Believe it or not, it is our lifestyle that mostly affects how healthy we are. Studies have shown that our lifestyles makes up 53% of our health, while genetics and body make up only 16%! So what does this mean? Basically we are responsible for our health and we have control over how healthy we are. We can no longer blame other people or family members for our health status. The rest of the story is that our environment makes up 21% and medical care determines 10%.
Worldwide there is tremendous interest in living happier, healthier lifestyles. Wellness products and services are among the fastest growing economic areas. People are fascinated with spas and magazines that promote living a more simple and healthy lifestyle. The popularity of classes in yoga, Pilates, Tai-Chi, and related methods are at an all time high. Restaurant menus offer healthier, lower-carb, lower -fat and vegetarian options.
At the same time, as our interest in wellness is growing, the cost of healthcare in the US is spiraling out of sight. Managed care momentarily reduced healthcare cost for employees by restricting access to healthcare and did nothing to increase wellness. The 2004-2005 surveys of CEOs of America Fortune 500 Companies revealed that the number one threat to company profitability is healthcare costs. As healthcare get more expensive for companies and individuals, the awareness of being responsible for our health is growing too. If over half of what determines our health is lifestyle choices, then implementing effective ways to changing lifestyle is paramount.
So what can we do to keep ourselves healthy? Please don’t tell me I need to diet and exercise! Another way of saying it is we need to find ways to NOURISH ourselves and MOVE or bodies in ways that make us happy. A few pointers:
MOVE NATURALLY – Make your home, community and workplace present you with natural ways to move. Focus on activities you love like gardening, walking and playing with your family. Try out new programs at the Y – dance, ballet, spin, yoga – there are so many things to try.
RIGHT OUTLOOK – Know and be able to articulate your sense of purpose and ensure your day is punctuated with periods of calm. Can you find 5-10 minutes to reflect or meditate during the day? Maybe just being aware of your breathing will give you that calm you need each day.
EAT WISELY – Instead of going from fad diet to fad diet, use time-honored strategies for eating 20% less at meals. Avoid processed food and remember to drink water instead of soda. Try to eat real food – fruits, vegetables, protein, grains. Remember – if your grandmother would not recognize that food, it is best to not eat it.
BELONG TO THE RIGHT TRIBE – Surround yourself with the right people, make the effort to connect or reconnect with your faith and put loved ones first. Connectedness is key to happiness. Make new friends while you join new activities at the Y or in the community.
These may all sound too simple, but the payoff is huge. The average American could live up to 14 more good years by putting these habits to work.
Debra Duxbury, M.S.
Certified Wellness Coach