August is national wellness month. We have heard that word “wellness” for a while now but what actually does it mean? According to the American Medical Dictionary, one definition states, wellness is “the condition of good physical and mental health, especially when actively maintained by proper diet, exercise, and avoidance of risky behavior.”

All of us were born with a certain genetic make-up.  Some of those genes can work against us, but there are certain things we can do or change to empower us to live a healthier, happier, and more active life. My goal is to live to be 100 years old so I plan to follow these wellness tips.

Keep physically active

This is probably the single most important thing a person can do to age successfully.  I look out in the gym or pool every day and see many 80 plus year olds exercising. This really makes me smile.  

Physical fitness allows you to perform daily activities easier. Try to work in some aerobic, strength training, flexibility, and balance exercises at least three days a week. Look for ways to make your daily life more active. It is not too late to add some exercise to your life. Find something that you enjoy — you will likely stick to it. Exercise with a friend. Being accountable to someone is a real step towards getting it into your routine.

Don’t make it about the pounds you want to lose — it might be building up your stamina to be able to lift your grandchildren or keep up with them. Maybe you want to sleep better which is a benefit of exercising. Don’t forget to reward yourself. It is good to pat yourself on the back or indulge in a favorite treat.

Eat well

Your mom was right when she said to eat your fruits and veggies. Keep your diet low in fats and sugars and rich in whole grains. Watch your portion sizes and enjoy your meals while not eating too fast. Moderation is the key. Also include drinking plenty of water and avoid too much caffeine.

Eliminate bad habits

By quitting smoking, you can return to better health and reduce your risk of heart and lung diseases. Excessive alcohol consumption can harm almost every organ and system in your body so avoid this bad habit. It is never too late to clean up your act.

Exercise your mind

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who participate in activities that involve physical, mental, and social stimulation benefit in memory and reasoning abilities. Learn a new language or musical instrument, join a book club, or start a new hobby. Hold off on retirement and continue to work as long as you can and want.

Watch your attitude

Being positive is contagious and can make all the difference in your day. Worrying and stressing out can sap your energy and get-up-and-go. Having a smile on your face and staying focused on the important things in your life can help you cope with anything that is thrown at you.

Stay connected

Maintaining a strong social network of family and friends is vital as you age. Grow friendships by volunteering or joining new clubs or groups. Stay connected with longtime friends by phone calls, emails, or “set” dates.

Keep up on check-ups and screenings

To make sure you keep your health in check, don’t forget your annual check-up. Your doctor will recommend some medical screenings that can be very important for you to stay in good health.

So plan to practice the seven tips to healthy wellness to live longer, maybe even 100. I found a quote by the late George Burns, who lived to be the ripe old age of 100, that I like, “You can’t help getting older, but you can help getting old.” You have the power to make your life better and longer so start today.

Julie Kirk is a fitness instructor at Great River Health Fitness. Her column appears in Living Well the second Tuesday of each month.


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