Five years ago, when I was getting close to turning forty-five, I was beginning to think that a life of pain was what I could expect as I aged. I would not have told you that I was healthier than ever; in fact, I probably would have told you that I was pretty discouraged about my health situation.
I have always been extremely active. I played every sport offered to girls when I was in school, and played backyard sports with the boys. I rode my bike, delivered papers, cut grass and just pretty much stayed moving most of the time. As I got older, I chose occupations that kept me moving as well. During my late teens I delivered pizzas and later on worked at a coffee shop. Eventually I started working in the construction field which kept me on my feet and walking A LOT. Then I settled into a job working in a factory that kept me in shape physically, just because it was so demanding. I am still working in that factory, but have been promoted into a position that requires me to sit…almost all of the time.
It has only been around five years that I have been in a position that requires me to sit all the time, but I have noticed the difference in how it makes me feel. Even before the promotion I noticed my joints hurting most of the time. After the promotion, I experienced severe sciatica pain for over a year at one time. After spending a year in pain, I decided I was going to have to do something, there was no way I wanted to live like that for the rest of my life.
I decided to try changing my diet. I already enjoyed mostly healthy food, but when my kids and step kids were young I had gotten into a pretty bad habit of eating the same foods as they liked. As you can imagine, that wasn’t the best habit to get into. I was also eating fast food more often than I liked. I started reading and studying about the Mediterranean diet and trying to put some of that into practice.
I also decided to go back to school to become a certified health coach. That was one of the most eye opening experiences of my life. I had already pretty much cut out all junk food, or at least I thought I had, and I learned so much about the foods that we eat and how important daily exercise is.
I also started going to a Zumba class around the same time I started my classes for health coaching. I was really nervous at first, no one ever accused me of being coordinated when it comes to dancing. I fell in love with Zumba. No one judges you or expects you to be able to do any more than you can. It is great exercise and so much fun that you don’t even realize you’re working out.
One of the best ways to stay in shape as you get older is just to stay active. The worst thing you can do as you get older is to just accept the fact that you’re getting older and not bother with taking care of yourself anymore. Find something you enjoy doing, and do it! My husband and I go hiking, take out our kayak or canoe, and look for new things to try all the time. It has to be fun or you won’t stick to it.
Laugh! If you can’t find something to laugh about, keep looking. There is nothing that makes you feel better, younger and just lifts you up more than a good laugh. The more you can laugh, the better. I have struggled in the past to find things to laugh about, because I try so hard to keep everything going. Take a break, look for the good around you and find something to laugh about! If you can find a fun place to laugh, like at the beach, that’s a double benefit.
I want you to know that you don’t have to give up all the things you love to be healthy. You may need to give up some, but not all of them. One of the best tips I can give you is to do everything in moderation. If you love sweets, have some, but choose wisely. If you love your wine, that’s ok too…just don’t overdo it. As we age, we find that we enjoy those moments with a glass of wine (or beer in my case), or maybe you don’t drink alcohol but like to have a piece of cake or pie as you wind down in the evening. Enjoy life, don’t deprive yourself of the things that bring you joy, but enjoy them wisely. We can age gracefully, and stay healthy as we age, too!