Someone I know well recently asked me, obviously tongue-in-cheek, if I believe my intensive workout regimen will prevent me from aging or dying.
Here’s the simple answer, indeed, the only answer: no, of course, not.
But I will readily admit that I do work out with an almost religious zeal, and go out of my way to make sure I eat in a healthy way. Why? Because I want to ensure when I do age, I will age well. I want to give myself the best shot at entering my 70’s, 80’s, and beyond living an active life, mentally sharp and independent until the day I die. That’s why I wake up at 4:30 every morning to work out. That’s why I turn down dessert when it’s offered.
It seems like almost every day new research is released showing that the benefits of exercise are even greater than we thought. Not only does it have positive effects on our hearts and other internal organs, but also our mood, our energy, our ability to stay mentally sharp - and who knows how many other benefits have yet to be discovered.
So many maladies facing Americans today are preventable, based on simple lifestyle choices we can all make – that is, if we choose to make them.
Personally, for a long time, I didn’t make the right choices. Working out was a bothersome chore, and when I did motivate myself to get on the treadmill for a few days in a row, I quickly became discouraged because I didn’t see the results I so unrealistically expected. I didn’t understand that health, wellness, and fitness is not a sprint, it is a marathon properly measured in years and decades.
It requires an unrelenting effort - week after week, month after month, year after year.
We spend a great deal of time at Borough Hall thinking and talking about these issues, because we want to share with Staten Islanders the steps they can take to improve the quality of their lives, both now and in the future. And we preach baby steps. A person who has not worked out in decades and eaten poorly for years cannot make a total lifestyle change a short term goal. While that may happen for a rare few, it certainly doesn’t happen often. But, there are definitely a series of smaller steps that can be taken to bring you closer to your goals.
Here are a few tips that I can share from my own experiences that may be helpful:
1. When changing your diet, begin by making small adjustments. If you drink sugary drinks, start by cutting those out and see how you feel. Once you have successfully managed that change you can then begin making additional changes that, taken together, will lead to big results.
2. When designing a workout regimen, look for something that is fun for you. Working out doesn’t necessarily mean spending hours on a lonely treadmill – unless you like that “alone time” to reflect, or perhaps listen to music. Do you like to bike? Then bike. Do you like to dance? Find an active dance program. The number of activities that can form the basis of a sustainable workout regimen are infinite and limited only by our imaginations.
3. Workout with someone, or a group of people, that you like to be with. Especially in the beginning; it can get discouraging when you aren’t seeing progress. So find a friend - or group of friends - to commiserate with during those difficult first few months.
4. Focus on this: Living a healthier lifestyle can be fun. You will find yourself able to do things you were unable to do when less fit. Is playing with your children or grandchildren something you are forced to avoid because it knocks you out? Exercising and eating right may give you more energy, keep you more alert and allow you to enjoy your loved ones in a manner you may have been missing out on for years.
5. Keep the big picture in mind. You are changing your life in a meaningful way for both the short and long term. If you miss a day of working out here or there, or eating a “cheat” meal on occasion, it’s not going to ruin all your progress and it’s not grounds for quitting
6. Find the time! We are all busy with work, families, school, and probably a myriad of other activities. But there are 24 hours in a day, and we must utilize those that work best for us. That is why I work out in the pre-dawn hours - it doesn’t interfere with either my job or my family.
I follow my own advice on all six tips, they work for me, and I can’t imagine living any other way – but it’s a decision you have to make for yourself. I believe that if you do, you’ll look back on it as one of the best decisions you ever made.
We here at Borough Hall will continue trying to provide you with information about the tools that can help you on your journey.