Hello my friend,
Faithful readers of this blog know that I am neither an M.D., a personal trainer, or a nutritionist. Nevertheless, this post will summarize what I’ve learned about physical fitness. I post this today because we are in mid-summer, prime bathing suit season, and because of the Olympic Games now underway in London. There are easily tens of thousands of books written about nutrition, fitness and health. I’ve read a few, some way better than others. I just finished “The China Study”, which I found to be comprehensive and excellent.
Without further ado, here are my four pillars of fitness:
Nutrition: Just to hit the high points, we need to eat more vegetables and fruit and much less processed food. If you have to open a box to eat it, there’s a better alternative! There are dozens of foods that most of us rarely eat but are tremendously healthy, including kale, turnip greens, and brussels sprouts.
Avoiding fast food, anything with high fructose corn syrup and, somewhat surprisingly, anything with “lite” or “reduced fat” on the label is also a great idea. These are often codewords for foods that are only slightly less damaging than their counterparts.
More importantly, try changing why you eat. Seriously. Try viewing your eating as you view filling up the car with gas – not as a source of emotional gratification (i.e. comfort food) but as just fuel. I don’t recommend this strategy long-term, because eating healthy is quite delicious and satisfying. Transitioning to a healthy diet will require discipline, and this “fuel only” mindset may be helpful to you.
Hydration: you probably know that our bodies are made mostly of water, from 79% as newborns to roughly 60% of the average adult. We need water to live. Our brains are made up of over 80% water! Unlike food, our bodies have a very limited water storage capability. I don’t drink 8-10 glasses of water everyday, but I do drink a lot of water. Actually, that’s just about all I drink. Drink your water people!
Rest: There has been a lot of research in the area of sleep, so it is really impossible to summarize adequately here. Suffice it to say that many working adults do not get enough rest. How much is enough? Again, it depends on many factors, but the consensus seems to be 7-8 hours. It is important that you avoid foods or other substances that may disturb your ability to sleep. The major culprits here are caffeine and alcohol. If you use these to excess, your body is paying a price.
Exercise: This is the pillar of fitness that has had the most written about it. Your heart is a muscle. Exercising your heart keeps it healthy, and improves the quality and length of your life. Those are all good things! Doesn’t mean you have to exercise like a madman for three hours a day? Absolutely not! Get your heart rate up for 45-60minutes, 3 to 4 times per week. That’s a minimum, in my view, depending on your baseline health. Walking your neighborhood, gardening, swimming, and riding a bicycle (stationary or moving) are all excellent forms of low impact exercise.
If you combine modest attempts at each of these four pillars, I am confident that you will see results in your energy level, attitude, your weight and body composition, and your physical appearance. When you sustain these efforts and create healthy habits, your level of fitness will increase dramatically.The preceding message was not intended to provide medical advice. Before beginning or modifying your fitness or nutrition program, please consult your physician.
All the best,
By the way, I don’t charge extra for typos. They are my gift to you.