One Step at a Time
Two recent studies have highlighted a very basic, yet often forgotten fact of better health. It’s that successful change doesn’t always require massive shifts in behavior. Better health is absolutely attainable (and often more likely to stick) with small, incremental changes.
Let’s see how this breaks down in the three focus areas I believe are key to any healthy lifestyle: fitness, nutrition, and behavior change. In the fitness area, the studies showed that jogging as little as 5-10 minutes a day increased life expectancy by more than three years. Even those who incorporated a regular short brisk walk lived longer than those who did no cardiovascular exercise at all. The bottom line – you don’t have to run a marathon to reap the heart healthy benefits of a little extra cardio.
On the nutrition front, you’ve heard me say it before…massive diet changes and “cold turkey” techniques are unrealistic and make it likely that you’ll gain even more weight than you started with. Incorporate small changes over time. Substitute white bread or white rice with whole grain products from time to time. Try a little less salad dressing with your lunch. Add a fruit or vegetable to your diet each week. Cut out one soda or sweet tea a day. Use a little less salt on your meal. Over time, small changes such as these add up to produce big results. Patience and prudence is key.
Finally, as a personal trainer and certified health coach I have come to better understand and appreciate the behavioral change aspects of healthy living. We are truly creatures of habit. Not only is change hard, it’s almost impossible if we don’t even realize a change is needed. Focus on one small, simple action each week for better health. It could be getting up 5 minutes earlier to walk in place and perform a few stretches, or going to bed 30 minutes earlier to get more rest. You could park a little farther from the store, or take the stairs vs. the elevator. You could even take just a few minutes a day to simply think about where you want to be with respect to health and fitness; completing a 5K, losing a few pounds, or just being healthier and less stressed to make life with your family and children more enjoyable. When you actually envision what success looks like for you, you’ve taken the first step toward your goal. And whether that goal is large or small, it can be broken down into even smaller steps…smaller steps that anyone, including you, can do!