family riding bicycles together

Are You Making Tradeoffs for a Healthier Lifestyle?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.

AMERICANS HAVE DIFFICULTY FINDING TIME FOR HEALTHY BEHAVIORS LIKE GOOD NUTRITION AND REGULAR EXERCISE

How do you keep track of what you and the rest of your family have to do each day? I know plenty of households that use a common wall calendar with big boxes for each day so all of their appointments and activities can be recorded. Other families I know share their daily schedules with one another on smart phones so they always know who’s going where, and when.

Still, it seems no matter how we do it, there are never enough hours in the day for all we have to do. And when we’re all so busy, how can you make time for a healthier lifestyle?

Must We Choose Between Cooking vs Working Out?

Results of a study presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America suggest many of us must make concessions when it comes to healthy behaviors. Using U.S. Census data from more than 112, 000 American adults, researchers at Ohio State University analyzed how much time was spend on meal preparation and exercise in a single day

What they found was, on average, we’re spending less than an hour a day combined for these time-consuming healthy behaviors and if we try to do them both in the same day we have to choose between one of the other.

Does that sound true for you?

It must be pointed out that the Census data only captures one day’s worth of activity, so the researchers could not tell if people cooked one day and exercised the next.

Making Time for a Healthier Lifestyle

I don’t think good nutrition and fitness have to be exclusive, no matter how jam-packed my calendar is. It all comes down to time management. Here’s what I have learned works:

Blocked out the time each day to make breakfast, pack lunches and cook dinner

Become more efficient at getting nutritious meals on the table fast by using quick cooking ideas that take the toil out of food preparation

Remove some items from the schedule, like watching every episode of the latest BBC series in one night, if it takes time away from the healthy behaviors you’re trying to establish

While everyone complains about how hard it is to get enough exercise, it is actually easier than eating right. All you really have to do is get up and move around more. In fact, standing instead of sitting is even beneficial! In addition to the dozens of things you can do standing, you can also incorporate 10 minute bursts of activity throughout your day without making a trip to the gym.

The key is to be open to the opportunity. We can all do a better job of pushing those shopping carts back to the corral in the parking lot. How about walking to the school to meet your child so you can walk home together? I loved marching in place while waiting to pick up my teen from marching band practice.

Best of all, when we make good nutrition and physical activity a family affair, we only need to reserve one time slot on the calendar!

Other great ways to help you achieve a healthier lifestyle:

  • Quick Healthy Meals Begin with Pasta
  • Need Dinner Menu Ideas? Soup Makes Quick Easy Meals
  • Want a Quick Grilled Cheese Sandwich? Just Load Up Your Freezer
  • What To Do With Leftover Food? Create Makeover Meals
Willard Scott celebrates centenarians on The Today Show.

Longevity vs Healthy Aging

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can see the post here.

RESEARCH SHOWS THE KEY TO SUCCESSFUL AGING IS MIDLIFE FITNESS

After a certain age, birthdays become a cruel reminder that the time we have in front of us is shorter than the time we have behind us. Euphemisms for growing old start to pepper our vocabulary. Aging gracefully, successful aging and active aging have actually crossed my lips already.

As I celebrate another birthday, I am once again reflecting on the aging process.

Lessons On Aging From The Century Club

I’ve learned a lot about healthy aging from the centenarians Willard Scott pays tribute to in his segments on The Today Show. (By the way, Willard turns 79 this month.) I’ve never heard a single one say they credit their longevity to following the Mediterranean Diet. Not only that, not a single one has ever admitted living anywhere near the Mediterranean Sea.

None of the smiling seniors Scott has featured in his morning interviews has ever said they did Pilates every day, or yoga, or crunches. In fact, I can’t recall any fitness tips from any of them.

No one who has celebrated their 100th birthday with The Today Show has bothered to mention that they ate only organic food their entire life or lived it without sugar, salt and white flour. To the contrary, the one thing they all had in common was eating plenty of birthday cake!

Making Healthy Aging a Way of Life

When I looked for evidence of an anti-aging formula in the scientific literature there was only one thing that was 100 percent guaranteed: It’s big business.

Sales of things that promise to slow the aging process probably jumped with the release of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It informs us that we are all going to live longer thanks to modern medicine and new technology that can keep us alive in spite of our bad habits, but we’re not necessarily going to enjoy those added years. The irony is we’ll be having more birthdays, but may be too weak, sick, or in pain to go to our own parties.

That is unless we take up the fitness alternative.

One thing that does help people cross the finish line on their own two feet is being active. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine last year found those who are the most fit in midlife – that’s means in their 30s, 40s, 50s – not only delay the onset of chronic diseases, they also shorten the amount of time suffering from them after the age of 65.

A key finding was that higher levels of midlife fitness don’t necessarily increase longevity, but they do reduce the number of years we might spend living with congestive heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, or colon and lung cancers. Another study published in January of this year titled, Years of Life Gained Due to Leisure-Time Physical Activity in the U.S., came to similar conclusions.

I know genetics and environment have a say in how long I’ll live and how well, but they don’t have the final word. So I’m going to pad my odds by having more fun. There are endless ways to stay fit, and as long as you’re having fun while doing them, it’s a great way to grow old.

Here are some other thoughts on longevity you might enjoy:

  • How to Predict Longevity in Women
  • Factors That Affect Life Expectancy
Beware of Footwear That Can Make You Fat!

Beware of Footwear That Can Make You Fat This Holiday Season!

THE SHOES YOU WEAR CAN CONTRIBUTE TO WEIGHT GAIN WHEN TIME IS SHORT FOR EXERCISE

The holiday season is not only a challenge to your diet, it can also undermine exercise routine. If your workouts are being shortchanged by all the extra things you have to do this time of year, be prepared to move more while doing them! What you wear on your feet can make all the difference. Style is a luxury you can’t always afford when trying to stay in shape. Wear sensible shoes that let you keep moving to avoid holiday weight gain.

Pointy toes work for the Grinch, but won’t let you get through a day at work without a blister.

Pointy toes work for the Grinch, but won’t let you get through a day at work without a blister.

Untied sneakers are trendy at the Mall, but will keep you riding the escalator instead of taking the stairs.

Untied sneakers are trendy at the Mall, but will keep you riding the escalator instead of taking the stairs.

Cowboy boots are perfect if traveling by horseback, but not if you’re galloping to your subway stop.

Cowboy boots are perfect if traveling by horseback, but not if you’re galloping to your subway stop.

Rubber boots are great for puddles, not for climbing ladders to hang Christmas lights around the house.

Rubber boots are great for puddles, not for climbing ladders to hang Christmas lights around the house.

Flip Flips are fine when getting a pedicure, but won’t help you get your heart rate up walking from the parking lot.

Flip Flips are fine when getting a pedicure, but won’t help you get your heart rate up walking from the parking lot.

Plastic sandals make sense sitting by the pool, not when running a vacuum to clean up the cookie crumbs.

Plastic sandals make sense sitting by the pool, not when running a vacuum to clean up the cookie crumbs.

Strappy sandals show off your toes, but will probably get them stubbed if you try to do any last minute shopping.

Strappy sandals show off your toes, but will probably get them stubbed if you try to do any last minute shopping.

 

High heels are glamorous for a party, but will probably keep you in your seat instead of on the dance floor.

High heels are glamorous for a party, but will probably keep you in your seat instead of on the dance floor.

Numbers matter for weight control, healthy diet and physical fitness

Weight Control, Healthy Diet and Fitness are All a Numbers Game

MAKING SURE ALL THE NUMBERS ADD UP RIGHT ARE IMPORTANT FOR WEIGHT CONTROL, A HEALTHY DIET AND PHYSICAL FITNESS

I’ve written about some of the important numbers involved in weight control and balanced diets before. Things like the difference between serving sizes and portion sizes and the grams of protein you need each day. But there are more numbers you need to know for good nutrition and physical fitness. Many more.

Unfortunately, self-control and mindful eating are not enough. If you want to lose, gain or maintain your weight or strive for a healthier diet and fitter body, you’ve got to watch the numbers. Here are some that matter most.

Calorie level? This is based on your age, height, and weight and activity level – all important numbers to know. If you do, you can figure out your daily calorie requirement here.

Number of Food Groups? 5 + 1 + “extra calories” are what we get in the latest USDA eating guide, ChoseMyPlate.

Number of servings per day from each group? Varies based on calorie level. The ranges for adults are:

5 – 8 ounce equivalents of Grains, with at least ½ as whole grains

2 – 3 cups of Vegetables, with specific amounts per week for the 4 subgroups

1 ½ – 2 cups Fruit

3 cups Dairy

5 – 6 ½ ounce equivalents Protein Foods

5 – 7 teaspoons oils

120 – 265 Empty Calories

Serving size? Varies with each food and each food group, but includes numbers of ounces, cups, tablespoons, teaspoons and counted pieces, like 3 pancakes or 16 seedless grapes.

Amount of aerobic activity? 2 hours + 30 minutes per week at a moderate level or 1 hour + 15 minutes at a vigorous level based on the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control.

Steps or Miles per day? 10,000 steps a day counted on a pedometer, which is equivalent to approximately 5 miles, can be an alternative way to get your aerobic activity according to Shape Up America!

Amount of strength conditioning? 2 days a week working all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders and arms), with 8-12 repetitions per activity that counts as one set.

As you can see, there are many numbers involved in reaching all the goals for a healthy diet and fit body. Fortunately, if you make a habit of eating right and staying active you won’t need a calculator to get through your day!

Check these related articles to help you get your numbers to add up right.

Protein in the Diet – How Much is Enough?

Getting Enough Protein from the Foods You Eat

Serving Size, Portion Size and Body Size Are All Connected

Getting your body in motion is all it takes to exercise

Exercise Can Be Fun!

Do what you like to take the work out of workouts

I don’t have a problem getting enough exercise. I spend at least one hour a day doing something most people would call exercise, then sneak in lots of other mini workouts just for the fun of it. I live at the beach so take long walks along the ocean shoreline or on the board walk that extends for miles alongside it. I cultivate a big vegetable garden that is 99% weed free and 100% herbicide free. When out listening to live music, I always dance.

Those activities don’t feel like exercise to me because I enjoy doing them so much. Sometimes I have to time myself to stop weeding after 30 minutes so I can get back to doing the real work I’m supposed to do, like writing these blogs. But that’s a whole lot better than having to force myself to lift weights for half an hour.

Don’t ask me to swim laps in a pool or pedal endlessly on a stationary bike, either. I don’t like to do those things and will surely find a way not to. My goal is to get a workout without it feeling like work.

So while other people check the morning weather to decide if they’ll need an umbrella to get where they’re going, I check it to see if the skies will be clear enough to go outside and play. And if I can’t, I feel cheated out of doing the thing I look forward to most each day.

Anything you enjoy doing that involves some form of movement can count as part of your required physical activity. Yes, there are important guidelines that tell us we should vary our exercise routines to develop strength, stamina and flexibility, but the most important recommendation of all is to put the time in. By doing something that’s fun, you’ll spend more time doing it and reap far more benefits than procrastinating about what someone else thinks you should be doing.

This enlightened approach to exercise will work wonders on your mental health, too. When all the guilt over what you’re not doing is replaced by the pleasure of doing what you want, you attitude improves immeasurably. Exercise doesn’t have to be exhausting and it shouldn’t hurt. It should simply put your body into motion for an extended period of time with a smile on your face.

So what would you do if you could ignore all of your other obligations for the day and just spend it doing an activity you love? Now how are you going to get that activity back into your life on a regular basis? Answering those questions is one exercise you should complete without procrastinating!