Getting In Shape for the Rest of Your Life!

 Guest Contributor: Paula Malonza

At the end of the day, your health is what you have. It’s not about how the body looks but rather, what the body can do. As you get older you’re going to need it to still do the things you enjoyed when you were younger. I don’t believe in glory days. I’m a firm believer that the best is yet to come. Aging cannot be reversed through diet and exercising. Aging cannot be reversed period. But that doesn’t mean that aging can’t be with grace. 

1.       Self Love
Imagine someone you love, admire or like, and their birthday’s coming up. How easy is it to make extra time out of your schedule to go shopping for them?  When you think of the person you just thought of,  could you imagine loving yourself that much? Why not if you couldn’t? Just as you would go out of your way to do something nice for them, you should also go out of your own way to do something nice for yourself. Taking time out of your schedule to get in some exercise, take a long hot bath, paint your nails or get them painted, do a facial etc. is not something you need to explain or justify but rather, something you deserve. You need to be as kind to yourself as you are to others.

2.       Pick Exercises You love and Would Like To See Yourself Get Better At
Exercise is hard enough as is. Therefore, don’t make it harder by doing things you’re “suffering through.” If you’re not enjoying it drop it and move on to what you love. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans that was released by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services in 2008 recommends 150 minute of exercise a week. Either half an hour for five days or about three hours for three days out of the week. For maximum benefits of exercise, the guidelines recommend 300 minutes a week. Any time you can put in towards physical activity is great, but why not make it enjoyable. What’s worth your 150 minutes a week. Is it worth it enough to make you want to try for 300 minutes of your week? Don’t suffer through exercise. Do what you enjoy. There are too many programs out there on the internet and probably by you, for you be dragging your feet to your workouts. 

3.       Don’t Skip Out on The Strength Training
Bone density peaks at age thirty. Try not to skip the strength days or weight bearing exercises such as walking, running or even lifting weights before then. Just because bone density peaks at thirty however doesn’t mean that there’s no reason to strength train over thirty. As we get older, bone density and muscle tone decrease. Bone density more so in women going through menopause than men around the same age. Strength training helps strengthen bones, regardless of age and improves strength. It also helps with weight loss and weight management. Strength training is very important and won’t make your feminine frame look more masculine or bulky. The Physical Activity Guidelines suggests at least two days of strength training a week.

4.       Water is Your Friend
Water helps flush out toxins and is important for the composition of blood which transports oxygen and nutrients to the cells. Water plays numerous other roles in the body as well. The amount of water in your system determines how well processes for example, digestion and absorption are regulated. We also get water from foods we eat. Some foods more than others for example a watermelon versus a banana. Drinking water prevents dehydration and keeps our minds sharp and alert. Fun fact, by the time you’re thirsty you’re already dehydrated. It has to do with how our bodies thirst mechanism works. The idea is to stay ahead of your thirst. Water also helps regulate weight as thirst gets mistaken as a hunger cue. Not a lot of people like how water tastes. Infusing it with fruit or herbs might help. There are many recipes for these different infusions online. Some people like to drink tea instead of plain water. Other people like seltzer water. However you’re drinking it, drink it. It’s going to be good for your overall health.
5.       Be Active
Outside of exercise, our bodies burns calories. This is known as NEAT or Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. NEAT includes stuff like fidgeting (and they said you should sit still), walking to your car, getting up to go to the bathroom etc. Whenever you can choose the more active option. For example, taking the stairs, walking or riding your bike instead of driving somewhere. Small adjustments like this whenever you can. Part of how obesity rates have been rising in the U.S has had to do with being sedentary due to the type of lifestyle a person has. A person with a desk job, students and anyone who has to sit down at a desk for several hours risks falling prey to a sedentary way of life. Small adjustments when you’re not really in a position to be as active as you’d like will go a long way in your overall health. It could be employing the use of a standing desk once in a while, taking a walk during your lunch break. Or something even as simple as getting up and stretching.

6.       Mindful snacking
Potato chips and are easily my default snack but there are snacks way better than potato chips. When I say better, I don’t mean they’re better because they’re “healthier” but because they taste better and happen to be healthier. For example banana slices dipped in dark chocolate, cottage cheese on crackers, peanut butter on apples etc. I could go on but these are all snacks tailored to things I like.  (I’ll add one more though, blueberries!). If you go online and google healthy snacks ideas or recipes, you’re bound to find one or two easy to make snacks that you may actually find yourself liking more than some of the vending machine options.

7.       Healthy Substitutions
Healthy eating isn’t the rocket science it seems to be. Don’t think of it as giving up foods but rather, adding on healthy foods. You don’t need to go out and buy some tofu suddenly because you’ve heard “seemingly healthy” people talk about it. You don’t need to jump on the new diet fad or learn what words like “Keto” or “South Beach Diet” mean. If you made a few substitutions to your diet, chances are you probably aren’t as far away from eating a healthy diet as you thought. Things like increasing your fiber intake. For example, adding an apple to your breakfast, a salad to your lunch. Swapping out the breakfast sandwich for oatmeal, etc. Increasing your fiber intake alone to meet your daily needs will help lower your cholesterol. Adding more vitamins to your diet by adding fruits and vegetables is another example of healthy habits you can adopt. Cutting back on the red meat and adding vegetable sources of protein to your diet once or maybe even a couple of times a week is another example. For more information on the types of substitutions you could make, the USDA has a Dietary Guidelines For Americans Handbook which came out in 2015.  You could also talk to a dietitian. ShopRite for example have in store dietitians who’s services are free of charge to customers. Or you could ask your doctor for a referral to a dietitian. 

8.       Keep The Faith
This journey isn’t a straight uphill line for anyone. There’s going to be struggles between points A and B. Busy schedules, social events and gatherings, cravings etc. Nobody decides one day they’re living their best life and voila, they just are. It’s a decision that needs constant revisiting. Some people find it very hard to forgive themselves when they fall off the wagon. For example, I have a friend who went to a wedding a couple months ago. Despite having lost a lot of weight now, she still to this day feels guilty about the wedding. Not everybody’s as lucky. Some people don’t know how to move on in spite of the guilt they feel. There’s this quote “get knocked down 7 times but get up 8”. Things happen. Stress, thanksgiving, birthdays, they’re all a part of life. Sometimes, you’ll know how to navigate these things and go for the healthier alternatives, other times you won’t. It’s not the end of the world. Just keep your eyes on that prize. Moving towards your goals no matter how slowly, is better than not moving towards it at all.