I recently had a client respond to the question “Why do you want to lose weight?” with the confusing answer of “I don’t want to do a bikini contest”. I realized that with her being in a gym that has a high amount of high level fitness athletes along with today’s constant social media fitness model bombardment, she must have felt as if that was something that I wanted or expected from her. The truth is that myself and the other trainers at NBS Fitness want to help our client’s reach whatever goals they may have, whether that be winning a bodybuilding contest or improving their general health. Many of our clients are just regular people trying to find ways to improve their health, performance, and physique. They want to feel a little better and look a little better along the way. With our nation’s health rapidly declining, I think doing a bikini competition is the farthest thing from a goal the average American needs to be setting. Instead here are 5 goals I think everyone should have in regards to their health and fitness:
1. Learn to Enjoy Fitness
Beyond all the mountains of data supporting the benefits of exercise, quality nutrition, and a healthy lifestyle, the fact of the matter is that being unhealthy sucks. I have spoken with and talked to a whole lot of people from both ends of the spectrum in regards to health and there are multiple common traits amongst both groups of people. From a physical perspective, the healthier group suffers from less pain and is usually more energetic through out the day. The unhealthy group usually suffers from some kind of chronic pain (lower back pain, knee pain, headaches, etc) and is usually in a general state of fatigue. Mentally, I find that the healthier someone is the more positive outlook they tend to have towards things and likewise they generally feel better about themselves. Unhealthier individuals tend to have a more negative point of view in life, especially towards themselves and even more so in regards to their abilities to make healthy choices.
Being unhealthy sucks. It is sad to hear people talk about how much they hate exercise or hate healthy foods. I have even been told by someone that they hate the way water tastes. The human body was made to move. It was made to eat nutritious foods and drink water, so much so that doing otherwise results in death. While modern medicine can prolong a life of bad decisions beyond what nature would allow, eventually it all catches up. Learn to enjoy things that improve your life. Learn to enjoy exercise, learn to enjoy quality food, learn to enjoy your health. Find something you enjoy and do that. It doesn’t matter if it’s weight training, going for a walk, or kayaking. Eat good foods that you like. Learn to enjoy being healthy and fit.
2. Manage Your Bodyweight
The list of poor health consequences from being obese is a large one and sadly, much like smoking, is the result of a one’s poor decisions. There are no children at St. Jude right now who’s life decisions have led to them getting cancer but every other hospital in the Memphis area is littered with people suffering from some health condition exacerbated by them being at an unhealthy weight. In fact, the entire medical field has had to come up with new methods of doing procedures, tending to patients, administering drugs, etc due to the increasing rise of obesity over the last 30 years. The average healthcare costs have gone up as well and are reflected in health insurance costs.
Obesity is commonly the result of an accumulation of lifestyle choices and, much like smoking, those poor choices can be undone with good choices. Over the last 80 years the numbers of Americans who smoke cigarettes has decreased by half where as the number of obese Americans is on a steady rise. Make achieving a healthy body weight one of your fitness goals.
3. Get Healthy
The idea of health involves more than that of just physical health but also mental health, emotional health, sexual health, social health, and spiritual health, all of which is a topic far beyond the scope of this article. However, we can focus in on some of the aspects of physical health that can be easily improved through exercise and a healthy lifestyle. The main health markers that you should be keeping track of are your blood pressure, lipids, blood glucose, insulin, sex hormones, thyroid, kidney and liver values, and CRP. While these don’t always tell the whole story, keeping these values in the healthy range can help prevent many diseases down the road and when they are not within range can indicate the possibility of a problem that needs to be addressed. While working on improving the way your body looks may be a little more “sexy”, keeping an eye on your blood pressure from time to time and getting blood work done at least once a year will help make you aware of what’s going on on the inside of your body as well.
4. Maintain Basic Physical Performance
With age comes a gradual decline in our physical abilities. 80 years will turn a child who climbs, jumps, runs, and is in constant motion into a elderly man or woman who is isolated to a chair or a bed. While some decline in physical performance is unavoidable, complete lack of physical performance is the result of lack of use. There are plenty of cases of elderly men and women, up into their 90’s even, being just as physically active and sometimes more physically active than people 50 years younger than them. You can witness this in action at the annual senior games.
How you decide to maintain your physical performance is up to you. In the video below you can watch seniors competing in track and field, swimming, and basketball. My mom did her first powerlifting competition at 54 years old. I’ve seen people step on stage for their first physique competition in their 50’s. You don’t even have to compete, just find something that keeps you moving. My own personal belief is that you should strive to do something physically active on a daily basis. That doesn’t mean you have to do a 2 hour weight training session or a 5 mile run. Fifteen to twenty minutes of just going on a walk of doing some yoga goes a long way. If you’d like a general standard to go by, check out the Army Physical Test Standards. It gives scores for push ups, sit ups, and a 2 mile run for all age groups and serves as a pretty decent standard for physical fitness. If you can’t pass the physical standards for your age group, consider that as a sign you may need to increase your fitness levels.
5. Make a lifelong commitment
In a previous article , I talked about how we are a nation that lacks commitment. There are few better examples of this than in the area of health and fitness. We are a nation of the overweight and obese, yet just about everyone has at some point tried an exercise program or been on a diet. We can get into the specifics about why people fail on different programs but the issue is clear, a lifelong approach must be taken. Any positive health benefits that are gained from exercising or eating healthy for a few weeks are quickly lost once a person stops. With that in mind, it is better to focus on a long term approach. Focus on the goals listed above instead of focusing on what the scale says or what the measurements are. Weight loss and physique change only come after a long period of consistency and to maintain that weight loss and change you must continue to train and eat correctly. Therefore, make a lifelong commitment to yourself. Learn to enjoy the process of self improvement, manage your bodyweight, get healthy, and stay physically active. You only get one chance at life and a living a healthy one is a pretty smart way to do it.