable TV shows. I know my body, and I know when something doesn’t feel right. Around 2002, I began to have flu-like symptoms and debilitating migraines. I knew something was wrong. I went to several doctors. One of them told me I might be too healthy and I should try eating at McDonalds!
I was constantly tired and hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in years. Ten minutes into the exercise classes I was instructing, I couldn’t get enough air, and I was scared. I knew something was terribly wrong but I couldn’t figure it out.
As a fitness professional for more than 30 years, I have seen a lot of exercise programs come and go. More have gone than stayed. It can be difficult to determine which new trend is best for you and your lifestyle.
In the 1980’s I started teaching high impact aerobics where a good class was measured by the number of people who dropped out — or the number of people who could not keep up. Aerobics instructors in the ‘80s would typically do can cans for a minimum of 10 minutes straight. For those of you who don’t know, that’s jumping on one leg doing a knee lift, jumping again and doing a kick. That was a trend that didn’t stick around.
In the 1990s, I owned my own aerobics studio and taught everything from step, to slide, to Spinning, and trained with the creator of that program, Johnny G. I was teaching what is now called Soul Cycle decades ago. It was fabulous and I got really familiar with a bike seat, but how much can you do on an indoor bicycle?
Let food be thy medicine; thy medicine shall be thy food. —Hippocrates
Calling sugar the devil might be a little drastic, but the graphic above gets your attention, doesn’t it? Sugar lurks in many foods and is labeled as sucrose, fructose, and other natural-sounding ingredients, but it contributes to weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and many health problems. Sadly, my friends, sugar is the new tobacco. It can even be more addictive than cocaine.
I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know? —Ernest Hemingway
Getting enough sleep is an important part of being healthy. Adequate sleep makes you look and feel better. It helps boost your metabolism and immune function, and helps your memory. The older I get, the more I appreciate a successful slumber. But getting good, restful sleep can often be difficult.
You probably won’t function at your best if you don’t get enough quality sleep. “Losing four hours of sleep is comparable to drinking a six-pack of beer,” says Tom Rath, Author of the New York Times bestselling book, Eat Move Sleep.
Here are some things you can do to improve your sleep:
- Try organic bedding, mattresses, and even pillows.
- Unplug any electrical appliances, including alarm clocks, and put them seven feet from your bed, or even move them to another area.
- Avoid cell phone and computer use at least two hours before bedtime.
- Stop caffeinated drinks at least eight hours before bedtime.
- Take a few minutes to meditate, relax, and stretch before you jump into bed.
- Make sure your bed and pillows are clean and comfortable.
When we don’t sleep well, we’re worthless and tired the next day. Taking prescription drugs to stay awake or go to sleep adds more chemicals to your body and can contribute to lethargy the next day. Sometimes we overthink problems causing our brain to be on a constantly repeating soundtrack. Create a bedtime routine that includes all of the things listed above and sleep well!