7 Strategies for Your Future Self
Stephen Covey, a distinguished businessman, author, and educator, gave us this advice: “Begin with the end in mind.” He recommends taking time to think about how you want the future to look. Working backwards from that vision you can more easily see the necessary steps to get there. It is a great tool that can be used in many situations.
Let’s take a few minutes to think about how it applies to our health. 25 years from now, how old will you be? And just how healthy do you want to be at that age? Do you hope to be well and active, strong, fit and enjoying life? How do you imagine your flexibility, energy, joint pain, and memory? Does the future look bright? And are you on the right track to get there?
Many researchers have proven that the health decisions we make now, and over the next 25 years, can impact our future wellbeing. If you plan to have a healthy future, here are seven steps you should start taking now to help reach your goal. Even small steps can make a big difference over time.
- Exercise for your heart:
Heart attacks and strokes will definitely get in the way of your future health goals. To help prevent them, research shows that the best thing you can do is move in a way that increases your pulse to your “target heart rate”. Exercise (like walking, skiing, dancing, rowing, biking etc.) is recommended at least 30 minutes, 5 times a week. This 150 minutes per week also benefits your weight and your mental health and reduces your chances of type 2 diabetes. Don’t skip this strategy!
- Weight lift for your bones:
If your long-term health plan includes being strong and moving easily, include some regular resistance training. You don’t need to become an Olympic weightlifter; you can achieve a lot with hand weights, resistance bands, and even using the resistance of your own body weight. Resistance training not only keeps your muscles strong, but it keeps your bones strong as well. Looking to avoid osteoporosis and broken bones? This is a great approach, and it also improves your mood.
- Make sleep a priority:
Researchers have identified a relationship between inadequate sleep and an early death. Most adults need at least 7 hours per night and getting an adequate amount will also improve your mental health.
- Nourish your body:
Making healthy food choices will almost certainly pay off, and in particular get those fruits and vegetables into your diet! Some researchers have found that eating at least 5 servings per day is associated with less chronic disease and a longer life, while others recommend up to 9 or 13. Always aim for at least three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit per day.
- Alcohol in moderation:
If you enjoy alcohol, be sure to keep it in moderation. Too much alcohol causes risks to your organs and increases your risk of cancer. While some researchers conclude that no amount of alcohol is safe, for those folks who want to continue to imbibe some interesting research from Japan now recommends “liver rest days” for heavy drinkers (skipping alcohol 2 or 3 days per week) as a strategy to help improve their lifespan.
- Stop smoking:
Smokers simply have more cardiovascular disease and cancer than non-smokers. Vaping has been promoted as a safer alternative, but in fact we don’t yet have good long-term data on the risks associated with it. See if you can become smoke-free.
- Manage your stress:
We now know that stress can have a big impact on your health. It can cause headaches, low mood, and sleep disturbances, and it can impact your cardiovascular health and create a compromised immune system. Use relaxation techniques (like deep breathing and meditation) and schedule fun breaks. Nurture healthy relationships with friends and family, because this has shown to impact both health and life span. If you need it, get professional help for a little while.
Are you already doing these things, or do you need to invest a little more effort in your future health? If you are off track, and it feels overwhelming, take just one area, and make some changes – when those changes become a habit, tackle another area. Anything you do will benefit your health, and your future self will thank you!
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