Improve your health. Stay fit and strong. Prolong your life. Though these goals might seem hard to reach, they're not impossible. But how do you set about rejuvenating and maintaining your health? Follow three principles: Eat well, love better and move more.
These principles demonstrated their worth in the Eat Well, Love Better, Move More (ELM) research study of patients with metabolic syndrome, a collection of risk factors that can lead to diabetes and heart disease, conducted by the Rush University Prevention Center. The lessons learned in this and other research studies are what shape the programs at the center.
"The way our center works is that we combine the best in research and integrate that with the best in clinical care," says Jennifer Ventrelle, RD, CPT, director of lifestyle programs at the center. "We are integrating what we have discovered during the ELM research study into some of our clinical programs."
The ELM discoveries can assist individuals who are looking to live a healthier lifestyle by helping them to follow some simple, basic principles.
Take preventive action
The principles of healthy eating are simple. However, they are not always easy to put into practice. "You may know you need to change your diet, but if you don't make space and time in your life to do that, then it is difficult to translate into action," Ventrelle says.
To find the space and time for eating well, start by asking yourself what matters most in your life and setting priorities. For example, would you rather spend your time shuttling your kids to multiple activities or talking to them as you together prepare, eat and clean up after a family meal?
The first choice often involves zipping through the drive-through and consuming an oversized, high-calorie meal. The latter means creating a daily schedule that prioritizes time to plan and cook healthful meals, and to sit down at the table to eat and savor those meals together.
Sitting down to relaxing meals also gives your family a chance to talk and reconnect. Each of these activities helps to relieve stress, and connecting with loved ones also puts into play the ELM philosophy of loving better, which means adding more positive emotion into your life.
Along with having intimate, supportive conversations with each other over dinner, the team encourages people to make their daily lives more friendly by smiling at others, opening doors and giving compliments.
Keeping an optimistic outlook and volunteering have been shown to contribute to better health. Helping others is also a powerful way to increase the love in your life.
"In the case of ELM, a positive attitude helped participants stick to the program," says Bradley Appelhans, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the center.
Enhancing the positive is an idea that can also be applied to "moving more." In fact, Ventrelle thinks so positively about exercise that she says the ELM team calls it play. The emphasis is not on spending hours in the gym, but having fun — dancing, playing sports with your children or taking walks.
"Even if you don't have a specific hour set aside for exercise, you can increase the amount of movement in your day," says Rasa Kazlauskaite, MD, acting medical director of the Rush University Prevention Center.
She recommends wearing a pedometer every day. It keeps you aware of how much exercise you are getting from daily activities.
"That way, if you come home from shopping and don't have the recommended 10,000 steps on your pedometer, you could go for a stroll before you enter the house," Kazlauskaite says.
Kazlauskaite also emphasizes that whatever you do to stay active or eat healthily, "Don't make it a constraint; make it fun." For example, if you need to exercise, think back to what you liked to do as a kid — maybe playing Frisbee — and incorporate that into your exercise plan. This aspect of fun is what helps you to successfully maintain good habits. "You want to change your environment so healthy habits become the norm, not a form of restriction," she says.
Prevention in practice
Sometimes you need a hand in achieving the healthy lifestyle you want. That's why the Rush University Prevention Center provides programs, such as the following, to help people incorporate healthy habits into their lives:
- An eight-week lifestyle program focused on nutrition, physical activity and stress management
- Metabolic testing
- Individual and group medical nutrition therapy
- Individual and group personal training sessions
- Healthy cooking classes
- Smoking cessation
While many of the center's patients are already dealing with obesity, diabetes or heart disease, anyone can take advantage of the programs.
"You don't have to wait until a disease makes you miserable," Kazlauskaite says. "Engaging in preventive measures is about making yourself strong now."
To find out more about the Rush University Prevention Center, call (888) 352-RUSH (7874).
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