I am a very practical person. When I was deciding on a series of articles intended to be both informative and practical, I realized that one of the missing factors in people being more healthy than they currently are is that they don’t know how to make proper choices in their lifestyle. I have written a series of articles to help you in your quest toward achieving and maintaining optimal health. Better health tomorrow begins by understanding what changes to make in your lifestyle and then making better choices in what you do and what you eat on a daily basis. Where we are in the future is determined by the small changes we make each day. Applying these changes consistently over time will take you virtually anywhere you would like to go in your health and in your future.
How healthy you CAN be is determined by many factors- things like genetic limitations, your history of childhood diseases, and many other things that are beyond your control. But by far, the NUMBER ONE reason that people are not in their best state of health is that no one has taught them how to make better lifestyle choices. Things like smoking or not, whether you choose to drink alcohol, what you eat, how much sleep you get every night, and more. I have been practicing in the field of health and health care for over 30 years, and it never ceases to amaze me how little the average person knows about how the choices they make affect their health and their future.
“You are today the product of all the choices and decisions that you have made in your life up to this point.” Does that make sense to you? If that is true, and it is, then where you are in your life and health 5 years from now will be determined by the choices that you begin making starting TODAY. It is NEVER too late to start making better decisions regarding your health, and it WILL determine your future.
In these articles, I will span a wide variety of topics all designed to provide practical steps toward achieving the best state of health that you can achieve. Regardless of your personal limitations that are beyond your control, you CAN be more healthy than you are today. Small changes in the choices you make consistently over time will help you more than you can possibly imagine at this point in time. In this article I will discuss the importance of exercise and the role it plays on becoming as healthy as is possible. Remember, you don’t have to start training for a marathon by tomorrow, but you must begin MOVING. Our bodies were designed to move and be active, and I will do my best to help you make better choices with regard to what you do during the day, the activities you participate in, and how to exercise simply and effectively on your way toward better health.
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Our state of health is not a “static” thing. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is a dynamic, constantly changing, sometimes elusive entity that requires constant attention. Health and your quality of life begin with choices that you make. If you make bad choices over a period of time, you will pay the consequences. On the other hand, good choices in matters that affect your health can turn around what appears to be a hopeless situation in a reasonably short period of time. One of the most important choices with regard to health is the inclusion of some form of exercise in your daily routine. You must make this a priority because research has proven that exercise on a daily basis is even more important to your health and your future than what you eat! The general populous pays way more attention to their diet than they do whether or not they exercise, so by applying this to your life, you will be ahead of most of the people you know regarding your state of health in a relatively short period of time.
I can hear some of you now saying things like “I’m too old to begin an exercise program”, and “If I don’t have any energy now, how can I possibly muster enough extra strength to exercise”. “I’m already tired. Won’t exercising just make me even more tired?” Other excuses include “I don’t have time”, and “I can’t afford to join a health club or a gym”. All I can say in response to all of these excuses is GIVE THEM UP! Everyone can exercise effectively as early as 3 and 4 years old, and no one is too old or too out of shape to begin a program of improving your level of fitness.
You can be just as effective in your quest for getting into better shape in your living room, family room, or den than you can in a health club, so you can’t use the lack of money as an excuse. You don’t even need to buy a bunch of weights and additional equipment, but can use what is available in your own home. By setting aside as little as 15 minutes per day, you can be on your way to experiencing the benefits associated with consistent exercise. Everyone can find 15 minutes per day- roll out of bed 15 minutes earlier, don’t go to bed until you have completed your exercises, use a portion of your lunch hour instead of talking, give up part of one TV show or perform your exercises while watching your favorite show! The payoff far outweighs the “sacrifice”.
Let me list a few of the benefits of exercise. They include the following:
More energy- instead of draining your existing energy, it assists in building your reserves of extra energy.
Better circulation in your arms, legs, feet and hands.
Increased resistance to sickness and disease.
Lowered cholesterol and a stronger heart.
Improved digestion and a higher rate of metabolism which will allow you to burn more fat!
Better muscle tone and more strength to go with it.
Look better and feel younger- exercise is truly a “fountain of youth”.
If we listed them all there wouldn’t be room in this article for anything else! God gave us a body in which to live during our stay on this planet. Along with it, He gave us the responsibility to take proper care of it. A significant part of this care of our bodies lies in the importance of exercising and keeping it fit and healthy. This is what enables us to do the work he has called each of us to in our daily lives. The Bible says that people perish for a lack of knowledge. Ignorance of how the body works and what makes it function at its best is no excuse when the information is readily available. I heard a great statement that simply said, “If you wear out your body, where are you going to live?” We have an obligation both to ourselves and to God to learn everything we can about the care of our earthly vessels (our bodies), and then to apply what we learn on a consistent basis. With exercise, the consistency of your effort should be on a daily basis.
If you will just start the process with 15 minutes per day and do this for a period of 30 days, it will become a habit. You will notice small changes at first, but the longest journey in your road toward recapturing your health and fitness begins with a single step! The advertising writers for Nike got it right when they coined the phrase, “Just Do It”. The first and most important single step is just to start! No one is so far out of shape that there is nothing they can do in the form of exercises, so you can’t beg off with that excuse either. Once you begin, you will see that you had nothing to fear and no acceptable excuse, so you never need excuses again.
Begin by implementing two different types of exercises into your daily routine. The first is a simple series of stretching exercises. Bend over and reach toward your toes keeping a slight curve in your lower back. You will notice I didn’t say touch your toes, as it may have been some time since some of you even saw your toes! Just reach forward until you feel a comfortable stretch in your back and your leg muscles. Next, reach up and stretch for the sky. Always remember to breathe when you are stretching. I don’t want anyone to pass out during this process! I know that sounds silly, but you’d be amazed at how often we hold our breath instead of replenishing our bodies with a fresh supply of oxygen. In fact, deep breathing is another form of exercise, so you’ve already begun to get some exercise each time you take a breath. You see, it wasn’t so hard after all! Repeat each of those stretches 10 times and hold each time you stretch for 5 seconds.
For those of you who are confined to a chair of some kind, or for those of you that are uncomfortable standing for any length of time, perform the same two stretches with your deep breathing while in a sitting position. This will not prevent you from bending forward or from reaching toward the heavens.
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The second type of exercise to initiate is a light form of strengthening. For example, hold a can of soup or a bottle of water with your arms at your side. Bend your elbows and raise the can or bottle toward your shoulder, flexing the arm. Then reach over your head with the same can as the second exercise movement. This will strengthen both your arms and your shoulders. Repeat each of these 10 times and as it gets to easy, add a heavier can or a hand held weight of some kind and increase to 2 sets of 10 of both of these movements. Again, these can be done both standing and sitting. In addition, if you are standing, take hold of a chair and bend at the knees going down only as far as is comfortable to begin with.
As you get stronger and more comfortable with the movement, try to squat down most or all of the way before coming back to a standing position. Use the chair to assist you in maintaining your balance and aiding you in coming up until your legs are strong enough not to need the help. If you are sitting, try standing up from your chair 10 times and then slowly sitting back down into your chair. Simple enough, but this is a very effective method of providing strength to the legs and lower body and the larger muscle groups.
I know these are for beginners, but they apply for all ages, in all walks of life, and in any state of health. Remember you have to begin somewhere, and all exercise programs should be implemented carefully and gradually over a period of time to allow the muscles of the body time to adapt and get used to the routine. When it becomes too easy, increase the number of repetitions, add more weight, do additional sets of repetitions, etc., and you are on your way!
Be sure and consult your doctor if you have health problems that might prevent you from performing these exercises and ask that they set you on the path to better fitness with a series of steps that will work for you.
Exercise must become a daily habit and become part of you. You must add it to the other components that we will discuss in future articles if you expect to develop a healthy lifestyle. Each step builds on the steps you have taken up to that point. Set realistic goals with your exercise and it will contribute long-lasting benefits in your attempt to be your best. Don’t be too hard on yourself for the poor choices you have made in your life up to this point. If you “fall off of the horse” and make a bad choice, just get up, dust yourself off and begin again. Decide today that you will begin making proper lifestyle choices from this time forward. A little discipline goes a long way. Keep it simple, be consistent, and expect small changes at a time. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your body begins to respond when provided the right environment consistently over time!