Women always ask me "What's the best thing I can do to be healthy?" Or "What's the secret? Is there a magic pill, supplement or food from a faraway land that will instantly make me healthy? Maybe a recently discovered way of exercising?" Hmmm….. sound familiar?
We're all looking for the newest, latest and easiest ways to get healthy. We want to wave a magic wand and presto-chango be healthy overnight. Could there be a hidden, simple solution? If you guessed no, then guess again!
Better health can be simple. Living healthier is attainable and is a lot easier than most people think. How is this possible? Well, we have to start by changing the way we think about getting healthy. Because many of us assume it will be too hard and too overwhelming, we give up before we even get started. Changing the way we think is the key. Instead of focusing on what you hate doing, turn it upside down and find what you like – and will look forward to doing.
I have a patient, Claire* who adamantly refused to ever go to a gym. She felt judged and thought she didn't fit in there. She wasn't able to walk around her block without feeling winded. Then she realized that she loved the Rose Garden in San Jose and wanted to see the flowers every day. So she found a buddy to go with her, and started slowly with a goal that she could manage. At first it was only going a 1/4 of the way around and then turning back. She walked slowly, but over time, she was able to build up to longer and longer walks. Now, Claire walks around the Rose Garden several times every day, and is able to easily walk 2-3 miles without feeling exhausted. Claire told me that she feels better and has more energy than ever before and that it surprised her how she could improve her health at her own pace.
Claire's success is one reason why the Healthy Habits Project for women that just launched through El Camino Hospital is so brilliant. This project focuses on a few proven principles:
- Find an activity you like
- Set small, achievable goals
- Buddy up with a friend
- Make the activity part of your regular routine
It's that simple. Really. We know from years and years of research that regular activity is one of the keys to better health. You may enjoy walking with a friend, cycling or hiking in the hills. Perhaps it's a trip to the gym, or a class. Maybe you prefer swimming or yoga? It really doesn't matter what you do. What matters is that you find something you like and then do it regularly.
I know from my own experience and from my patients that getting started is the hardest part. But once they do start, most women can't imagine not exercising and staying active. Last year, Claire had trouble climbing a single flight of stairs. Now she's planning a hiking trip in the Sierras. She started off slowly, walked at least six days each week, and now there's no stopping her!
Disclosure: I am working with El Camino Hospital to help promote the Healthy Habits Project to our community. I'm working on committing to my own Healthy Habits and hope you will too.
* Not her real name
This article first appeared in the May 2014 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.