The human body is remarkably resilient. Your body can withstand a great deal of abuse. It bounces back to fight off many infections, repair strains and sprains, and heal broken bones. You may drive hundreds of miles in a day, fly across multiple time zones, and travel to other countries and other continents. Your body manages it all, keeping you healthy and on track. And then one day it doesn't.
What goes wrong? You might say, "Why did this [high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, herniated spinal disc] happen to me? I eat right. I exercise. I get enough sleep. Why me?"
The immediate response would be "Really? Do you really?" Are you actually engaging in healthy lifestyles that are right for you? Or are you "paying lip service" to these behaviors, going through the motions and not paying attention to what is really needed and necessary?
In the mid-1980s the author of a best-selling book on running suddenly died of a heart attack after a daily run. His death was national news and remains a cautionary tale of the need for a well-rounded exercise program. Running every day does not provide total fitness. Neither does lifting weights every day. Neither does daily yoga nor daily Pilates classes. Healthful exercise programs encompass a range of activities. Total health requires total fitness.1
Healthy eating calls for the same balanced approach. Too much of anything will usually lead to problems down the road. Excess carbohydrates cause problems with serum glucose and exhaust supplies of insulin, ultimately resulting in diabetes and overweight/obesity. Excess meat or excess dairy will likely result in high blood cholesterol levels, possibly leading to arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
In addition to 30 minutes per day of vigorous exercise (which can be satisfied, in part, by 30 minutes of daily walking), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends five daily servings of fresh fruit and vegetables.2,3 It is remarkable how few people actually do these things. The result is that the prevalence of overweight/obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure continue to rise.
It's best not to have to play catch-up. The day of reckoning may never arrive if we begin, right here and right now, to take consistent, daily, healthy actions on our own behalf.
1Andersen LL, et al: Effectiveness of small daily amounts of progressive resistance training for frequent neck/shoulder pain: Randomised controlled trial.Paini 2010 December 20 [Epub ahead of print]
2Scarborough P, et al: Modelling the impact of a healthy diet on cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality. J Epidemiol Community Health 2010 December 15 [Epub ahead of print]
3Toledo E, et al: Hypothesis-oriented food patterns and incidence of hypertension: 6-year follow-up of the SUN prospective cohort. Public Health Nutr 13(3):338-349, 2010