Keeping it simple.
Let’s face it, change is hard. However, habits are easy to maintain.
Getting folks to adopt healthier lifestyle choices is something I try and accomplish every day in the office. It’s not easy to do.
There are very different strategic approaches out there… some work, many don’t. What does work is seeing the benefits… once it becomes routine and people feel better in general or simply feel better for accomplishing something, it often sticks.
Pursuing a longer “healthspan”, the period of time that you are cognitively intact and physically able, does not need to be complicated.
I have been an orthopedic surgeon for nearly 25 years. While I have returned many athletes to the playing field with my knife and replaced more knees than I can count, I am often most pleased by being able to dramatically help entire families improve their health with lifestyle and dietary modification. Those are, by far, the biggest success stories in my practice. Returning people to a path of being metabolically healthy will impact their entire life and the lives of those they bring along on their journey.
I’ve noticed that failure comes from looking down a runway that is far too long… like wanting to run 10 mi, lose 50 lbs, or completely get off medications. I’ll circle back to this in a moment….
Longevity or a longer Healthspan isn’t rocket science. There are no miracle supplements or diets. 80% of us will die from very predictable causes. Heart disease, dementia, complications from diabetes, cancer, falls, etc. Exercise addresses all of these. More so than most medications. Even 85-year-olds develop new muscle growth and improved metabolic health from a few workout sessions. You’re never too old to adopt these strategies.
Many older patients are afraid to exercise, or they were told not to do something because they were too old. That is simply untrue. As long as your doctor gives you the green light, you too will benefit from walking and a resistance exercise program. You will feel better, you will feel more stable when you walk, you will struggle less getting up from a chair, or when walking stairs. These are the earliest findings in frailty. Frailty can be avoided in many cases with simple interventions.
But exercise sounds painful… it conjures up thoughts of sweat and pain or hours in a gym. “Exercise” doesn’t have to be painful… it doesn’t have to be sweaty. Walking as little as 8000 steps a day can improve your metabolic health dramatically. Getting outside can improve your mood, your well-being, and your overall health.
This is especially true for the older generations. You’re never too old to exercise. There is no reason you can’t walk, lift objects, push objects and pursue other healthier lifestyle changes. It’s not too late.
Poor metabolic health or poor mitochondrial function is the root cause of the metabolic syndrome, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, upwards of 40% of dementia cases, and many forms of cancer. Exercise is the only way to improve metabolic function.
Goals matter… if the goal is too lofty, and the goalposts too far downfield then it will be hard to initiate any exercise program. Furthermore, it will be too easy to quit. Quitting is just as painful because then we failed at something… and that gets even more depressing.
I find 30-day challenges useful… I find that setting realistic goals and short-term goals to be far more effective.
Those goals can become habits you want to adopt… or things you want to give up.
Like I am going to walk for 15 min every day.
Or, I am going to not eat _____ for a month.
Once 30 days arrive, many people will stick with it. They’ll have the confidence, they’ll feel better. Habits can be formed in 30 days.
The key is to keep your goals simple and easy to accomplish. If you’ve been under a pandemic house shut down for a year your goal should not be to run 2 miles a day… if you haven’t left your house other than for food in 12 months, then your goal is not to find a 5-mile hike. Keep it simple to achieve and easy to accomplish… after 30 days many want to build on what they have accomplished.
The next 30 days of your life are going to pass by… whether you participate or not.