Health and Fitness

Health and Fitness
Is there anything that we can do for ourselves that's more important than our health. Whether it is in the short-term or the long-term, our health is the one thing that we have some, if not complete, control over (both mentally and physically). Building a fit, strong, and flexible body will allow us to get out and do the things we used to do as a kid, and keep doing them well into our sixties, seventies, eighties, and maybe even nineties or more!

Fitness
Both aerobic and anaerobic cardio training are necessary for tackling today's daily routine, tomorrow's adventure, and a lifelong battle against aging. When a person starts to improve their level of cardio fitness, the following happens:
  • Their heart's stroke volume (amount of blood pumped with each contraction) increases as the heart becomes more efficient. Resulting in a lower resting heart rate.
  • Their lungs transfer oxygen into the cardiovascular system more efficiently.
  • Their muscles transfer oxygen and carbon dioxide to and from the blood stream more efficiently.
  • Their bodies become more efficient at burning fat instead of glycogen during exercise.
The benefit is that all of this allows the body at rest to work less hard, shunting energy to other areas of the body that may need it. But as we age, the opposite happens. Our bodies become less efficient at converting nutrients to energy and energy into movement.

Guidelines for Cardio-respiratory Training.

Getting Started - Go for a walk. Or even a jog if you are capable. Then advance to running and maybe even trail running. The thing is, we need to get moving, but more importantly, we need to constantly increase our level of exertion. The human body is great at adaptation and what was once sufficient to get our hearts pumping becomes the minimum. Ideally, we will keep pushing ourselves through constant improvement, but if all we ever do in our lives is get out and go for a walk every day, we are still adding years to our lives by keeping our hearts pumping, our lungs expanding and contracting, and our hips engaged and working (When our hips fail, we are probably past the point of no return).

I will neither confirm nor deny saying this, but I've heard - If you can just move consistently and regularly throughout the day, it is probably better for your overall health than if you got in an intense workout once during the day, then remain stationary for the other 23 hours.

Strength
Often overlooked, especially as we start getting "older", strength training may be the single most important part of our plan for increasing our healthspan. Every physical aspect of our adventurous lifestyle will be enhanced, positively or negatively, by the strength of the muscles in our bodies, both big and small. One of the key indicators of advanced aging is a decreased sense of balance, which leads to a wider stance to offset this imbalance, which results in a slower walking pace. This reinforces a downward spiral that eventually leads to a drastic reduction in cardio-respiratory efficiency and the eventual major fall that changes everything.

We can slow this process down dramatically through strength training, especially in the core and trunk areas.

Beyond just aging better, strength training is also beneficial for other things such as:
  • Increased bone and muscle density.
  • Increased resting metabolism.
  • Increased bone strength as well as muscle strength.

The guidelines for Strength Training.

Getting Started - Do a push up. Or a squat. Start with anything at first, but eventually graduating to a point where we are pushing a particular muscle group to fatigue, this is where the strength gains are made.

Nutrition
There are enough books on nutrition out there to fill a small college library, so instead of going into detail about my beliefs on nutrition, I would like to touch on something I would like to call "nutri-evolution" (trademark pending).

Our bodies have changed very little in the last 100,000 years, so eating as close to the way our distant ancestors seems like a no-brainer. For the bulk of our existence, we ate what we could find laying around, primarily nuts and fruits. Then a few hundred thousand years ago we started killing stuff and eating it. Soon, we started cooking the stuff we killed, which, they say allowed our brains to get bigger and better. Then about 12,000 years ago, give or take a millennium, we started growing our own food, especially grains, which we ground down into flour and baked into a power-packed, carbo-dense food we called bread.

Then the Italians made pasta, and eventually pizza, and DIGIORNO® froze it, and we all started gaining weight rapidly. The point is that our bodies are not designed to have the kind of readily available carbs that we have today. On the savanna, carbs were valuable and hard to come by, so when we had the opportunity to consume them, we did. As many as possible. Then we evolved to to store them, by converting those potentially toxic sugars into something our bodies could handle - fat. And we still do today via the insulin cycle.

This is why a paleo-type diet works so well. Usually.

The Super Foods (This is a good list to start with)

Weight control - Focus more on adding as many super foods to our diet, and less on the things we need to eliminate. At least at the start. Chances are, we will have a tough time eating the "bad" stuff if we are getting full on the good stuff. Then start eliminating the problem foods, one at a time.

The perfect diet is where we "Eat to live, not live to eat." I say, strive for perfection, but accept excellence. Focus on eating only the things that your body really needs but allow yourself a cheat once in a while.

Pro tip - We must cut out sugar wherever and whenever possible. I will stake everything I have on the idea that there will never be some new science that comes along in 10 years and says this wrong and that sugar is now good for you. If we do nothing else, we must cut the sugar addiction.

Flexibility
In order for us to maintain a significant cardio and strength training regimen, ultimately, we must maintain a sufficient level of flexibility. Without proper flexibility, we will start to incur injuries, both small and large. And these injuries/ailments will start a downward spiral that will limit our ability to train and lead to more injuries/ailments. We can't let this be the thing that puts us on the couch.

The guidelines for Flexibility.

Conclusion
There are all kinds of diets and exercise plans and programs designed to get us fit and thin but, in the end, most of them produce acceptable short-term gains, but fail to give us the long-term results we want. Most of these programs are designed to take advantage of our desire to get the maximum results with the least amount of effort and in the shortest time possible. And we buy into this because we are convinced that the only alternative is extremely difficult or even impossible.

We must target the health and fitness sweet spot. If we are doing a thousand crunches or drinking kale smoothies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, odds are that we are not going to continue that regimen for more than a few weeks. For any program to work, it must produce results and it must be one that we can maintain for the rest of our lives.

So, we need to start small, just one or two minor adjustments to our current diet or exercise routine at a time. And after a couple weeks, assess the situation and ask ourselves - "Can I do this for the rest of my life?" If the answer is no, then we need to scale it back and after a couple more weeks reassess. If the answer is yes, perfect, now we can add a new change and repeat. Every change must be for a lifetime (a change in lifestyle) or it is just a waste of time.

This change can be as small as needed to make it happen. If the first change is to move the remote across the room, so be it. Converting from white to whole grain pasta, by mixing half and half at first - perfect! Substituting ice tea for soda - awesome!

Getting out and getting moving takes priority over everything else. If we are having trouble finding the internal motivation (the energy if you will) to get moving, then we need to find it externally. Caffeine is an incredible booster of energy. And the "negative" side-effects are not even close to the side-effects of living a sedentary life. So let's drink some coffee, or a lot of coffee, then begin to develop organic energy levels, eventually replacing the caffeine. But our top priority must be to get moving and keep moving and we must do whatever it takes to!

Additional Information:
Now let's get going!