Health and Fitness

Is there any one thing 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 child, and keep doing them well into our sixties, seventies, eighties, and maybe even nineties or more! We cannot sell ourselves short. We have the ability to make the necessary changes right now. Today!

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 hearts 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.
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, and if all we ever do in our lives is go for a walk every day, we are adding years to our lives by keeping our hips engaged and working. When the hips fail, we are probably past the point of no return.

I will neither confirm nor deny saying this, but - 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 were stationary for the other 23 hours. 

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 loss of balance, leading to 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/or the 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 graduate to a point where we are pushing a particular muscle group to fatigue, this is where the strength gains are made.

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-history" (trademark pending).

Our bodies have changed very little in the last 100,000 years, so eating as close to the way our distant ancestors did 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. Well, sort of. 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 toughest one of all - "Eat to live, not live to eat."

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.

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 fail to give us the long-term results we want. Most of the programs are valid, the problem is that we go into them with a short-term attitude. 

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 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 diet or exercise routine at a time. And after a couple weeks, 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 repeat. If the answer is yes, perfect, now we can add a new change and repeat. Every change must be for a lifetime or it is just a waste of time.

One bit of "controversial" wisdom - Getting moving takes priority over everything else. If we are having trouble "finding" the energy to get moving organically, then we need to get it synthetically. 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 we must do whatever it takes to get moving and keep moving!

Additional Info:
Now let's get going!