This Article Originally Appeared in "Exercise for Men Only" written by Andy Troy, C.S.C.S.
THERE IS A DISEASE MORE FEARED THAN ALL OTHERS. IT AFFECTS MEN AND WOMEN ALIKE, CAUSING EVERY CELL IN THE BODY TO WITHER AND DIE. IT PROVES FATAL IN ALL CASES AND, AS YET, THERE IS NO CURE. THAT DISEASE IS CALLED AGING. YOUTH MAY BE FLEETING, BUT SOMETHING WE WANT TO PRESERVE. IN SPITE OF THIS OUR LIVES OFTEN LEAD US DOWN A VERY DIFFERENT PATH. WE EAT THE WRONG THINGS, DRINK AND SMOKE, EXERCISE FAR TOO LITTLE AND GET WAY TOO MUCH SUN. AS BADLY AS WE WANT TO STAY YOUNG, WE SEEM TO DO EVERYTHING IN OUR POWER TO CUT IT SHORT. THIS IS ONE OF MODERN AMERICA’S GREATEST PARADOXES.
In this article, we're going to look at 20 things that we can control regarding how well we age. Using yesterday as your guide, read the following 20 questions and answer them honestly. It might be an eye-opening experience that leads to seeing a younger, healthier you.
Below is a hypothetical day based on a 9-5 workday with a 45-minute commute. 7 a.m.
7 a.m. Did you meditate? Those in the fitness world learn to weigh risk versus benefit when creating an exercise routine. Few things I've found in life have as positive an upside/downside ratio as meditation. A study done by the Medical College of Georgia found that meditation can help you maintain a healthy heart. In addition, the National Institutes of Health now recommends it as part of the first line of treatment for high blood pressure. It has been used for thousands of years to treat chronic pain, drug addiction and possibly the biggest killer – stress itself. Unless you do it on the subway traveling through a bad part of town, there is no negative.
But what is meditation? Patricia Monaghan, author of Meditation, The Complete Guide, defines it as "Activities (or lack of activities!) that center the person in the moment, that free the mind from the continual rant of the inner dialogue, and that promote (although often rather slowly) a more peaceful and serene approach to life.”
So how does one learn to meditate? If you're in a position to take a course like transcendental meditation, great. If not, here are some simple instructions: Close your eyes and sit quietly for about 30 seconds. Next, begin thinking a word that has as few associations as possible. Many people choose the number one, but anything will work. Let the word pass through your mind for the next 15-20 minutes. Next, stop thinking the mantra and sit quietly for a minute or two before slowly opening your eyes. While there are other methods to employ for meditation, the one I described is simple and has shown great results.
7:20 a.m. How much water did you drink? Our bodies are composed of over 50 percent water, and as little as a 1-2 percent loss of your bodyweight can sap your energy and make you tired. So how much water should you drink? Well, we lose about 2.5 liters every day through urination, sweating, etc. Since most of us get about 20 percent of that back in the food we eat, drinking two liters a day should replenish lost fluids.
Remember that physical activity, heat, and humidity increase your need for fluids, as do some medications and health conditions. No upper limits have been set for water consumption, so too much (fraternity hazing and the Spanish Inquisition aside) is rarely a problem.
7:45 a.m. Did you eat breakfast? This meal is the one most often skipped, but also the most important. Your body can only store glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrates) for about 12 hours. After that it starts breaking down muscle and using it for fuel. One good breakfast suggestion is a bowl of whole grain cereal (like Kashi GOLEAN) with a handful of fresh blueberries and a little one percent milk.
7:45 a.m. Did you take a multivitamin? This is good low-calorie nutrition; taken with a balanced breakfast, it will start your day off right. A word of caution: When it comes to vitamins, more is not better. In high quantities, fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) can be toxic. It is often thought that water-soluble vitamins can't be overdone since the excess is excreted in the urine. But if your body gets accustomed to an extremely elevated level of a water-soluble vitamin and the dosage is suddenly cut to a level more in line with the RDA, symptoms of deficiency can show up. This has been known to happen with vitamin C and can lead to an illness called rebound scurvy.
8:05 a.m. Did you use sunscreen? “Sunscreen helps prevent all those things that people worry about when they grow older, such as wrinkles, brown spots and 'loose skin." says Dr.York dermatologist. "It's good preventive medicine." And when combined with a moisturizer in products like NeoStrata, it provides additional benefit.
8:10 a.m. Did you start your day with music? I once dated a woman who made a point of listening to one of her favorite songs every day, just before leaving the house. That was 20 years ago, but it's a simple, logical idea that stuck with me. According to a Penn State study, whatever type of music you choose to listen to will improve your mood. In another study at Michigan and Florida involving 130 retirees, most claimed that taking keyboard lessons greatly diminished feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness. Improving your mood reduces stress and thereby reduces illness. Talk about being proactive!
On the reactive front, music is being used by an ever-increasing number of hospitals to help patients cope with the trauma of surgery. In an article published by WebMD in November 2000, musician Kate Richards dealt with her childhood fear of surgery by listening to music immediately before and after the operation. She described her recovery room experience as follows: “I somehow felt my nerves were being massaged."
8:15 a.m. Did you pet the dog? Numerous studies have shown that pets reduce stress levels, leading to a longer, healthier life. In a University of Pennsylvania study, researchers reported that, “Quietly watching fish swimming in a home aquarium eases stress, and may offer a means of treating high blood pressure." In another study done by Karen Allen, Ph.D., of the State University of New York-Buffalo, it was discovered that heart attack survival rates were higher for pet owners. Keep that in mind when you head for work, and remember to pet the dog. As for the fish ... maybe just wave.
8:25 a.m. How did you breathe? Breathing is taken for granted by pretty much everyone, but how you breathe has a lot to do with how well and long you live. Proper breathing should come from your abdomen - not your chest. When you inhale, your stomach should extend. As you exhale it should move back towards your spine. So while on your trip to work, take a few minutes and focus on your breathing.
10 a.m. Did you have a mid-morning snack? Eat a little something to keep those metabolic fires burning. Growing up, I always heard how bad it was to snack between meals. We now know that whether it's good or bad depends on what that snack is and how much of it we eat. Since five smaller meals are recommended by many in the health and fitness community, a healthful snack can be a positive thing. Good choices include lowfat yogurt with some fresh fruit added or a half-cup of walnuts (which have been shown to raise your level of HDL, thereby fighting heart disease).
Noon. What did you have for lunch? If you're brown bagging it, some good choices include brown rice and beans or pasta and broccoli (both combinations provide complete proteins). When eating out, Subway offers some good options. I like several of their heroes on honey oat bread. Make sure to get the full array of vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, olives, etc.}. I also like their grilled chicken and baby spinach salad.
3-5:30 p.m. Did you meditate again? It's recommended that you meditate twice a day. In some ways the second time is even more important. This break in the action allows your body to recharge. If you can find a quiet place in the late afternoon, do it then. If you take mass transit home, the ride is an excellent time for session number two.
5:45 p.m. Did you stretch? Your workday is done and it's time to hit the gym. After a 5-10 minute warm-up, it's time to stretch. Here are some general guidelines:
Flexibility training is important for improving performance and avoiding injury. But it is also important to remember that more is nut necessarily better. Athletes like mania! artists and gymnasts, who need tremendous flexibility to perform, often suffer from joint instability later in life when they reduce their strength training; the resulting lack of muscular strength can no longer support their joint's hypermobility.
5:55 p.m. What about strength training? When I was a teenager, strength training was limited mostly to athletes and guys who wanted to impress the gals with their bulging biceps. Today the negative myths that once surrounded it have fallen by the wayside and have been replaced with reams of scientific evidence showing that regular strength training helps everyone. A recent study done at Tufts University showed that strength training benefits arthritis sufferers. I have had numerous female clients with early onset osteoporosis referred to me. The reason for this is because resistance training builds bone mass.
The first decision you need to make is whether to work your entire body in one day (full body workout) or split it up (split routine). Some who are really committed and can work out six times a week will work their legs alone twice a week.
6:55 p.m. Did you do cardio? The fact that good cardiovascular fitness improves both the length and quality of your life is no longer news. According to a study of 45,000 men done by the Harvard University School of Public Health, those who ran for at least an hour each week reduced their risk of death from heart disease by 42 percent. There are many factors to consider when deciding on an endurance training program, but the minimum recommendations for cardio are 20 minutes 3-5 times a week.
7:15 p.m. What was your second snack? After your workout is a good time for snack number two. Something with a highglycemic index is recommended to help resynthisize glycogen back into your muscles. Good choices include a box of raisins or a baked potato (hold the butter and salt).
8 p.m. What did you have for dinner? While far too many of us skip breakfast, we usually work in dinner, often in the company of someone who raises the heart rate - therefore burning off a few calories in the process! This is also the meal where many of us poison ourselves with tons of salt, fat, cholesterol and other goodies that may well cut our dinner-eating future short. Try to get a sensible balance of nutrients here and keep portion sizes reasonable. Several times a week I eat at a restaurant near my gym that offers a salmon steak over brown rice with some grilled asparagus and a side salad. While you may not always be that vigilant, try not to live on Big Macs and fries, either.
8 p.m. Did you drink alcohol and, if so, how much? This one is tricky, since it can be a plus or a big minus depending on the type and quantity. It has been accepted bv the medical communitY that 1-2 drinks a-day has health benefits: the best choice being red wine. Caution: More than two is a negative - possibly a big one.
9:30 p.m. Did you have a cup of green tea? There is growing evidence that green tea can help prevent a number of health problems, including cancer. In a study done at UCLA and reported in the Feb. 15 issue of Clinical Cancer Research, green tea was found to target cancer cells ,vithout harming healthy tissue. According to Jian Yu Rao, ivLD., "In effect, the green tea extract may keep the cancer cells confined and localized, where they are easier to treat and the prognosis is better." Based on these and other findings, it seems safe to say that a cup or two a day is not a bad beverage of choice.
11 p.m. Did you have sex? As the creator of The Bedroom Workout For Men DVD, I'm in my element here. Sex (assuming it's safe) is as healthy an activity as it is an enjoyable one. Ir relieves stress, burns calories and gives many muscle groups in your body a workout. I also find that a spirited bout helps me sleep, thereby preparing me for our final component:
Midnight. How much sleep did you get? Here, too, more isn't necessarily better. Studies have shown that people who sleep too little live shorter lives. These reports show the same for those who sleep too much. In general, it's safe to say that 7-8 hours a night is a good choice. This allows your body time to adequately repair itself
Like exercise, however, there are more variables to consider than just duration. Quality of sleep is just as important and is affected by many factors, including a comfortable mattress and not eating or consuming alcohol, caffeine or nicotine for at least an hour or nvo before bed.
The above day is just a guideline, as people's schedules vary widely. Some work across the street from the gym and nvo blocks from home, while others have an over-hour commute. Still, the concepts here are valid and, if followed, might improve the length and quality of your life. Try incorporating some of them into your daily routine.