The key to a healthy mind and body
Our health is our first wealth – Ralph Waldo Emerson
As someone who is actively trying to live my life confidently, I am aware that my health is the foundation to a full life.
Think about it – when we do not experience full health our options are reduced. In poor health we face our limits rather than our potential.
Health is always a focus for me. However, I will admit I am not perfect. But I am consciously working on improving my health and wellbeing.
People who live in the world’s blue zones enjoy a longer than average life expectancy. Many studies have been conducted into the factors that contribute to the longevity of these regions.
One of the factors that is prevalent is leading a healthy lifestyle with regular activity.
This provides us with a reminder that we need to treat our bodies sustainably. We need to enjoy the now and live in the moment, while also honouring our body by living like we will be here for a long and healthy life.
So how do we stay active when there are so many options, so many distractions, so little time, with so much to do?
The key is to find an activity that you enjoy. Something that leads to a healthy mind and body.
There’s So Many Options, Which Do I Choose?
It is an easy trap to fall into – of feeling overwhelmed therefore doing nothing, remaining stuck where we are due to so many choices.
Instead of worrying about trying to find the miracle cure, the single best way to lose weight and stay in shape, keep it simple.
Remember though that this is not about building muscle, or losing fat, or being a high-performance athlete. It is not about saying that one sport or activity is better than another.
It is about finding an activity that you enjoy, and then doing it. Regularly. As often as you can.
Finding An Activity You Enjoy
If you don’t know which activity you enjoy, then start experimenting.
Give some different things a go, then notice how you feel during and after each activity.
It may be that you try some different classes at a gym, or it may be that you take a walk in a nearby park.
The important thing is that you keep trying, keep experimenting until you find that activity that lights you up, that you look forward to doing.
In the last few years I have really enjoyed doing high intensity interval training. The classes were fun and energetic. I did not mind setting my alarm for an early start to get there. I knew that I felt so great afterwards that I looked forward to each workout.
Yoga is another activity I have tried a few times. I really enjoy yoga now. But the first few times I tried it I didn’t enjoy it, I didn’t think it was for me.
Looking back, I realise that it was partly the headspace I was in at the time. I had expectations of what yoga would be like before I started it and I felt it didn’t match the reality. I also feel some of the types of yoga I tried were more advanced than what I should have started out with.
Over the years I kept coming back to yoga by trying different styles of yoga with different teachers at different yoga studios. Eventually I found a place that I felt really comfortable going to and I enjoyed the experience.
Forming Healthy Habits
When we find something we enjoy doing we are more likely to continue with it. We are wired to seek pleasure and enjoy things. We naturally shy away from pain and things that will hurt us.
However, it is important to distinguish that there can be some soreness from our activity. The kind of soreness that tells our body we know we have done a solid workout, without doing damage and causing injury.
When I started doing HIIT workouts my muscles would ache for a day or two afterwards. It was the good kind of ache. The satisfying ache when you have given your body a strong workout and it is now repairing the muscles.
That can be a sweet spot – when you find something that you enjoy, and it still gives you a physical challenge. But it doesn’t have to be about building muscle – unless you want it to be.
The lesson from the residents of the blue zones is to live a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle is comprised of a number of healthy habits. Things we can do each day and week to fulfil us and keep us moving.
If getting moving is hard for you, this is why it is so important to make it a habit. To help you along, work at finding something that you enjoy. The benefit is then two-fold – it is something you can look forward to while being an activity that contributes to a health lifestyle.
Adapting Over Time
Our preferences for which activity we enjoy may change over time. That is ok, so do we.
As we grow and age we may need something of a different pace or style to suit our timetable, our physicality and our mind.
What once may have been an enjoyable activity may no longer provide that spark or enthusiasm to stick with it. Or we may move, and our nearby yoga studio is no longer accessible so we need to find something else.
If this is the case, then it is time to try something new. Back to experimenting, until we find that activity that once again lights us up, while keeping us moving regularly.
For me, I found I stopped enjoying HIIT after a couple of years. So, I have switched to another activity – running.
I am not a great runner, in fact I jog and sometimes walk. But I enjoy the movement.
To help me along I joined Parkrun. It is a weekly event where people run over a 5km course. I like the community atmosphere, it is a friendly environment that welcomes runners of all levels of fitness.
I have a goal to one day be able to run 10km in under 1 hour. The regular running not only helps me stay active, but it also contributes to some greater meaning for me. It provides extra incentive and motivation to keep going, while I am still building my fitness and ability.
The other thing I enjoy about running is it gives me some time and space with my thoughts. I can process issues from the week that has just gone. The physical movement then brings me into the present, when I need to find the inspiration within to keep going until I have finished the course. It also gives me time to think about my future and where I am headed.
This all happens over the space of 5km for me. It seems like a lot. And it is – I really find it fills me up. By helping me deal with issues then clearing my mind for positivity and achievements ahead. I also enjoy the way it makes my body feel afterwards. I feel I am a healthier and fitter version than before I started.
Get out there and find your activity. The one that will light you up. That will make you glow inside and burst with health and vitality.
There are so many things that drain us of energy in our daily lives.
Invest in you by living life with a healthy mind and body.
Find an activity that fills you up.
P.s – I am also thinking of trying pilates. Has anyone ever tried it? What did you think? Better yet, what is your favourite activity?