Small Steps to Positive Lifestyle Choices
It’s a big challenge to change lifestyle habits after 30 or 40 years. It’s a sad truth that as we age, many of the chronic diseases we live with are a result of our lifestyle choices. But we can prevent or manage many of these chronic ‘lifestyle diseases’ by starting to make small changes toward a healthier lifestyle.
Chronic diseases affected by lifestyle choices include Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, problems with blood vessels that lead to stroke, arthritis, some cancers, Alzheimer Disease, and osteoporosis. Physical activity, healthy eating, and some simple changes in our lifestyle can play a big role in preventing or managing these diseases. Isn’t that worth a try?
There are lots of ideas below to start you thinking. Pick just one and try it. Ask yourself if it is something you could do with just a little effort. If it is too big a change, it may be hard to stick with it.
Start with small, simple changes. Build these changes into your daily routine. If it doesn’t work out, try something else from the list. After you have had success with one idea for a week or so, add another one from the list. If you start small and keep on going, your success will be a pleasant surprise.
Think about what you are adding to your lifestyle, instead of what you are losing. You are adding years to your life and life to your years. You are keeping your independence and good health.
Ideas for adding more physical activity to your lifestyle:
- Make physical activity a part of your daily routine.
- Start by doing more of what you are already doing.
- Walk whenever you can.
- Treat your feet. Get a good pair of shoes for walking.
- Start with short, 10-minute activity sessions. They all add up.
- Over time, build up to a total of at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week.
Ideas for adding more healthy eating to your lifestyle:
- If you like sweets, cut down bit by bit. This is easier than trying to cut them out completely right away.
- Eat whole grain bread instead of white bread.
- Drink water more often. Keep a glass of water with you when you are sitting down.
- Add just one more fruit or vegetable to your diet.
- Avoid large portions and second servings.
- Enjoy a variety of foods from each food group.
- Choose lower-fat dairy products and lean meats, fish, and poultry.
- Limit foods high in fat such as fried foods, chips, and pastries.
- Prepare foods with little or no fat, and reduce salt.
- Limit processed foods.
(These tips are from Active Aging Canada’s resource, Your Personal Passport to Healthy Living.)
Can someone with osteoarthritis have a healthy active lifestyle?
Arthritis is one of the most common chronic health problems in Canada. There are many different forms of arthritis. It can affect the joints, ligaments, bones, and other parts of the musculoskeletal system. About 4 million Canadians have some form of arthritis, with numbers expected to double by 2020.
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms. With osteoarthritis, the shock-absorbing, smooth, gel-like cartilage between the bone joints gets worn down. This causes the bones to rub against one another. It can result in pain, inflammation, and physical disability.
Osteoarthritis is one of the major reasons why seniors limit their physical activity. It often affects:
- the end and middle joints of the fingers
- the joint at the base of the thumb
- the joints at the base of the big toe
- the neck or cervical spine.
What causes osteoarthritis?
There are several causes of osteoarthritis and several factors that can work in combination: These include:
- having osteoarthritis in the family
- excess weight that puts increased stress on joints
- an earlier joint injury
- wear and tear
- complications and inflammation from other types of arthritis or other diseases
- defects in the joint structure.
Is there a cure?
There is no known cure for osteoarthritis. However, there is a wide range of medications aimed at relieving pain, preserving joint function, and limiting the progress of the disease
Osteoarthritis can also be helped by:
- applying heat or cold to painful joints
- losing excess weight
- viscosupplementation — a series of injections into the knee joints with hyaluronic acid
- surgery to repair, replace, remove, or realign severely damaged joints
- physical activity.
How does physical activity help?
When done properly, gentle movements of your affected joints can actually help to decrease osteoarthritis symptoms. Plus, being active makes you feel better overall. If you have osteoarthritis, it is even more important that you make a commitment to increasing your overall level of physical activity.
The secret is to recognize that you have a big role in the design, implementation and management of your exercise program. Get involved in the process by working with health care professionals on a plan tailored to your needs and abilities. Only you know your likes, dislikes, and motivation level.
When you feel empowered by your choices, physical activity can help you fight osteoarthritis.
About the Authors
Taryn-Lise Taylor, MSc, M.D., CCFP, Dip. Sport Med, Medical Director Carleton Sport Medicine Clinic.
Catherine E. Casey, Ph.D., is a member of the Department of Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba
E. Todd Taylor PT MPT FCAMPT – Registered Physiotherapist, Clinic Director for ptHeatlh
Albert W. Taylor, Ph.D., D. Sc., is a Professor Emeritus with the Faculty of Health Sciences at The University of Western Ontario.