Let's imagine that today is your birthday. One of the things you might do on or around your birthday is to take a look back at what you've accomplished in the year gone by. You might be glad at all the things you've done and a little sad at all the things you didn't get to do. You might feel proud that you're still here and that you've made it successfully through another year or you might be have some concern that the ticking clock sounds just a bit louder. Of course, most of us feel a combination of all these emotions.
A very good question to ask is how to keep the birthdays coming. Regardless of how we feel about everything that's gone on during the past 365 days, we certainly want another crack at the apple. None of us plan to roll over and give up. We want to do it again. We want to take our next best shot.
The great thing about living is that, while of course we want to make the most of each day as best we can, we get another round of 24 hours for free just by going to sleep. We want to make this day terrific and the next day, too, which now that it's here is this day, and so on down the line, all the days of our lives.
We all have people, family and friends and co-workers and neighbors, all loved ones of one sort or another, who are no longer with us. We'd like to stay on Planet Earth as long as possible. We want to thrive in our current year and reach our next birthday happy, healthy, and well. How can we ensure this to best of our ability?
In fact, there are many things we can do, many steps we can take, to increase the probability that we'll be healthy and well this year and into the years ahead. Of course, stuff happens, but what we're looking for are ways to maximize our opportunities to be healthy. Ways to maximize our strength and fitness and wellness and well-being.
You already know the answers to these key questions, but surprisingly most people have too much inertia to take action on their own behalf. For those of us who are actively interested in being at the top of their game now and for a long time to come, the answers are right there in front of us.
One answer is to do regular, consistent, vigorous exercise four, five, or even six times a week.1 For some, this could be done by walking 30 minutes a day in the fresh air. Others would incorporate more activities. It doesn't matter. Do whatever works for you. The important thing is to do the exercise regularly and consistently.
Another answer, complementary to doing exercise, is to eat healthy food.2,3 Eating healthy means getting five portions of fresh fruits and vegetables every day, consuming complex carbohydrates rather than simple sugars, and getting the right amount of calories rather than overeating. Eating healthy means drinking plenty of water rather than soda and other sugary beverages. Eating healthy means finding protein sources that work for you. All of this takes time and effort, but the payoff is big.
Looking back at the year we've just completed is worthwhile and instructive. Hopefully we're learning a lot. We all want our new year to be the best year ever. Exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet are two main action steps to help ensure that it will be.
1DeWeerdt Susan: Activity is the best medicine. Nature 475:816-817, 2011
2Kirkegaard H, et al: Association of adherence to lifestyle recommendations and risk of colorectal cancer: a prospective Danish cohort study. Br Med J October 26, 2010 doi: 10.1136/bmj.c5504
3Knight JA: Diseases and disorders associated with excess body weight. Ann Clin Lab Sci 41(2):107-121, 2011