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Make a healthy lifestyle a priority

Remember -- your body has to last a lifetime

You have one body in this life, so it only makes sense to take care of it.

A healthy lifestyle should be a priority: eating a variety of the right foods, making time to exercise and incorporating it into your day and making sure you have the equipment you need, including practical clothes. Evaluate these things to make sure you are on the road to the healthiest lifestyle that is possible for you right now.

Set goals

Although your goal is a healthy lifestyle, break it down a bit more.

Think of something you can accomplish and go for it. Maybe, sign up for a race. Or, to start easier, make it your goal to swim across the pool without stopping, walk an extra 10 minutes a day or eat more servings of fruits and vegetables.

Goals can include relaxation, like having time for one leisurely bath a week. Write down your goal where you can see it.

Hunter, gatherer, food preparer

Nuts, grains, fresh herbs and organic fruits and veggies are easy to find these days. When you prepare food at home, you know it doesn't have extra calories. (As international food enthusiast Anthony Bourdain points out: The reason restaurant food is so good? Butter, butter, butter.)

An evening meal is important to enjoy with your spouse and children, and what better way to start good eating habits than to regularly experiment in the kitchen with old favorites and new recipes. Discover omelets and add power greens (kale, spinach and chard), which come pre-washed and packaged.

Make sure that food you eat on the go is healthy. Keep simple, healthy options in your home, such as raw nuts, cut-up veggies, fruit and homemade granola bars.

Pita can be lathered with hummus, then add greens. Make whole wheat pasta salad so leftovers will be nutritious. Microwave organic popcorn in a plain paper bag so it won't have additives. If you are in the habit of eating fast food for lunch, break the habit.

Rethink your exercise

How can you incorporate exercise into your daily life? Can you walk to work? Park far away from places where you run errands? Early hours might be the best time for a workout, unless of course you have small children. In that case, will your exercise provide entertainment for an observant baby? Can a toddler work out with you in some small, fun way? (See sidebar below for more tips.)

Look good, be comfortable

Attractive comfortable exercise clothes come in every price range. Resist the temptation to work out in old clothes you (or others) have discarded, reasoning that since you're going to get sweaty, any old rag will do. If you look good, you feel good, and clothes that fit right and look good can help you sustain your workout efforts, even driving you outside or to the gym.

Tight compression fitted clothes can add comfort as well as fabrics that don't hold moisture to irritate your skin. Outdoors, make sure you are warm enough to get started, dressing in layers that can be removed as you get warmed up. Fleece is handy to begin workouts and to wear afterward.

Your foundation: feet

The right shoes are all-important, whether pursuing a gentle stretch, an all-out run or anything in between. Come to think of it, comfy shoes are a plus even when running errands. If you are going to jog, play tennis or basketball or partake in some other activity that can be hard on the feet in certain ways, buy a shoe that is designed for that specific purpose.

Exercise comes in many guises

Walking is great exercise, as well as easy and cheap. Drinking water at your desk continually not only hydrates you but gets you on to your feet to the restroom.

Get a pedometer to keep track of your steps; then keep increasing them. Many people in Pleasanton find it fun to walk and talk, and a group called World Walk to Wellness enjoys walk 'n' talks every Saturday morning (Walks@WorldWalkToWellness.org). Walk with a buddy, which makes it harder to cancel.

Add something new

Try a new activity, like tennis, yoga or martial arts. Try different classes at the gym, such as Zumba, aerobics or cycling. If it is fun, you will find a way to squeeze it in.

It can be reinvigorating to get a fresh outlook by investing in a few good items to assist you in attaining a healthier lifestyle. Buy wrist weights to work out your arms while walking.

For those days when workouts must be captured in free time at home, it is handy to have your own exer-cycle, which also comes in a mini version to be used with your own chair, or a treadmill. To strengthen your upper body, try a doorway trainer.

It might inspire you to use technology to track your calories as well as your steps. Nifty gadgets are available to track your well-being and make it fun to eat better and move more.

Making time

If you have trouble finding time to work out, reassess your to-do list. Remove anything that is there just because you feel you "should" do it. Say no to more work or even meaningful volunteer activities that will cause you stress timewise.

Don't be afraid to ask spouses or older children for help with chores. Also, make time to relax. Take weekends off: Must you really check your work email all weekend?

Your body probably has to last a few more decades. What kind of shape do you want it to be in?

Working out with young 'uns

Having children means all the old rules and routines go out the window, so stay adaptable and spontaneous. Exercising builds stamina, which you will need when you have little children. And exercise does energize you.

Do whatever you can do on a given day. While your baby naps or preschooler is busy playing, put on a 10-minute exercise video, walk or jog on a treadmill or jump rope. Try to get in three to four 10-minute workouts per day, which will give you flexibility. Don't rock that fussy baby to sleep -- do deep knee bends. While brushing your teeth, do lunges or at least stretch your foot and leg muscles.

When the baby begins to sit up and observe, he will probably be amused to watch your efforts at toning with squats and tricep dips while he sits and teethes on a toy. Babies can double as weights -- position them on your body for modified sit-ups. Put your toddler underneath you for pushups and steal a kiss each time you go down.

Put on music. Toddlers love music -- and dancing is even more fun when parents join in. Dancing is a good way to get up your heart rate and burn calories.

Walk with your baby, using a back carrier. Their weight makes the workout better. Kids like routines so schedule your joint workouts for a certain time, such as after breakfast. Prepare for walks by packing a variety of snacks or even a new toy when you want your child to stay happily in the stroller.

Jogging strollers allow parents to walk fast, jog or even run or Rollerblade. That gives you a cardio workout and gives your child an adventure that will probably lead to a good nap.

When older kids enjoy an afternoon at the park, you can too. Run the perimeter of the playground while keeping an eye on them. When they are little and need to be pushed on the swings, every time you give a push, go down in a squat. Monkey bars are a great upper body workout. Swinging is good for your legs. Play ball or take a bike ride.

Don't supervise swimming from the side of the pool -- at least walk back and forth in the shallow end. Keep moving briskly in the water while carrying a young child, who will be fascinated by the motion of the water.

Play boot camp with your kids, and let them be the drill sergeant, complete with a whistle. They will undoubtedly be able to think up new killer exercises for you. Little kids are quite active -- don't watch them, join them, and you'll get a workout.

Teenagers might agree to register for a fun run or walk and you can train together. Tennis and basketball are great family activities. You might try scheduling a walk together after the family meal -- or there is always yard work.

When kids are out of school, it can be harder for parents to find time for themselves. But your workout is important, so schedule it. (It belongs on the calendar as much as your children's softball games.)

Even if you exercise alone, let your children know what you are doing so you set a good example of making physical fitness a way of life.

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