Tuesday 23 July 2019

'Small changes can have a huge impact': Five tips on preventative health care


We lose muscle as we age, so strength training is vital
We lose muscle as we age, so strength training is vital
We lose muscle as we age, so strength training is vital

There is no such thing as a quick fix. For those of us fortunate enough to be in control of this, being ‘healthy’ is a lifestyle. It’s how we choose to live each day, writes Dr Sarah Kelly

1 More bang for your buck...

Changing how we live can seem daunting. The message that I want to get out there is that the smallest of changes can have a huge impact on your overall health.

I would actively discourage trying to change everything at once. If your changes are small and manageable you are giving yourself time to adjust to each one and giving yourself a fighting chance to sustain your new lifestyle.

Always remember, those who are starting from scratch are the ones who get the most bang for their buck. Those of us who are the most inactive, the most unfit, are the individuals who experience the greatest improvements in their overall health.

2 Get it in your diary...

Getting started is often the most difficult part. But once you make that really important decision to get active, you need to figure out where you're going to fit that activity into your routine. Put it in your calendar and make sure you block out that couple of hours each week for you to prioritise your health.

Your exercise should not be the first thing you cut from a busy day.

I appreciate that we all have days where this just cannot be helped, with unexpected plans popping up. But as much as is possible plan ahead, and if you envisage your schedule changing, then try your best to fit it in elsewhere.

3 Experiment with exercise...

We all enjoy different things. Finding something you enjoy is crucial to continuing an activity long-term. Don't be afraid to start something new, and if you don't like it, don't jump to the conclusion that you dislike all exercise.

Finding what we personally enjoy is one of the biggest challenges with maintaining an active lifestyle.

4 Embrace the weights...

One of the best things we can do for our future selves is to take up strength training. Muscular strength and muscular endurance are extremely important components of fitness that are required for us to carry out the majority of our day-to-day activities.

We lose muscle as we age, and this rate of loss is accelerated in those who are physically inactive. But this wasting of muscle is not inevitable.

Strength training can help us preserve our muscle into old age. In addition to increasing our strength, lean body mass and muscle, strength training can also decrease our risk of a number of diseases, including osteoporosis, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, while also improving bodily functions from brain function to bone and metabolic health.

The misconception out there is that we must be lifting heavy weights to experience health benefits and to increase strength and muscle mass.

5 Stop taking the easy route...

There are so many opportunities in our day to sneak in a few extra steps, but very often we opt for the path of least resistance. It is now clear that prolonged sitting can have a deleterious effect on our health.

A fitness tracker/activity monitor can be a brilliant motivator to get in those extra steps throughout the day. The Irish Life My Life app is a wonderful tool that allows us to monitor and improve our health. The MyLife app syncs with most activity monitors and smart phones to use our daily activity to provide us with our own personal health score. This tool allows us to see first-hand how our lifestyle choices impact our health.

The 'health score' provided by the app will fluctuate depending on our activity levels and other information that we provide.

Dr Sarah Kelly is associate professor at DCU's Department of Health and Human Performance

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