By Dr. Tyler Cooper
Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese and a shocking one-third of our children are. The sad fact: this leads directly to diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many kinds of cancer. The reason for this obesity epidemic is simple: Americans are eating more and more of the wrong kinds of foods and exercising less and less. As a result, we’re not just lessening the quantity of our years; we’re lessening the quality of our years; we’re winding up prematurely in wheelchairs or in nursing homes or just unable to participate fully in activities.
Our culture encourages this. We drive more and walk less. Huge portion sizes have become the norm, and instead of taking responsibility for our health, we succumb to quick-fix fast foods laden with fat, sugar and salt. In short, our sedentary lifestyles and deficient diets are slowly killing us.
Now for the good news
At Cooper Aerobics, our focus is prevention—and it has been for the last 45 years. My father, Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, known as the ‘father of aerobics’ introduced this concept of preventive medicine in 1970 and we continue to be an international authority to inspire health and wellness now and into the future.
As fitness increases, the percentage of health problems goes down and the quality of your life goes up—way up. By making simple adjustments to your life, you can increase your life span and live a happier, more fulfilling life.
For example, by exercising just 30 minutes a day, you can increase your longevity up to six years and decrease your risk of all-cause mortality by 58 percent!
Our research shows some significant quality of life benefits. By becoming more fit, you’ll also have less likelihood of depression. You’ll delay by at least seven years the age at which you develop even minimal disability. You’ll lower your risk of excessive bone loss, and have 25 percent less musculoskeletal pain. What’s more, you’ll increase your wealth assets by nearly $12,000 on average if you’re a woman who reduces her BMI by just 10 points––$13,000 if you’re a man. Exercise and a healthy diet can even slow age-related mental decline.
So the question is
If simple changes can make dramatic differences in one’s health, why aren’t more people fit? Why are we seeing so much obesity and disease?
I believe the main reason is that most people don’t truly understand the correlation between fitness and the quality of life. They don’t understand that it’s not just about dying young––it’s about not being able to fully participate in life while you’re still alive.
Another key reason people don’t stick with a fitness regimen is that they have an all or nothing attitude, so they get discouraged and quit when they don’t see quick results.
Small adjustments, big results
The fact is you don’t have to run a marathon or become a vegetarian to be successful. Instead, we recommend a gradual approach to getting fit. Set the bar low, do something you know you can achieve, and then build from there.
- Start by exercising 10 minutes twice a day then increasing your time gradually from there
- Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator
- Substitute fish for meat once a week
- Turn the TV off an hour earlier and get more sleep
- Satisfy your sweet tooth with a low fat yogurt with berries
- When you’re served an oversized portion in a restaurant, eat half and take the other half home with you
- Start taking quality supplements. While not replacements for a good diet and exercise, they can fill in any dietary gaps
- Be aware of mindless eating out of boredom or when you’re at a social event
- Hang out with friends who make you laugh! Close family and social circles are key contributors to happiness and good health
Get ready, get set, and get fit
By incorporating little changes like these into your life, you’ll start seeing big changes in your health. Don’t worry if you slip from time to time by overeating or skipping your morning workout. The important thing is that you get back on track. Remember, success breeds success so don’t get discouraged! It takes six or eight weeks to see a difference in your fitness level.
No matter how old you are, or how many times you’ve given up in the effort to get healthy—you can be successful and you can start today.