Just about everyone understands the simple benefits of maintaining good health as we progress through our middle ages. Good health = longer life. It’s that simple. Isn’t it? Isn’t it enough to extoll the virtues of a longer life? Who doesn’t want more time, that most precious of commodities? Time with wives and husbands, children and grandchildren, family and friends: it sounds so good that no one could reasonably ignore the importance of good health, right?
Yet, many of us procrastinate. It seems that the appeal of a longer life is enough to get us to recognize the importance of good health intellectually, but often not quite enough to catalyze action. Or at least, not as much action as we intend. Longer life is all fine and good, but would we be more motivated by living better? Exercise and a healthy diet not only extend our time on this earth, but drastically improve that time. Healthy habits today translate into greater balance, mobility, and cognitive ability going into our twilight years. If you asked around the geriatric ward if the occupants wished they had paid more attention to their health after forty, the answer is unlikely to be “Nah.”
So what let’s examine some of the less talked about benefits of good health.
Our body defines our life more than we realize when we are young. How easy is it to ignore severe or persistent pain? How different are our days if we have barely any energy? How many ordinary, everyday tasks do we take for granted until we can’t perform them due to the limitations of an unwell body? It’s natural to assume that our body will do tomorrow as it did today. It won’t. By the time we reach the age of forty, it takes proactive effort to counteract the natural decline of our abilities due to the passage of time. For those of us who aren’t professional athletes, this may not seem like a big deal. Maybe you have accepted that your snowboarding days are behind you. But we all know someone who struggles to function due to chronic pain, whose mobility is limited, or has difficulty carrying certain weights. It’s a warmer vision of the future to think that we will keep up with our colleagues and grand kids. It’s easy to discount the pleasure of being pain-free, functional, and able to close our eyes in a nice hot shower without the worry of falling. Good health not only extends our lives, but it also improves our lives!
Our brain is the most critical part of our body, and cognitive health is every bit as important as physical health. Luckily, the two go hand-in-hand! It is well-known by professional chess players, poker players, athletes and scholars that physical activity increases cognitive function. Diet has comparable effects, both short-term and long-term. A healthy lifestyle is an excellent way to keep our minds sharp!
Finally, let’s consider the impact of how we form habits.
“The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken” ~ Samuel Johnson.
Every day that we say to ourselves, “I’ll change my habits next week,” we are reinforcing the belief that it’s not essential today. By doing so, we cultivate the habit of procrastination- and the force of habit is a brutal creditor. On the other hand, if we can develop the practice of saying to ourselves, “I just need to do a little better with my health today than yesterday,” we establish a pattern of success and improvement. This trait becomes invaluable when life’s challenges hit us hard.
The next time you ponder your health and what to do about it, you may have more to think about than just a longer life. Hopefully, you will be more aware of the habits you are reinforcing. Ideally, you will evaluate the quality of your life, and the benefits of better balance, mobility, cognitive ability, and functionality across the board.
An easy step towards being proactive about your health is to order an online blood test. It’s a sensible starting point for determining your approach to improving your overall health. Visit the Mens Health page to identify health conditions such as high cholesterol, kidney disease, and prostate trouble, or browse the site for any number of more specific blood tests. Know what’s what, and where to focus your efforts!
Get after it!