A few years ago it became important for me to start giving back to my community. My children were quickly growing up and they no longer needed or wanted my full attention, so I had finally had a few "extra" hours each week to volunteer to a local non-profit organization.
My very good friend Maureen sits on the board of directors of a local charity called ElderHelp of San Diego. One day when I we were talking over lunch, I mentioned my dilemma about finding a quality non-profit organization to share time with.
She encouraged me to join her on the board of ElderHelp but I declined, explaining that, as a board member, I didn’t want to spend my time simply raising money for the organization but rather I was interested in volunteering my time visiting elderly clients who, for whatever reason were confined to their home.
I liked the idea of spending time with interesting people who were in the winter of their lives. Many of them had outlived their spouses, friends and peers and have now found themselves all alone. I felt that volunteering time in this manner would help those people who really needed friendship and help me to better understand a generation that seemed to be forgotten.
I have been involved with the program now for several years and I have had the opportunity to spend time with some really quality seniors who have taught me a few life lessons.
One of the greatest pieces of wisdom that is universally repeated by the seniors, whom I visit with, is that they all wished that they had taken better care of their health when they were younger. Many of the elderly that I come in contact with are now disabled, in daily pain, and/or have lost their ability to move about freely.
Being relatively young, many of us take our health for granted. We are only given one body yet sometimes we don’t treat it with the respect and reverence that it deserves.
There are many things that we can do to create a healthier lifestyle today ensuring that we are able to live an active and healthy lifestyle today as well later in life.
Here are 7 simple things that we can all do to improve our health:
You are what you ingest
Many of us simply eat poorly. We ingest too many calories, too much fat, too many sweets, too much salt, too much caffeine, too much alcohol, and too much processed foods. We blame our poor nutrition choices on a lack of time, a lack of money, and/or a lack of quality tasty alternatives.
In order to eat healthy we do not need to become organic vegans (not that there is anything wrong with those wanting this dietary lifestyle).
There are two key elements in healthy eating:
- Maintain balance at all times. It’s absolutely fine to eat a rib-eye steak every once in a while but we need to balance it out by eating green vegetables, high fiber grains, and fish as well.
- Portion control. It’s one thing to have a Godiva bonbon and it’s another to eat the entire box in a day. We have bought into the "super-size" value meal programs where a larger quantity is offered at only a marginal cost. We shop at big-box stores because it offers us low-cost volume pricing. We need to learn to resist the temptation to eat more just because the cost is less.
In addition to the food we eat, we can also dramatically improve our health by eliminating smoking, heavy drinking and recreational drug use. I know it’s hard... really hard... to quit, however your health will improve dramatically by eliminating these elements from entering your body. Many of my senior friends were once smokers but have come to realize that smoking has robbed them of their vitality as they’ve aged and no longer smoke.
Get those muscles moving
As we age, we tend to exercise less. This is due to a variety of reasons such as time constraints, chronic and/or acute injuries, laziness, embarrassment and inertia. At one time in our lives we may have been star athletes but for whatever reason we stopped exercising on a regular basis. Now it is just too hard to start up again. If we don’t regularly perform some resistance training, our muscles will begin to lose function and we will age sooner. We must find the time and the motivation each day to do something to work our muscles and keep them in tip top shape.
Forget about the blood and tears...but do sweat a little
The most important muscle in our body is our heart. Not only do we need to work our body muscles, we need to work our heart. By building a strong heart, we will be able to better circulate our blood bringing oxygen and nutrients to our cells. Cardio activity also helps to increase lung capacity creating the ability to breathe in more oxygen giving us increased energy.
Reach for the stars
As we get older, our muscles begin to lose elasticity. I am a very active person for a man of 50 years however I have noticed that even with my high level of exercise my flexibility has diminished significantly over the past few years. It is extremely important that a stretching routine be incorporated into any exercise program. This will reduce injuries from occurring as well as help to relieve muscle and joint stiffness.
One of the best ways I have found to incorporate resistance training, cardio, and stretching is practicing yoga. There are many different varieties and levels of yoga being taught in almost every small town and large city. There is certainly one right for each of us.
Exercise your brain
In addition to exercising your body, you should be stretching the limits of your brain. Perhaps you need to learn to play an instrument, learn a new language, start doing the daily Jumble, Sudoku, or cross word puzzle. Maybe you need to construct jigsaw puzzles, play scrabble or another type of word game. Maybe you need to start that book you’ve been meaning to write.
Keeping our brain active is just as important as keeping our body active. Use it or lose it.
Get some rest
A good night’s sleep is important to keep us fresh and alert. Rest helps our bodies to heal and recuperate. Sleep also helps our immune system fight off disease and illness.
It’s very okay to be active but we need our rest as well. Listen to your own body and if it needs to rest, allow it to rest.
Reduce your stress
We need to learn to take life as it comes to us rather than try and control things that are beyond our immediate control. Stress, anxiety and fear can cause our bodies to prematurely age.
There are many different methods to reduce stress in our lives but due to space constraints, it may be better to review a past blog covering that very subject. (Click HERE to re-read a previous blog on stress reduction.)
I find great personal enrichment visiting with my senior friends. So many of them are incredibly wise and are willing to share to those willing to listen. Hopefully we can learn from their life experiences to enhance our own.
It’s never too late to take our health seriously and begin living a lifestyle that will help us to enjoy all of our days on earth.
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we sincerely hope that we all live healthy and enjoyable lives.