Stay fit now, avoid problems later
Use your mind to help your body-that’s a powerful message of our time.
An article in the January 2003 issue of Alternative Medicine tells of 3 people, two of whom are in their 30s and 40s, who went from pain and unfitness to fitness and happiness simply because they changed the image they had of themselves.
The article quotes Saki Santorelli, executive director of the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Mass Medical School in Worcester, in saying that new habits, such as adopting a new exercise regimen, stick only if a person is able to alter their self perceptions and actually become someone different in their mind. Creating a new identity, she claims, involves the 3 steps of listening to an inner voice that says “change,” focusing on a single element at a time (if wanting to loose weight, then start walking 4 times a week; later you can focus on cutting down on portion sizes), and being consistent so that the new habit becomes part of your life.
Again referring to the article, two psychologists have identified 5 stages successful life-changers move through, starting with what they call precontemplation, when you’re barely aware of the misery bad habits cause, to the stage when the new behavior you’ve adopted is almost second nature and you actually feel different.
Let’s say you’re far beyond that point, have already decided that to look and feel better you need to be a regular at an athletic club. Such clubs are really great in giving expertise and support in achieving your goals. And, they’re always changing what they offer and how they offer it. Take for example South Yuba Club in Nevada City. One of the things the club offers is something General Manager Mike Carville, 39, identifies as an industry trend: quick in, quick out. “Things have been simplified,” he says. “Instead of focusing on choreography and memorizing a bunch of steps or even of doing something you expect to become an expert in, the point is to walk into the club, do some simple exercises for about 40 minutes, and leave.” Obviously, this is an idea whose time had come, given the incredibly busy lives of most folks in their 20s to 40s.
The same goes for a PACE workout that takes a grand total of only 30 minutes but which burns more calories than 1 1/2 hours on conventional cardio equipment by providing muscle toning strength workout with a “no coordination necessary,” fun cardiovascular workout, says Judi Bannister, owner of the just-opened Fast and Fit Women’s Workout Centre in Grass Valley
But be sure to be careful about any high impact exercise such as forms of aerobics and fast-breaking sports like football, soccer, tennis and basketball. Even when you’re young and feel unstoppable, damage to cartilage can begin with these activitis, possibly setting you up for oesteoarthritis in the future. (As reported in Time, December 9, 2002)
In the January 2003 issue of The Ladies Home Journal an article entitled “The Right Workout for You” tailors each style of workout to the goal you want to achieve. If it’s more energy they suggest getting more oxygen in your brain to feel alert by aerobics (that brisk morning walk). For stress reduction, either swimming or yoga is the ticket.
It’s no secret that high levels of stress often accompany this time of life. Career focus and earning a living, a growing family, further education-all are often juggled simultaneously. Physician Stephen Banister is very much aware of the need for stress-reducing skills in his practice. Believing that holistic medicine means including all the parts, he not only dispenses medicine but also coaches his patients on stress management and release, and, in fact, practices them himself.
“A favorite of mine is yelling alone in the car. It’s safe and it works. And it’s sure a lot better than drinking, punching someone, or screaming at another”-all coping mechanisms he sees lots of.
Writing thoughts and frustrations down helps too. Banister recommends journaling and letter writing as releases. (It might be good, he admits, to burn that letter rather than send it to the person you’re angry with.)
The result? Well, you sure can feel better. Symptoms that often have a stress component to them, such as headaches and back aches, often diminish in the wake of such measures.
Meditation and learning to breath properly are great destressors with no end of such claims as symptom reduction, as in insomnia, and less emotional reactiveness. Just one of the many offerings in this field of body/mind is the CD set “Meditation for Optimum Health” by two widely know and respected medical experts, Drs. Andrew Weil and Jon Kabit-Zinn.
Banister also has a lot to say about diet easing stress on the body/mind. Quite simply, the empty calories of junk food, sugar, and white flour (instead of whole grain) are stressors, whereas antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables are protective. “I don’t want to eat 80% of what I see in grocery stores,” he says, “and white flour should be illegal.
“SAD, or the standard American diet, would be funny if it weren’t so true.”
And, did you hear the latest about coffee (actually the caffeine in coffee)? The history of this beverage’s impact on our health is checkered to say the least. First it’s bad (dehydrator), then good (antioxidant), then bad again (a stressor). An abstract of an article written in Psychosomatic Medicine last year says that “people who consume caffeine may experience an increase in blood pressure, feel more stressed, and produce more stress hormones than on days when they opt for decaf.” Maybe those needing a more healthful jolt can develop a taste for green tea.
We set a bad stage for our latter years if we don’t pay attention in this part of our life. Inactivity, bad diet, unmanaged stress-a price is paid for these with the bill often coming due as we approach what might have been our “golden years.”
And what about our kids? When we take care of ourselves we’re taking care of our kids indirectly, by our example, and directly because we’ll be better able to care of them-and be around longer.
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