We’ve been hearing more and more over the past two years what many of us fitness folks have known for quite some time, exercise and a healthy lifestyle can protect our health and longevity. Unfortunately for many individuals, the implications of a sedentary lifestyle and a poor diet are dire as 42.4% of the adults in the United States are obese, which is a common risk factor for other chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
The scary stats don’t end with our waistlines. We are far too inactive as a population and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that at least 25% of United States adults are not active enough to protect their health. “Getting enough physical activity could prevent 1 in 10 premature deaths,” quotes Ruth Petersen, Director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. She also states, “too many people are missing out on the health benefits of physical activity such as improved sleep, reduced blood pressure and anxiety, lowered risk for heart disease, several cancers, and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.”
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. This can be broken down into a realistic 22 minutes a day, or 30 minutes five times a week. If we truly reflect on our time management and how we spend the hours we’re given, I can almost guarantee that most of us waste at least an extra 22 minutes each day scrolling through social media, daydreaming, reading blogs, binge-watching Netflix, or chatting it up with coworkers about the latest episode of Below Deck. Although these activities have their place within a healthy lifestyle, being mindful with your time and being intentional with activity can be manageable with a few strategies.
Scientists also agree that weight loss, for most individuals, is essential to protect against long-term health, specifically COVID-19. “Those who are obese are at 113% higher chance of being hospitalized with severe COVID-19,” states Rekha Kuma, an obesity medicine specialist who urged that obesity is a major threat for the coronavirus. Alarmingly, most countries in the world have at least 20% of adults with obesity. “Any weight loss is a positive at nearly any weight level. Just marginal weight gain can impact us health-wise,” says Barry Popkin, a professor at the University of North Carolina. It turns out, the answer to the obesity and inactivity crisis lies within the door of Merritt Clubs, the preventative medicine of the future.
Now, most of us know what we should do to create an active lifestyle and a healthy diet but how do we get ourselves to actually make the changes? And what about if you are confused about how to move and what foods to put in your body? How can we pull ourselves off the couch after two years of working from home? How do we resist the temptation of Door Dash for the 45th day in a row? How can we get ourselves to start meal prepping balanced meals?
Sometimes all it takes is a smart strategy and a little support. Merritt Clubs is here to provide the tips, as well as the facilities, programs, and staff to turn your goals into a reality, and to help you lead a long, fulfilling, and healthy life.
- Get clear with your why - Spend time identifying your why and be specific. Go deeper than physical and appearance goals and recognize the values associated with your goals. Real health change comes when you make transformations based on who you are and what you want out of life, not on how you think you will be perceived. Your why may be related to living a long and active lifestyle, staving off disease for years to come, or being around to watch your grandkids run around.
- Take inventory - Sit down and take an honest look at all aspects of your health: diet and nutrition, physical activity, sleep, stress management, mental well-being, and social connectedness. Start identifying the areas where there is room to make a change. Not all things should be changed at once, but it’s nice to have a starting point and a realistic perspective of the places we can start looking at improving.
- Make a plan - Once you’ve taken a truthful look at your lifestyle and have started noticing places for improvement, it’s time to make a plan. Ask yourself, “What is the most helpful action I can incorporate consistently that will help me reach my goal?” These actions should be very specific and realistic. If sleep is suffering, can you turn the TV off 10 minutes earlier? If stress is high, can you incorporate three minutes of daily movement or mindfulness techniques? If you’re ordering out for most meals, can you commit to making sure you include a vegetable? If you can’t get your butt off the couch to go to the gym, can you start with five minutes of walking around your house? These little actions truly add up to incredible transformations.
- Start small - Choose one (or two at the most) areas to focus on and create a plan for the specific actions and practices you will implement to work on those areas. For example, if you’re looking to cut back on dining out, you may plan to incorporate a home-cooked breakfast of overnight oats during the week. If you’re looking to work out regularly, scheduling a group fitness class each Monday evening in your calendar can be helpful. Again, start small!
- Treat “failure” as feedback and learn from “mistakes”- This is a journey. There will be ups, and there will surely be downs. Use the “failures,” “slip-ups,” “bad days/weeks/months,” as a learning opportunity. Did you cave into fast food because you didn’t plan out your day? Next time always keep a snack in your car. Did you skip that afternoon workout because you hit tons of traffic on the way home? Plan to meet a friend for a morning working or get a group of coworkers together for a post-lunch stroll. Everybody is unique and what may work for your friend or family member, may not work for you. Reflect on your actions and use those outcomes to guide your next practice.
- Have a support team - Support and accountability are vital as you make lifestyle changes. Getting your family, friends, or coworkers on board can be extremely beneficial in your success. A support team can keep you going when you feel like throwing in the towel, which will certainly happen from time to time. Make this a team effort and use your support!
At Merritt Clubs, we have Health Coaches who are here to support you in your journey. We offer all members a complimentary Wellness Assessment, which can be beneficial in helping you plot out the path to finally meet your goals. Click here to set up a complimentary wellness assessment with one of our certified health coaches.
Reach out to Sherri Lively at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about our Nutrition & Wellness Department offerings.