Summer is here, the beach is near and its too late to feel guilty that you didn’t start the diet and exercise regime in May you’d promised yourself and you’re certainly not going to diet on holiday, I hope! However, sitting quietly and relaxing for a few days might be just the opportunity to appraise your present approach to your health and fitness.
Middle age is a vulnerable point in the lifecourse. Lifestyle choices during your 20’s, 30’s and 40’s will be beginning to show in your 50’s. It may be the couple of stones you keep meaning to lose or the low level neck or back ache that wont go away or the aches in your hip or fingers that you think are the beginnings of arthritis or the breathlessness you get walking up stairs nowadays that could be quite frankly anything! We all seem to be afflicted with something at this age. In fact try finding someone in their 50’s and 60’s who is 100% fit and healthy is tricky. If it’s you, bottle and sell it – you’ll make a fortune. For the rest of us, how we choose to tackle our health now will set the pattern for our old age. It’s a good time to get on top of any health issues that are popping up now, because its unlikely that they will improve spontaneously if you do nothing.
‘Lifestyle’ diseases can become apparent in middle age
In large-scale studies, it is middle age that frequently shows the greatest numbers of many of the ‘lifestyle’ diseases: overweight/obesity, diabetes, certain cancers, arthritis, osteoporosis, hypertension and cardio-vascular disease amongst others. They may not be full blown yet but the first symptoms have started. As they are also connected to lifestyle, many people in middle age find they’ve got more than one of them; a little bit of this and a bit of that and this has recently flared up and the first signs of that are appearing.
Just to add to our misery; heaped on top of our lifestyle choices are the effects of menopause, not only the process itself (and that’s bad enough for many of us) but the increased vulnerability we all face without the protective powers of oestrogen that can exacerbate existing conditions or make us prone to others.
The European Union is driving a major directive into research into ‘healthy ageing’ and although you may not be aware of it yet, over the next 2-4 years you will see more and more information and initiatives in the media coming from academic sources and government to encourage and implement schemes and information pathways for everyone to be able to effect change in their own health and fitness and to be more proactive in keeping themselves in good shape for tomorrow. So why not start today?
How to start living healthily to age positively
1. Whilst you are lying watching the waves lap gently, why not draw up an appraisal of all the key elements of your diet, health and fitness. They are specific to you. They may be:
functional (eg doing a step class),
attitudinal (eg find the motivation),
measureable (eg lose 2 stone),
barriers (eg time),
enablers (eg husband is supportive),
existing health issues.
2. Then decide on where you want to be by Christmas with a long term goal and 5 smaller goals along the way.
3. Break down both your eating and fitness habits. Be honest with yourself. Write down where you think you are going wrong.
4. Next to each point in number 3, write down how you could modify to improve it. I’m not expecting you to be an elite athlete eating a performance diet, but you should be aiming at reasonable amounts of fruit vegetables and protein. No processed food and reduced foods made from refined flour. Go wholemeal. Remember you can still have too much of a good thing if your food choice is perfect but your portion size is too big.
You also need to make sure you are aiming at 150 minutes of exercise over a week that makes you slightly out of breathe. Whatever you are doing now, see if it can be improved incrementally. If the thought of doing ‘exercise’ is horrible, then go and learn how to dance or as Ceri’s article suggests, learn Tai Chi. Its brilliant.
5. Based on your health appraisal 1-4 write yourself a realistic plan of how to modify your lifestyle when you get home. I shout from the rooftops THIS IS NOT A DIET AND EXERCISE PROGRAMME it is small do-able changes to your daily routine. You don’t have to make sweeping alterations to considerably alter your health outlook and what’s more, many chronic diseases can be significantly improved by just taking regular exercise and eating well.
It’s not hard to do. Eat higher quality food in smaller quantities and use it up by moving more.
So this time you give to yourself to work out a plan can start when you get home and could be the best thing you’ve done in a long time and ironically maybe the only time being sedentary isn’t bad for your health.
Good decision making!
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