Run for Your Life

I thought I would transition to the New Year with some thoughts on staying healthy.

Being active on a regular basis is one of the components of a healthy lifestyle that will pay off over a lifetime. When you think of exercise as medicine, it is cheap (the cost is your time), relatively easy and accessible (walking counts), and reduces your risk of a long list of diseases.

Several health plans have added exercise as a “vital sign” in addition to traditional measures like blood pressure, pulse, height, and weight. Accumulating 150 to 300 minutes of exercise a week, keeping your blood pressure in the 120/70 range and your BMI between 19 and 24, and not smoking are clearly linked to better health outcomes over a lifetime.

When you think of exercise as an investment in health, it pays a dividend in reduced blood pressure, reduced body fat, reduced insulin resistance, improved sleep, improved mood, and reduced morbidity at the end of life. All reasonable returns for 30 to 60 minutes most days of the year.

I have tried to exercise at least five times a week for most of my adult life. This past year I logged all my exercise sessions (including yard work activities) on an app to see what I really do over the course of a year. My weekly average is 144 kilometres and 6.5 hours. Not all of this is running or walking; the time and distance includes bike rides, hikes, and several hours of mowing lawns . All this activity helped me stay close to ideal weight and maintain a low blood pressure.

There is more to good health than exercise. I would include in your checklist good nutrition, adequate sleep, time with family and friends—often underappreciated health variables. The time to establish healthy habits is early in life. As one of my friends emphasises, you cannot escape the sins of your 20s and 30s. That is to say, the indiscretions of those “young and indestructible” decades do take a toll, which may haunt you in later years. However, improving health habits is beneficial at any age.

One additional tip: Establish a relationship with a health care provider so you have a guide to help you with health care decisions and you have somewhere to turn if things go wrong. It helps to have someone in your corner.

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