The fundamentals of good health — sleep, movement, and eating — offer us a chance to extend kindness to ourselves, and nurture our bodies and minds. It’s about making choices that honor our physical and mental well-being, recognizing that these choices are personal and unique to each of us.
How the Fundamentals of Good Health Helped Me Improve
I don’t mean to brag, but I am as healthy as I have ever been – even healthier than my younger years. (And as Grant Cardone says, “If it’s true, it ain’t braggin’!” [Cardone]) In my early twenties, I drank too much, smoked too much, and dabbled in the occasional “recreational substances”. But hey, after all, it was the 70s! (As if that could excuse such unhealthy behavior).
Even after I gave up the smoking, drinking, etc., my habits were not that healthy. I exercised some – on the day of my first anniversary of quitting smoking, I ran a mile – but I wasn’t consistent. My diet was anything but healthy – lots of fast food and greasy lunches. And getting enough sleep was not even a consideration, what with work, raising a family, and taking care of a huge house and yard.
Perhaps it was the fact that I was getting older, or maybe I simply learned over time about the need to take care of my body. But it was finding out about the so-called fundamentals of good health – getting adequate sleep, eating a healthy diet, and moving consistently (what we typically call “exercise”) – that eventually put me on the path to the good health I enjoy today.
Why Focus on the Fundamentals of Good Health?
What got me thinking about the importance of the fundamentals of good health is an article I read from AARP called “7 Super Secrets of the Super Agers”. [Harrar]
What are “super agers”? According to the article, these are folks in their 80s and older who have the mental capabilities of people twenty to thirty years younger. Researchers are studying some of these individuals to try to determine the reasons for their extraordinary abilities. They are mainly concerned with their remarkable memories and mental acumen, but we can imagine that their physical capabilities are influenced as well. And while genetics likely plays a role, scientists are studying other factors that cause the super agers to stand out.
And of course, some of the “secrets” are directly related to our fundamentals. These are the seven super secrets: [Harrar]
- Super agers control their blood sugar and blood pressure. (Eating.)
- Super agers don’t exercise more, but they push themselves physically. (Moving.)
- Super agers avoid stress and prioritize mental health. (Moving helps here, as does sleeping.)
- Super agers protect their vision and hearing.
- Super agers prioritize sleep. (Sleeping)
- Super agers do more than Wordle.
- Super agers talk to their friends — a lot.
While you and I may not aspire to be “super agers” (again, genetics are definitely involved), we can strive to be “outstanding” and “first-rate” agers. We can use the seven super secrets to improve our own lives and lifestyles.
We start by focusing on the fundamentals of good health. And because the quickest way to improve is often by stopping something we know is not helping, we can start by stopping. Then, we can start small as we put our ideas into action.
Focus on the Fundamentals
Of course, how you approach your fundamentals is unique to you, but what they are is the same for all of us. We could name these the Universal fundamentals of good health. They are, again, sleeping, moving, and eating.
We put sleep at the top of the list because it is the foundation upon which the other two fundamentals stand. Without adequate sleep, it’s difficult to focus on the other two. Sleep is essential if we want to flourish and to live a life of well-being, meaning, and purpose.
Check here for some ideas on how to sleep better.
The second of our Excelerated Fundamentals™ is movement. It is the next universal fundamental. Think of “movement” as activity, not “exercise”, because how you choose to be active makes a difference. A person can exercise and still be sedentary. Working out in the morning and then sitting at your desk the rest of the day doesn’t cover the fundamental need for movement. It’s important to move your body – not only during a daily workout or a 30-minute-three-times-a-week routine – but during the rest of your day as well.
Here are some ideas for adding movement to your daily routine.
The last fundamental is eating. Food is fuel. I’m sure we’ve all heard the admonition “Eat to live, don’t live to eat.” What are you fueling your wonderful body with?
It’s never too late to begin making small changes in the way you eat as you move to a healthier diet. You begin by taking one small step to improve. Then take the next step and the next. You will soon be eating healthier and feeling it in the amount of energy you have and the well-being you feel.
Start with one of the changes listed here.
Often, the fastest way to make improvements in the fundamentals of good health is to stop doing something you know is harmful to your health. We have the “biggies”: smoking, recreational drugs, drinking too much. But other habits can be nearly as bad for you; things such as sitting in front of the TV for hours, looking at your phone or other devices right before going to bed, or not having a bedtime routine.
So, what do you need to stop doing? Look at the fundamentals of eating, moving, and sleeping.
- What’s the #1 thing you need to stop doing to improve your sleep?
- What’s the #1 thing you need to stop doing to improve your movement?
- What’s the #1 thing you need to stop doing to improve your eating?
Also, you may have other fundamentals that you want to focus on. Perhaps you want to improve your work life, your home life, your financial health, or your relationships. If that’s the case, pick one small thing you could stop doing to improve in your selected area.
Remember, small improvements lead to massive changes. At this stage, consistency is more important than trying to do a 180-degree turn-around. Small and easy are the keys to making a lasting improvement. So start tiny. Consider the story of how Stephen Guise discovered the power of mini habits as he relates in Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results. Stephen wanted to begin an exercise program but he just could not make himself start. He decided to begin by doing 1 push-up. He could do more if he wanted but he would be finished after one. This allowed him to get past the inertia and get started. Soon, using the concept of mini-habits, he was doing a 30-minute workout
Keep this process in mind as you look for ways to improve in your fundamentals. For example, if you are used to staying up till midnight don’t decide to go to bed at 8:00 PM. Aim to go to bed 15 minutes earlier. Add 15 minutes every four or five days till you reach your target bedtime, which allows you at least 7 hours of sleep.
If you’ve been a couch potato, don’t try to get up off the sofa and run a mile. Start with a short walk, maybe 10 minutes. Do this every day for three or four days. Then add five minutes. Continue adding a few more minutes every three days or so. Keep going until you are walking about 30 minutes per day.
If you want to stop drinking soft drinks (a great idea, by the way), don’t try to quit cold turkey. If you drink a liter per day (and I have some friends who have done this), cut back a few ounces, say from three to 2 and 1/2 cans of soda. This cuts your intake from 36 ounces to 30. Every couple of days, cut out a few more ounces until you can stop altogether.
This gives you an idea of how to begin. Start your self-care program by focusing on the fundamentals and taking tiny steps.
You can read articles like this one, and I’m glad you are. But reading is only the first step. To see improvement, you have to actually do the work, whatever that may be. You can’t pay someone else to improve your life. You can get suggestions, ideas, tips, and techniques, but in the end, you have to put them into practice. But you have to do the work. You have to do your own pushups.
Here are some ideas to help you get started.
To be at your best, you need seven hours of sleep, minimum. Eight is better. Here are some ideas to consider to help you improve on this foundational practice.
- Go to bed and get up at roughly the same time each day – even on weekends. Decide when you want to get up and count backward from there. Realize that eight hours in bed is not the same as sleeping eight hours. If you want to get eight hours of sleep, you need to be in bed for at least nine hours.
- Keep the room dark.
- Keep the room cool – between 60 and 68 degrees F.
- Limit your exposure to blue light in the evening. Blue light comes from electronics – computers, cell phones, TVs. Turn them off at least 1 hour before you go to bed.
- Limit caffeine to the mornings and early afternoon – none after about 2 PM.
It is better to add small amounts of movement throughout the day than to add 30 or 60 minutes once per day and remain sedentary the rest of the time. Remember, start small. You can add more activity as you develop the habit of movement. Look for ways to tie a new habit to an existing one and let the old habit trigger the new movement. Remember, the key here is to move all day long.
- Instead of sitting during meetings, hold stand-up meetings where everyone stands.
- Use part of your lunch break to take a quick walk outdoors.
- Add one or two short walks to your daily routine.
- Park farther away from the store and walk.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
- Use a standing desk.
- Stand up when you talk on the phone.
- Do a little extra housework or yard work.
- Add tiny habits to your routine to introduce more movement during the day.
- Take the longest route to the restroom or cafeteria.
Here are some suggestions to help you eat a healthier diet.
- If it doesn t need a label, eat as much as you want. If it requires a label, eat as little as possible.
- Start your day with the largest meal and progressively decrease your meal size as the day goes on.
- Stop eating before you are completely full. It takes your brain about 20 minutes to catch up to your stomach to know when you are full.
- Don’t eat anything with more than 5 ingredients or with ingredients you can’t pronounce.
- Do the majority of your grocery shopping around the perimeter of the store — this is where the fresh fruits and vegetables and fresh meats are found. Avoid the snack food and soda aisles. If you don’t bring it home, you won’t be tempted to have it.
- Increase proteins and decrease carbs and sugars. You don’t have to go on a no-carb diet, but be sure that you have sufficient protein and complex carbs (fruits & vegetables) and fewer simple carbs (bread, chips, pasta) which quickly turn to sugar in the body.
- Add raw foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts) to your diet. Put simply, foods that are cooked are dead and foods that are raw are alive. The more live food we eat the more alive we feel.
- Give your body healthy fats and oils. These include extra virgin olive oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, grape seed, and almond oil.
- Fiber not only fills you up but it has naturally occurring phytonutrients that help fight inflammation. Fiber helps to clean out the intestines for a healthier digestive system. To avoid bloating and discomfort, increase fiber intake slowly, aiming for 30 to 38 grams a day for men and 21 to 25 grams a day for women (21 grams a day if you are over 51).
Put Ideas Into Action
Now let’s see about putting ideas into action.
- Make a small improvement in one of the foundational practices. Perhaps get an extra 30 – 60 minutes of sleep. Or replace sugary snacks and desserts with a piece of fruit that is in season. Maybe take a 10-minute walk during your lunch break.
- Begin the practice you selected in step 1. Observe how this affects your performance in the other two areas.
- Measure your progress using your journal, or calendar, or a checklist.
- Do you see improvements from your practice? If so, continue and increase over time. If not, select a new practice to try.
- Gradually add other improvements by repeating steps 1 – 4.
Excelerating Towards a Healthier You
As I look back on my journey toward better health, I’ve realized that the fundamental aspects of good health are not merely checklists or rigid rules. They’re an invitation — a vibrant call — to align our lifestyles with vitality, well-being, and a profound sense of purpose. Looking back at my younger days, I’ve come to understand that my transformation wasn’t an overnight leap but a series of consistent, conscious steps.
Each core practice — sleep, movement, and eating — offers us a chance to extend kindness to ourselves, nurturing our bodies and minds. It’s about making choices that honor our physical and mental well-being, recognizing that these choices are personal and unique to each of us.
The intriguing “super secrets” of the “super agers” unveil something captivating: living well isn’t merely a matter of genetics. It’s a mix of deliberate habits and a mindful approach to health. Regardless of age, we all can aim to embody our version of “super agers.”
Navigating this journey calls for acknowledging that it’s not about an entire life overhaul but rather about consistent, intentional adoption of small changes. The story of Stephen Guise’s mini habits is a testament to the power of starting small yet remaining unwavering. These incremental shifts create ripples that culminate in transformation, allowing us to progressively embrace a healthier lifestyle.
Pause for a moment and ponder your own path toward these fundamental elements of good health. What’s the minor step you can take today to nurture your sleep, elevate your movement, or enhance your eating habits? Remember, it’s in these small, deliberate actions that the story of your well-being unfolds.
Here’s to moving forward on our journey toward vibrant health and a life that’s not just about longevity, but one that’s imbued with vigor, joy, and a profound sense of purpose — one stride, one habit, one choice at a time. That’s how you embrace your Excelerated Life™!
Which of your fundamentals needs some work?
What is one thing you want to stop doing? What’s one thing you want to start doing?
What’s your first small step?
Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
Excelerated Fundamentals™ — perfecting basic self-care practices — is one practice for creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being, and a life of meaning, purpose, and service.
Cardone, Grant. Be Obsessed or Be Average. New York: Penguin Random House LLC, 2016.
Harrar, Sari. “7 Super Secrets of the Super Agers.” AARP. AARP, November 10, 2023. Web. November 18, 2023.
This blog post includes research information and suggestions provided by ChatGPT, an AI language model developed by OpenAI. The content was generated with AI assistance and is intended to provide information and guidance. Please note that the suggestions are not official statements from OpenAI. To learn more about ChatGPT and its capabilities, you can visit the OpenAI website. https://openai.com/