1. GET STARTED.
The most important part of wellness is getting started. Everything else will follow. Whenever you make a personal commitment to change an existing habit to a preferred one, there’s a certain amount of self-satisfaction that comes with it. You feel better about yourself, what you’re doing, how you look, and it’s very gratifying. You’re going to feel better about yourself and build on it. But you have to start. That’s the hardest thing. You can’t say, “I’m going to start tomorrow.” No, no, no. Let’s get it going today.
— John Schael, the retiring director of athletics and former wrestling coach
2. GET MOVING.
The human body is made to move. Our health and longevity are likely to be compromised without sufficient movement across the lifespan. In pre-industrial times, movement was a side effect of hunting and gathering food. Today, it must be added to many of our lives to meet even basic needs for health. Make movement a daily priority. Select activities that fit into your daily life, help you gradually achieve higher levels of fitness and are fun. Commit yourself to doing activities such as cleaning the house, mowing the lawn and carrying the groceries, and by pursuing purposeful exercise like walking, running, lifting weights and swimming. All sorts of movement “count” in your pursuit of health and life!
— Susan S. Deusinger, PT, PhD, FAPTA, chair and professor of the Department of Physical Therapy and professor of neurology at the School of Medicine.
One of my favorite and super-easy relaxation exercises is the “Five-Minute Mental Marinade.” Here’s how it goes:
- Cross your hands over your heart, close your eyes and take five slow, deep breaths as if breathing into your heart.
- Think of five things that are right about your life or things you appreciate.
- Now think of someone you love, something you love to do or a beautiful scene, and dwell on that for a minute or two.
- Take five more deep breaths, slowly opening your eyes, and notice how good you feel.
— Kathryn (Tristan) Liszewski, research scientist in the Department of Medicine at the School of Medicine, wrote the book Anxiety Rescue: Simple Strategies to Stop Fear From Ruling Your Life under the pen name Kathryn Tristan.
4. GO PREVENTIVE.
People should remain within five kilos (eight to 10 pounds) of their weight in their early 20s — if the person isn’t obese at this age. There’s plenty of research that says if you gain even five kilos you increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and other things. The idea is to eat the right amount of calories so that you don’t gain weight and you don’t increase your waist’s circumference. More and more research is suggesting that the quality of diet is as important as caloric intake. A recently published study shows that monkeys that were doing 5 percent calorie restriction but were eating a very healthy Mediterranean diet experienced more or less the same beneficial effects as monkeys that were on a 30 percent calorie-restricted diet.
— Luigi Fontana, MD, PhD, research professor of medicine in the School of Medicine, is trained in both internal medicine and metabolism and studies how calorie restriction impacts aging.
5. EAT LIKE THE GREEKS.
Diets that mimic the Mediterranean one, with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, seem to provide the best nutritional and health balance. Focusing on more plant foods boosts nutrients, phytonutrients, satiety and enjoyment while controlling the amount of animal foods — specifically animal fats — in your diet. Current science seems to indicate that a focus on plant foods is the key to better overall health.
— Connie Diekman, RD, director of university nutrition, is the past president of the American Dietetic Association (ADA), now the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She has also appeared on The TODAY Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show to talk about nutrition.
6. BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE.
It never hurts to be an example for others to follow. By trying to lead a healthy lifestyle yourself, you become a model for your kids and for other people in your neighborhood to follow. People can also show an active interest in the health of their communities and of their states. Go to school board meetings to talk about the importance of physical education and the need for healthy choices in the school cafeteria. Contact your state or federal representatives about changes to your area that could help improve people’s health — farmers’ markets, safer parks, better bike paths, for example. These aren’t necessarily easy or natural things for many people to do, but it’s all part of building a movement to improve health. And every little bit helps.
— Graham A. Colditz, MD, DrPH, deputy director of the Institute for Public Health, chief of the Division of Public Health Sciences and the Niess-Gan Professor of Surgery in the School of Medicine, is an internationally recognized expert in cancer prevention.