Do you recall the 1991 movie called City Slickers? It was another great role for Billy Crystal, but it was Jack Palance as Curly who offered the most memorable quote when he explained to the “city slickers” the secret to life. He said, “One thing. Just One thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean #@#@.” You don’t have to read the last word, but you do need to know that, alas, Curly was wrong. Curly, the secret to a healthy life is TWO things. I’ll explain.
We are deluged by advertisements that offer what we need for a great workout at home or the diet guaranteed to take off the weight, but the irony is that each of these alone is not enough to avoid cardiovascular disease and other life-threatening conditions. It’s the synergy of both of these lifestyle habits that can assure the positive outcome we really are seeking. And there is solid science to back up this dual focus that delivers better health.
Researchers in the U.K. collected data from 350,000 people whose median age at the study start was 57 years and who had not been diagnosed with any cardiac issues or cancer or even chronic pain. Participants were administered rather lengthy questionnaires over time in order to gauge both the quality and quantity of their food intake as well as their regular exercise regimens. For this latter, they even distinguished “moderate” from “vigorous” exercise, and the latter had measurably better health outcomes.
Healthy diets were quantified by more fruits and vegetables daily…at least four to five cups of these per day. Healthy diet also included two or more helpings of fish each week, but also fewer than two servings of processed food and no more than five servings of red meat per week. The researchers didn’t track desserts or soft drinks.
Participants who scored better on both the dietary and workout measures also had much better health outcomes over time than those with worse scores. On the fitness measure, more vigorous exercise yielded even better outcomes, and this could be as little as 10 to 75 minutes of more strenuous exercise each week. It proved to be worth the sweat. But the exercise didn’t offer a better health outcome without the diet to complement it.
Looking for a reward…besides better health? You can treat yourself after a particularly vigorous workout…just make sure you keep to the rest of the health menu on the other half of this fitness ledger. You’ll get a bonus, because as my husband often remarks, “Endorphins are your best friends!”
Charlotte Bishop is a Caregiver Coach, an Aging Life Care Advisor, a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia