As all of us who have said goodbye to our early-thirties are aware, it truly does become more and more difficult to stay in shape, as you get older. Gone are the days when all that was required to stay lean and healthy were a couple of hours every weekend of dancing at the discotheque or choosing chicken instead of beef every once in awhile. As the body’s metabolism inevitably slows down for each of us, it requires more and more activity to stay on top of our health and weight goals.
In one of life’s little ironies, however, the vast majority of us tend to become quite a bit less active as we age, right at the time when our well being demands that we ramp up our exercise. Let’s face it, exercising becomes more difficult the older we get. Our joints stiffen, our muscles tighten, and we lose some of our range of flexibility. Injuries (and the time spent recovering from them) become a common reality. And then, of course, there is the psychological weariness factor. It is that feeling that we just have too much on our plates already. It gives rise to the temptation to settle down right after dinner with a cup of tea and a book.
On the other hand, all of those nagging symptoms of aging can be dramatically reduced by a regimen of physical exercise and adherence to a health-conscious diet. When we commit ourselves to a healthier and more active lifestyle, we are able to slowly, bit-by-bit, gain momentum for ourselves. The more we exercise and stretch, the stronger and more flexible we become. The more small victories and accomplishments we achieve, the more we are psychologically motivated to keep going. As we know, healthy choices can be just as addicting as unhealthy ones.
The question is, of course, how and where to get started. Like most seemingly daunting problems that confront us, the answers are really quite simple. A good place to begin is to change the relationship we have with our food. Too often, when we think of shaping up, we think of dieting. Since very few of us want to spend the rest of our lives on a diet, we tend to get ourselves involved in the latest fad diet that will help us quickly lose pounds so that we can get back to our “normal” lives. It’s the typical approach that we have to our health, that being if something is broken, it needs to be fixed. This is just like a car with faulty brakes that needs to go the repair shop. You’ve heard it before, but the truth is worth repeating. Diets and especially crash diets simply do not work.
The only thing that does work in this regard is to pay more attention to the things that we are eating. Eating good food is one of the great joys of life, and it needs to be treated as such. Every meal should, in some way or another, be a special occasion for us. We need to slow down and enjoy the process of preparing the food, as well as the distinct pleasures that each of the flavours and aromas gives us.
Exercise, the other half of the physical well-being equation, should also be treated as a source of pleasure, rather than a chore to be grimaced through and gotten out of the way as quickly as possible. It’s all subjective of course, but personally I can’t think of a worse way to spend time after work than to sit myself on a stationary bicycle in a gym and grind away in futility for forty-five minutes. If you’re like me, perhaps an hour of kicking a soccer ball around with your husband and children is a better option. I also thoroughly enjoy walking, which, when done four or five times a week for an hour or so at a brisk pace, is more than enough to give you the added boost of energy you need to get through the week.
There is a Chinese aphorism that states that ten thousand steps each day is the road to good health. Why not take that first one?