Make your body work for YOU!
There's an old saying along the lines of "Your actions each day are a vote towards the kind of person you'll be." There are few areas where this saying is more true than your health. Any choice that you make today has the potential to snowball into a larger, more significant impact on your lifelong health. This fact doesn't have to be scary, however! Instead of viewing your long-term health as a series of tests to avoid failing, try viewing it as a series of choices that you can make TODAY in pursuit of being your best self.
The goal of this list isn't to tell you a bunch of harsh changes that you NEED to make in order to avoid long-term health issues. Instead, here are some important things you can keep in mind as a way of framing the way you approach your health. Keeping healthy means something different for everyone, and you've got a lifetime to figure out what works best for you.
With that said, here are some helpful starting points:
An Exercise Plan You Can Commit To
We get it—exercise can suck! In fact, we'd estimate that "Crossfit" ranks somewhere between "heights" and "clowns" for a lot of people. After all, being screamed at by an intimidating gym coach while swinging around a kettlebell can actively feel like a stress nightmare for the uninitiated. Given how important that consistent exercise is at every stage of life, it can feel daunting to find something you're able to stick with consistently.
That's why it's beneficial to your life-long health to find a physical activity that doesn't feel like a chore. This doesn't mean that you need to try out every single intense workout program until you find one that you can willpower your way through. Rather, finding an activity that you can enjoy enough to reliably cycle into your day-to-day routine works wonders. Walking, light yoga, and even splashing around in the neighborhood swimming pool are all low-stress activities that can compound into serious long-term health benefits if you stick with them.
When thinking about your long-term health, remember that you don't need to become a Crossfit bro or join an Olympic team. Rather, you just need to find something you enjoy doing, and then do it from time to time!
A Little Dietary Literacy Goes a Long Way
Just based on the header, this one feels like it can be a hard sell. After all, "diet" and "literacy" are two pretty scary words, especially when used together. Instead of thinking of dietary literacy as combining the worst parts of dieting and high school literacy classes, instead, try viewing it as a series of choices you can make to ensure your food intake is meeting your dietary needs.
This doesn't mean picking a restrictive diet and religiously adhering to it for the rest of your life. Rather, learn what choices you can make regarding food intake that will let you meet your body's needs, satisfy your cravings, and make adjustments when needed. You don't have to start by doing anything big or complex. Instead, take a moment to learn about concepts like tracking macros, along with tracking the foods you eat for a week or two with an app like MyFitnessPal. Ideally, just getting a sense of where your calories are coming from (and how they compare to your actual daily needs) can go a long way in equipping you to make lifelong healthy decisions about your dietary intake.
With more than 40% of America at risk for obesity-related illness, having the vocabulary to understand exactly what you're putting in your body goes a long way. Again, you don't need to switch to some spooky, cabbage-only meal plan. Rather, being able to ask yourself questions like "am I getting enough protein today?" or "how much of my TDEE does this slice of pizza take up?" equips you to make conscious choices about your health further down the road.
Your Bone Health May Be Neglected
Bone health can be a deceptively massive factor in your long-term health, enough so that it can greatly impact the other points on this list. Osteoporosis—a significant loss in bone density—is a problem that many adults will face as they get older if they fail to take the proper steps. In fact, over 50% of women in the US will break a bone at some point in their lives due to Osteoporosis, which is a sobering number. Having weak bones can greatly impact your ability to exercise along with countless other facets of life, so it's important to start thinking about it early.
You've probably heard that calcium is a key player in building strong bones, but did you know that Vitamin D is required for your body to absorb it properly? Beyond diet, consistent weight-bearing exercises are also an important factor in keeping your bones strong. If you're still in your 20s, it can be easy to take bone health for granted, but it's not a problem that you want to appear later in life if you can help it.
In addition to mineral intake and exercise, there has also been a recent increase in wellness options for people of all ages who are looking to take charge of their health. Systems like controlled impact circuits allow people to stimulate bone growth by mimicking the process that your body uses to heal from injuries—all without actually experiencing an injury. If you're concerned about your long-term bone health—regardless of your age—these can be options worth exploring.
Grace Is a Must
We get it—thinking about long-term health can be scary sometimes. Discussions about committing to your health can often get overshadowed by all of the scary things waiting if you fail, rather than all of the awesome things you can do when you act mindfully. Remember that you're not perfect, and no individual health decision you make is going to be either. Instead of beating yourself up for skipping a gym day or ordering an extra indulgent GrubHub delivery, remind yourself that you've got tomorrow to make different choices and a lifetime left to improve.
Remember, health isn't a sprint; it's a marathon. The key is being flexible and honest with yourself about what works best for you. Once you've got a sense of that, the only thing left to do is kick back and enjoy the benefits of investing in yourself.
What are some decisions you've made to pursue a healthier you? Sound off in the comments.