Sunday Thoughts (3 habits of the truly healthy)
I consider myself a generally healthy person.
I make sure I exercise regularly. I have a diverse, balanced diet. I drink a lot of clean water. I prioritize sleep.
Maybe you do the same. (I hope you do.)
But are you and I among the healthiest, most fit people in the world? I don't know about you, but I'm probably not.
I could probably lose a couple pounds, even though I'm generally fit. I sometimes catch myself stressed. I sometimes stay up way too late, especially if there's baseball on (gosh, I hope there's a full season this year).
So, in doing my research, I set out to find whatever tweaks I could make to take it up a notch. Some I do well, some I could work on.
Hopefully there's something here that will help you, too.
What are the 3 habits of the healthiest among us? By my count, it could be these:
1. They do THESE 2 types of exercise.
Most people understand that regular exercise is critical. But what might be most important is what you're doing, and how much.
The recommendations from researchers suggest you need both aerobic activity AND strength training to really get as fit as you can – and stay that way.
That means brisk walking for 150 minutes a week (think 30 minutes, 5 times a week). Or running or jogging for half that time.
Plus, and this is where many people fall down – 2 days per week of strength training.
On this one I'm doing pretty well. I do vary my exercise, and make time for weights as well as getting out and walking or running. Do you?
If not, you really should start, no matter your age. Because getting older doesn't mean you have to get weaker.
And a new study out of Norway suggests you can continue getting stronger well into your 70's.
The study divided 49 participants (aged 20 to 76 years) into 5 age groups. Each group then followed a strength program (done 3 times per week).
After 8 weeks, the researchers measured how each age group responded to the program, and compared the changes.
Get this: all participants, no matter their age, improved their strength. And there were no differences in the size of improvements between the age groups. And there wasn't a single person who didn't get stronger.
Plus, people think "weight lifting" is just for men. Nope. All the women improved just as much.
Strength is associated with better aging and mortality, stronger bones and heart, and improved quality of life. It's a good reminder.
Keep going if you're already doing it. And get started if you're not.
2. They eat this specific food group daily.
Now I stress the importance of vegetables in your diet a lot. There are so many benefits here. Fortunately for me, I've grown to like them quite a bit, a big change from when I was a kid.
But there's one group that's most important: green leafy veggies, like spinach and kale.
One study found that eating green leafy vegetables regularly could reduce your brain age by 11 years.
The takeaway is that greens should be a staple of your diet for your best health. Sneak greens into a smoothie, or sauté a bunch to add to soups, eggs or even a burrito.
The great thing about sautéing is, they cook down quite a bit. So you can pack in a whole bunch at once.
3. They smile. Even when they're not "feeling it."
I'll admit, this sounds weird. But the science is solid: you benefit from smiling even if you're not happy.
Simply smiling can create a good mood, ease pain, release tension and even create positive body chemistry, even if you're faking it.
The point I'm making is happiness is a key to your best health. Just reminding yourself to take a breath, smile through whatever you're dealing with… it actually helps make it so.
Look, I may not be the healthiest person on earth. But compared to where I was even a few years ago, I'm better. And I'm determined to keep getting better.
And by focusing on the most important habits, I have a path to get there.
Now, so do you.
Smile – the weekend isn't over yet!