January 1 conjures up positive mental images: a clean slate, plans for a healthier lifestyle. In this modern, health-conscious world many of us recognize the need to adopt a healthier lifestyle; prevention is, of course, better than cure. After indulging throughout the holiday season, we vow to change our ways as the clock strikes midnight — the start of a wonderful new year. We promise to quit bad habits, eat healthily and get fit. So, what happens to all of these good intentions? Within weeks our resolutions are forgotten and the year continues much the same as the previous. We know our intentions make sense, so why do we fall by the wayside? Most times it’s because we set ourselves unrealistic goals. So, what is the secret to success?
• Be clear in what you are trying to achieve and focus on the short-term benefits, not just the long-term.
• Know your body and your limits.
Instead of setting impossible long-term goals, agree to adopt a heathier lifestyle and the rest will all fall into place. The first objective should be to know your body:
• Analyze your posture
• Do you have aches and pains?
• Do you feel tired all the time?
• Have a health check: know your blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar.
• Know your body type and the health risks
• Are you overweight/underweight?
• Can you comfortably walk/run up and down a flight of stairs?
• Can you get down and up from the floor?
• Do you have a healthy diet?
• Do you drink enough water?
These are just some of the questions you should be asking yourself. Now you know yourself better, set some goals. When starting a fitness programme, make sure you do not push yourself too hard or too fast. Set time aside two or three times a week and start with something that appeals to you. If you do not enjoy what you are doing, it will be harder to stay motivated. To get fit you do not have to join a gym; you can go walking with friends or start a dance or exercise class.
Activities that raise your heart rate will be beneficial in getting fit and healthy. Exercise can also help reduce weight (or even help you gain weight); relieve aches and pains by strengthening muscles and joints; give you extra energy and make you feel good. Exercising releases endorphins, the body’s natural anti-depressant.
An important aspect about getting healthy is diet. Swap foods with high sugar content for fruit, and cut back on fats, sugar, salt and refined carbohydrates. The times of the day we eat are also important, as are the portion size. Remember: breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper. As long as you are eating healthily this is a good way to also lose weight.
Another important factor for a healthier lifestyle is monitoring fluid intake. Water makes up about 60% of our body weight and it is vital for our survival. It helps to eliminate waste through urination, perspiration and bowel movements; helps to regulate our temperature and lubricates and cushions our joints. Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration, and even mild dehydration can leave you feeling drained and lacking in energy. Currently the daily recommended intake is about six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day but this will vary depending on your size and your daily activities. Do not wait until you are feeling thirsty before you drink. If you are already feeling thirsty, chances are you are already dehydrated.
Water is, of course, the best source but drinks, such as tea and coffee, and some fruits can contribute to our daily fluid intake. Look at watermelons, cantaloupe and grapefruit; these are 92%, 90% and 91% water respectively. Perfect for those of us living here in Saint Lucia.
So exercising, eating healthily and drinking enough water all contribute to our energy level and we know more energy means more activity and productivity. A great start to the new year, toward achieving our goals and staying on track!
Kim Jackson is a UK-trained physiotherapist with over 20 years of experience. She specializes in musculoskeletal pain and dysfunctional, including back pain and sciatica, stroke and other neuro conditions, plus physiotherapy. She has worked with local, regional and international athletes and teams, treating injuries and analyzing biomechanics to improve function and performance.
Ms Jackson is registered with the Allied Health Council and is a member of PASL. She currently works at Bayside Therapy Services in Rodney Bay.