Fitness & Wellness, Guides, Life

Kickstart a Healthy Life

Hey, you. Yes, you, the person sitting down, reading blogs to assuage your boredom. You know what you could be doing right now to add a few precious years to your life? To a moment to stretch your limbs, breathe some fresh air, and get physical. 

As someone who was once at risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, and other weight and lifestyle related issues, I understand that maintaining health is arduous. As someone who succeeded in altering their lifestyle and is now a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, and dancer, I can tell you that little changes equal big results.

It doesn’t take back breaking workouts, radical surgeries, or cleanse diets. There is no quick fix to longevity.

1. Stop sitting.
Seriously, sitting is killing you. If you don’t believe me, perhaps you’ll believe this infographic.

You’ve probably already seen it, but give it another glance. You need to digest this information. Humans weren’t made to sit for long periods of time, so get up while you’re reading this and shake out your legs. If you’ve done that, you’ve already revved up your metabolism slightly.

Living in Japan, I see a lot of elderly people in their late 70s and 80s outside gardening, walking, carrying groceries, riding bikes, going hiking in the mountains and strolling the beach. They might not be moving fast. Someone of them have terrible kyphosis and can barely see where they are headed. The point is that if an 80 year old can go rock climbing, you can move around for 15 minutes every hour.

2. Start small but don’t play it safe.
See what I did there? One small step in the right direction is to stop being sedentary. As I mentioned in the first point, sitting is unhealthy. Sitting decreases your metabolism, promotes muscular atrophy, leads to depression and anxiety, dementia in the elderly, and disuse syndrome. So, how can we make standing not playing it safe? Add a balance board under your feet as you stand at your desk. Try standing on one leg for a minute then switch to the other one. Do some chair yoga for 5 minutes then get back to work. No one is going to judge you. In fact, you might just inspire a health revolution from your cubicle.

How else can you start small but mighty? Think about what you ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the week. What essential food groups may you have missed? What do you think you’re eating too much of? Globally, most people are deficient in at least one nutrient due to something missing from their diets. So, if you’re recollecting what you’ve eaten on lunch break and realize its turned into a daily visit to Taco Bell or Chick-fil-A, you can do something right now to amend that.

Don’t go. Brown bagging your lunch is not only healthier, it’s more cost effective. You can bring in a smartly packed meal, finish it, then use the rest of your lunch break to take a walk, do some isometric exercises, climb the stairs a few times, or even take a moment to meditate.

3. Set realistic goals.
Standing at your desk and being more conscious of your health are simple ways to get in touch with the new you. Yet, you have to be aware that shooting too high makes people fall short of their goals all the time. People want to lose 20 pounds in two weeks then get discouraged when they find out its impossible. Modern medicine and fad diets can make it attainable, but you don’t want to fall victim to that. Crash diets do not teach you how to make decisions. Fad diets and pills are addictive and debilitating. You want to get healthy and stay healthy, right?

In fitness, we have something called SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

How do you make a goal SMART? First, accept the hard truth. Fitness and wellness is a constant effort. You need to make a change to your lifestyle, and for many this means adjusting a routine that has been set for years. Second, start small. We’ve already promised ourselves to move more, so why not make a movement declaration?

For example, you might say, I want to walk 3 miles in 45 minutes by the third week of this month. You are specifically setting the what and the when. You can measure these minutes, and it is certainly humanly possible. Maintain a pace of 3.2 to 3.5 miles per hour and bam, you clock in around 45 minutes. It’s relevant because walking is not only a great workout at 3.5 mph, but it helps tone your body head to toe and increases cardiorespiratory fitness.

How’s that for a kick-start?

4. Eat real food.
I mentioned before that most people eat like crap. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a first world country or in a third. In fact, people in lesser developed regions eat better than many individuals and families in urban ones. What’s up with that? As a nutrition teacher of mine once said, “Underweight is no doubt a sign of poverty, but so is obesity.” Starving or glutted—both are forms of malnourishment.

But do we even know what real food is anymore? All we ever hear about in the news anymore are catch words like genetically-modified-organisms, pink slime, trans fats, and MSG. We hear about the pesticides added to our produce, the salmonella-laced packages lettuce, and the E.coli showing up at ‘real’ fast food chains. How are we supposed to eat truly natural food when the stuff we know for sure is safe costs so much money?

Well, I’d hate to be the harbinger of bad news, but healthier food brands do unjustly cost more money than the cheap stuff. Even here in Japan, fruit is outrageous. No one should have to pay nearly 2USD for a damned apple. But alas, if you want to eat it, you’re going to pay for it, eh?

My advice is to not pay for labels when you don’t have to. Take into concern what you are capable of making or baking yourself. Homemade granola and cereal bars are easy enough. As are protein bars. You can make veggie or black bean burgers with the kids then freeze what you don’t use. Try making healthier, unsweetened versions of your favorite jelly. Prep your meals at the beginning of the week so you don’t have to worry about it later on.

Of course it takes some time, but what else would you be doing? Checking Facebook? Pinning on Pinterest? Watching TV? Like I said, lifestyle changes. You’d be standing prepping that food, by the way.

5. Understand that ‘healthy’ is not ‘easy.’ You will have to put time aside for this.
As mentioned above. One of the things I’ve been stressing is that no matter how small you start with this, it’s definitely going to take some getting used to. Everyone struggles at first. Everyone messes up. We’re human, after all.

Health takes planning, patience, and support from those around you. Don’t give up. Use the tools available to you, and don’t be afraid to seek advice.

6. Make use of that techno-bauble whatchamacallit in your pocket or around your wrist. Use the innumerable fitness apps out there. Some of them will even PAY you to lose weight.
Charity Mile – Earn money for charities while you walk, run, or bike.

FitStar – (I haven’t personally used this, but it has high ratings and plenty of hype) a free app brought to you by an NFL star, Tony Gonzalez. You get choose goals for basic yet effective workouts. There’s also a fitness test you can take.
Lose It! – This app corresponds with a website of the same name and is also available on Android, iOS, Kindle and Nook. It’s also compatible with a lengthy list of fitness tracking devices, like your Fitbit and Jawbone Up. If it’s availability isn’t enough to sway you, it helps you log your calories and set goals. What more could you ask for?

MyFitnessPal – I’ve used MyFitnessPal and love it. Although, I’ve long stopped tracking my calorie intake as religiously as I used to, it is a very useful tool. With MyFitnessPal, you can put in your food log and see if you’re missing any vital macro or micronutrients. The mobile and website applications are user-friendly. MyFitnessPal is also known for making this whole fitness-tracking business easier and friendlier than other sites.

PEAR Personal Coach – Basic version is free, while the premium version is $3.99 a year. PEAR is available on iPhone and Androids. However, it is more well behaved with iOS and offers additional features. The app is being touted as one of the best personal training apps out there, because you’re actually working out with some of the fittest people out there. Through PEAR, you gain access to interactive audio workouts from Olympians and national sports team coaches.
Check out more apps on Amazon! You might discover a new gem.

I also love Youtube workouts and the Daily Burn. Bodybuilding.com also offers great starter workouts to get you headed in the right direction.

Are you ready to begin?
Whatever your goals, remember to be SMART about what you want. Commit to small, doable changes prior to elevating yourself to higher echelons of health and wellness. Stay motivated through the hard times and slowly chip away at the mountain until it’s nothing more than an anthill. I wish you all the luck in your endeavors.

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