When we ask people about their retirement goals, one statement seems to sum up their primary concern, “I don’t want to outlive my money.” That statement has two parts, length of life and quantity of money. Our clients know the depth of analysis we apply to measuring the ‘quantity of money’ part of this statement. Today, we want to focus again on the ‘length of life’ part, examining how you can live longer, healthier and happier.
Earlier, we introduced the body of research known as “the Blue Zones,” the groups of the longest-lived people on earth. We encourage you to go to www.bluezones.com and read more about the research and how to apply it to your life.
Keep Moving – A Key Factor according to The Blue Zones
The Blue Zones has found nine evidenced-based common denominators among all the places they’ve studied. The first of the Power Nine® is called “Move Naturally.” They describe this factor this way, “The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron, run marathons or join gyms. Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it. They grow gardens and don’t have mechanical conveniences for house and yard work.”
Before Getting Started
Before beginning an exercise program, consult your doctor. They can make recommendations that are specific to your current health and physical capabilities.
Many people allow their enthusiasm for a new, active lifestyle to push them too far too fast. Begin your new, healthy habits with very light routines. The important thing is to set new habits and be consistent. Begin at a slow pace. Use very light weights or none at all (your body has weight so moving it is ‘using weights’). Exercise regularly for ten or fifteen minutes, not an hour. And progress very slowly, more slowly than you think you can.
Those Unexpected Benefits
Moving naturally has some obvious benefits (we’ve talked about a few) but the unexpected benefits are ‘off the chain’ (to use a modern phrase that encourages us to cut loose).
Increasing your heart rate by moving – whether it’s walking, hiking, swimming, cycling, tai chi, Pilates, dancing or jogging – is a great way to burn calories and improve both mental and physical health. Cardio can also help reduce body weight. Cardio seems to be particularly effective at reducing the dangerous belly fat that builds up around your organs and causes metabolic disease.
Increase your Energy Level
Moving naturally could boost your energy levels. This may seem counterintuitive, because when you’re feeling tired, getting up and moving your body can feel like the last thing you want to do. You don’t need to take part in killer workouts to experience these benefits. In fact, one study found that sedentary people with persistent, unexplained fatigue decreased their tiredness by around 65% just by regularly participating in low-intensity cycling. Other studies have suggested that going for a 10-minute walk when you feel tired is a superior “pick me up” compared to having a snack.
Lower Blood Pressure
Regular physical activity — such as 150 minutes a week, or about 30 minutes most days of the week — can lower your blood pressure if you have high blood pressure. It's important to be consistent because if you stop exercising, your blood pressure can rise again. If you have elevated blood pressure, exercise can help you avoid developing hypertension. If you already have hypertension, regular physical activity can bring your blood pressure down to safer levels. Strength training also can help reduce blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program.
Exercise can improve your cholesterol levels. Consistent, moderate physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the "good" cholesterol. You’ll notice that the ‘recommended’ physical activity for this and the other benefits does not involve intense workouts. Consistency is key. Do a little something every day. Do a little bit off and on during the day. Just keep moving.
Put Those Nudges In Your Life
How can we add those ‘exercise nudges’ to our environment? If we could observe the daily routines of the longest-lived people, we would see that our current surroundings (home, office, daily routines) are missing many of the nudges that gently push us toward movement. Here is a list of ideas of how to get a little more movement every day. That’s how they do it in the Blue Zones, a little here, a little there, and soon you are healthier and happier!
- Get away from your desk and going for a short walk on your lunch break.
- Park in a safe area, not by yourself, but don’t look for the closest parking space – look for one that makes you walk a little bit.
- Walk from one end of the mall to the other and back.
- Use the stairs when you can, even just one flight.
- Start a small garden and go out several times a week to check on your plants and soil.
- Walk for a few minutes every evening after dinner.
- When unloading groceries, make several trips to the car and ‘lift weights’ with the grocery bags while you are walking.
- Search the Internet or have a personal trainer show you how to use free weights to strengthen your muscles, joints and bones. Use canned food or small weights to get started.
- Find a park near your home and go there regularly. Stop and talk to the people you see there regularly. The social connections will encourage you to stay consistent.
- When you need to (or want to) move to a new home (job change, better schools, family situation) consider buying or renting where you can walk more. Consider living near places that encourage you to walk (grocery store, restaurants, a park, etc.) even if it means buying a little less square feet of living space.
- Improve your social life by exercising with a group or asking a friend or two to join you. The accountability can help you stay consistent.
- Make it easy to move by adding to or improving your exercise clothes and equipment – new shoes, shoes and clothes for different types of weather, the right gloves and headwear, LED lights for being outside when it’s still dark.
The Take Away About Moving Naturally
Slowly begin to change your environment and routine to encourage you to move. Walk, stretch, move your arms and legs, bend over (properly). Move naturally several times every day. Start today. Continue tomorrow. And the next day and the next…