This is the fourth week of our fitness series, and this topic feels like a fitting way to conclude. My hope is that the things that we have talked about in the last month have struck a chord with you, spoke to your life and situation in some way and encouraged and challenged you in your fitness journey.
We’ve talked about how fitness is supposed to be a fun pursuit, how our fitness goals are within reach when we make daily decisions to move toward them, and the way that your wellness journey is very personal and an intimate reflection of you. Today let’s talk about this wellness lifestyle in terms of the rest of your life.
When I made my very first attempt at fitness my reasons for doing so were to be able to run with my brother, whose fitness I greatly looked up to, and to look good in the bridesmaid dresses I was scheduled to wear in the end of the summer. Not the most noble or sustainable rationale, I admit. After that I would work out because other people did, because I knew I wasn’t as healthy as I could be, because my dad started a new program, to improve in my volleyball career, to feel good on my tropical honeymoon, to prove people wrong. When reading research about pregnancy, labor, and fitness I started working out to prepare, even though I wasn’t even dating anyone. I cycled through motivations, going full out because “I will not be the fattest person at the pool on vacation!” or “That’s the second time someone has asked me if I’m pregnant this week so I am going to crunch away this period bloat…” (Feel free to shout out if you feel me!) then completely gave up because the fancy dress event happened, no insensitive old people had asked about my gestational progress in a month, I realized that pregnancy was a ways off, and frankly I was tired of working out like a nutter.
Play that scenario out for a few years and you’ll have a snapshot of my fitness picture 😉 Now sure, weight has not been a huge struggle for me. I have always been fairly active, ate a healthier than average American diet, and probably could have coasted in that pattern for decades. I may have developed diabetes. I probably would have struggled in pregnancy, labor, and recovery, but I would have made it. My knees would probably have required surgery at some point, my back would have continued to give me pain so I would have become less active. I might have snowboarded sometimes, but since this version of me was pretty unfit I would have gotten injured more often and disliked it after a while. The hardest part about the whole thing, the idea that finally got me out of this cycle and into a whole new lifestyle, was knowing that living like this; working out like it was my job for a month before quitting completely, eating junk because I could, not taking care of my body; was significantly deteriorating my quality of life and ultimately shortening it.
There are countless studies that discuss the effects of various lifestyle choices on your projected longevity and increased risk for life threatening diseases. Diets high in sugars have been shown to increase your risk for diabetes, obesity and the most common killer in much of the Western world, heart disease1. Living a life without exercise and regular movement increases your risks of colon and breast cancer, and risk of mental health conditions including dementia2. According to Johns Hopkins “Thousands and thousands of deaths occur each year due to a lack of regular physical activity.”3. I’m sure you’ve heard statistics about what smoking a cigarette does to your life expectancy…
Reading articles like these used to freak me out. I felt like the more they studied the average American lifestyle the more we realized that we’re all doomed for a terrible and short life. All it took was a change in perspective to have these things now give me so much hope, and power! What all those new research papers are telling me is this:
If you want to lead a healthy life with longevity, you can. Here’s how.
Your life was given to you as a great and wonderful gift. Your body, your amazing soul, your compassion, and creativity and generosity are amazing little presents, given for you to enjoy and share. Now, when you were born and got this beautiful gift of life and all that comes with it, the idea was that you cherish this and do everything in your power to use it to the best of your ability for as long as possible.
You have the ability to create a long and healthy life for yourself.
I have a family history of Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes, though not exactly life threatening, is still a pretty crappy thing to live with. Since a certain percentage of my family members have struggled with this disease I could choose to fatalistically accept that this will also be my plight and live accordingly. I also have the choice to decide that I will learn from the challenges and struggles of my loved ones and do everything I can to live a long and healthy life without diabetes. I decided that the long-term benefits of not having to stab myself multiple times a day, getting the shakes, having my vision get even worse, and potentially losing my feet, far outweigh the short-term challenges of eating mostly whole foods with minimal extra sugar, and having a sustainable exercise regimen that has me moving every day. This is just one example, but I hope you hear the message.
You have the ability to create a long and healthy life for yourself.
If you are concerned that you are at risk for heart disease, check out some resources, listen to the health experts and naturopaths, talk to someone who healed their body from this, and make the changes. If the women in your family have had challenging pregnancies, go to the library, find a midwife, read some blogs, and do what is within your power. If your doctor has repeatedly told you that you are going to need a certain medication at some point if things don’t change, make things change!
Yes, there are diseases and ailments that can’t be prevented with healthy diet and lifestyle. Your wonderful long life may end suddenly in a tragic way. Life can seem fragile and brief and fleeting. It is for that very reason that we should make choices that enable us to enjoy the fullness of life for as long as possible. I don’t in any way want to trivialize the health challenges that you and your loved ones are undoubtedly experiencing. I simply want to share an alternate opinion., because maybe, like me, the usual opinion hasn’t been working for you.
In the past my motivations for pursuing health were fairly trite, shortsighted, fluffy. Now when I look ahead at my life, I feel a whole new kind of motivation. I’m looking forward to being a mom who inspires my kids to run faster, jump higher, and achieve things they thought were impossible. I’m preparing now to be the 80-year-old lady hiking mountains with my grandkids. I have decided that this life is beautiful enough that I want to fight to keep myself going strong in it for the next 70 years or so. I hope that you understand that you can be right there with me!
Don’t believe me? Check this out!!
4 Let me be the first to draw attention to the fact that studies can be complete BS. If you look at the sponsors of the research you are reading, and the people who completed it, probably 40% will be backed by someone who would directly benefit from the outcome of the research. Another large percentage will be completely skewed by the person drawing the conclusions. But you can be empowered in this as well. You have the ability to make conscientious health decisions when you use critical thinking when you research, read articles, and click those clickbait articles on Facebook 😉