A lot of people say “I want to live to 100!” Others wish to be slim and fit today. I go one step further and declare that “I want to live to 100, be fit every day for the rest of my life, and still be spry in my 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.”
This is not an easy goal given the sedentary nature of our modern society. Few of us walk, lift, carry, and exert ourselves as part of our daily life. We often sit for 90% or more of our waking hours hunched over a computer keyboard, talking on the phone, drinking our coffee. We sit in our cars stuck in traffic yet complain when we have to park a bit far from the front door of the supermarket. We sit at lunch, and at dinner, and in front of the TV at night.
The key to fitness is not one thing — the “how” and “how often” we exercise — which seems to be the topic most people bandy about. Rather, success at health and fitness has everything to do with leading a life of integrity, staying disciplined on the core decisions that all impact your health.
One’s health comes down to a number of factors, many of which are in our own control and a few that are not. We cannot control our genes. We might not be able to control exposure to certain viruses. But we can control many things that all play a big part in the equation.
Fitness mostly comes down to having integrity and discipline in seven main areas:
- Exercise for strength
- Exercise for aerobic endurance
- Eating good quality food
- Eating the right amount
- Getting plenty of quality rest
- Reducing and avoiding stress
- Avoiding items that are clearly not good for your health
(excessive anything, like alcohol, caffeine, bacon, butter, salt etc.)
Please take a minute and give yourself a letter grade (A B C D) in these seven areas. Are you going to the gym and lifting weights like Hans and Frans, but eating double whoppers with cheese twice per week? Are you running 5 miles a day but then sleeping only 5 hours per night and skipping breakfast? Are you eating vitamins like they are your one and only plan to win the health lottery?
Integrity is the true answer. If you have a goal of longevity and fitness, decide to get straight A’s from here on out. Integrity demands that you make the disciplined choices. It is easy to cheat when you are in your 20’s — a light workout followed by a pizza binge still works — but this all adds up when you hit the second half of your life.
From a personal perspective, I had a hard time committing to aerobic exercise, preferring to lift weights whenever I had a choice. Two years ago, I decided to follow an every-other-time strength vs aerobic schedule, lifting weights on one day and then doing aerobic sessions during the next workout. It works because I decided to no longer give myself the option.
The most common conversation at the gym is “how” a person works out, but most of the gym rats would be best served by focusing on what and how much they consume. Diet is a huge component of long-term health, as is rest, as is stress reduction.
The debate should not be about the value of yoga vs. pumping iron vs. running vs. racquetball. Building great habits takes time and persistence — adjust your habits a bit at a time and keep track of your decisions in a fitness journal. Making notes is very encouraging. Don’t get discouraged if you fall off the train once in a while — get right back on the next day. Believe you can, and you will find that progress does in fact happen. Yesterday does not matter whatsoever but choices made today matter a lot.
Integrity, balance, optimism, and discipline in one’s physical fitness plan is the answer to giving yourself a chance to earn fit, spry, and playing with great grandkids at 95.
I.M. Optimism Man