Coincidence is a correlation, a market trend, a contextualized perception- it means something… Maybe it means something to you religiously or spiritually. Regardless, I’m sure many of you at some point have experienced a sense of meaning from a coincidence.
I’ve been noticing a trend recently. Perhaps a lot of people in St. Charles County have as well…
A renewed attention on the heart is just what we need in February, American Heart Month. Sure, most of the recent coincidences can be chalked up to conversations during this national observance, but perhaps not all of them… Either way, a great benefit of these observances is the tailwind to health.
Recently, Jay Bouwmeester of the St. Louis Blues recently had a cardiovascular episode. A man in excellent physical condition (a professional hockey player!) is mid game, and his heart just stops…
Recently, someone very close to me had a cardiovascular scare.
Recent figures from the American Heart Association have projected that nearly 45% of the US population will have some form of cardiovascular disorder (CVD)
Recently, the Wall Street Journal published an article, Heart Disease Strikes Back Across the U.S., Even in Healthy Places, pointing to how heart disease is “wreaking havoc” across counties that are typically considered young and healthy. Even in these areas with plenty of parks, outdoor activities, and access to healthy food options there is a tendency for residents to get wrapped up in sedentary lifestyles, poor eating/drinking habits, and stress- which all have a reciprocal effect on each other and can often lead to complications for the most important organ, the heart (Brain enthusiasts, come at me!).
To me, both the federal government AND the universe are yelling at me in harmony:
“Take 👏 Care 👏 Of 👏Your 👏HEART!”
To heed their not-so-gentle suggestion, it just takes a small, realistic change. So, I want to share my perspective on how impactful small behavioral changes can really be.
If the predictors of CVD (sedentary lifestyles, poor nutrition, stress) act “reciprocally”, then we use that to our advantage. Now, I still have a long way to go in my pursuit of the good, healthy life– but an approach that has worked well for me was to make one simple, realistic change to just one of those things. I figured out areas where I could squeeze in a small amount of time reserved for exercise into my already overwhelming schedule- juggling my responsibilities as an engaged dad, a full-time professional, and a college student.
Just 20 minutes after work each day was what it took- I dedicated that time to pushing myself to exhaustion. ‘Pushing yourself’ can mean many things, but your body does this cool thing of telling you your limits. Your muscles feel tight, you sweat, and get fatigued during the workout- and you get Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) afterwards, which is typically a good indicator of progress. To accomplish this, I found creative ways to occupy my toddler and (often) even include him; I like to think this also impressed on him the importance and the fun(!) of being in good health.
With those 20 minutes a day, 3-5 days a week:
- I reduced my stress: I felt absolutely invigorated from the resulting release of endorphins and other happy hormones. It also felt great to make a positive change and stick to it. This positive energy fed itself and the other predictors of good health. This created a desire to continue.
- Helped my eating/drinking habits: I wanted to improve the productivity of the time to get more of the good vibes and sense of physical accomplishment. So, I started eating healthier lunches that I knew would give me more energy (This required some quick research because I never concerned myself with healthy eating). And I wasn’t eating SUPER healthy- The lesson of all of this (to me) is that realistic and incremental changes build on themselves.
- I extended the duration of exercise: I gradually got more savvy with squeezing in the time for exercising and found simple ways to increase it. When you have an authentic desire to do something, you’ll find a way to get there.
Some people can just turn something in their head “on”, and they start rigorous fitness/nutrition programs and stick to it. Not me, I had to hack my brain and teach it about how enjoyable health really is, and how it doesn’t necessarily have to involve the immediate sacrifice of all leisure and all fatty foods. Outside of the initial drive to get into a habit- I would be lying if I said it was hard (it isn’t), and I’ve since expanded my scope and made more and more enhancements to this routine over time.
All I needed to start was a boost of motivation to create a sustainable habit. The boost came from certain personal events that all lined up in nicely into a theme- I couldn’t ignore it. They meant something profoundly important to me- so, I decided to try just 20 minutes a day. I’m so glad I did. The fitness community is an incredibly welcoming place, everyone just wants to see each other succeed in their goals. I am lucky enough to work with this community now.
Its probably just a ‘coincidence’, but I started making serious strides as a professional and as a student right around the time I began exercising consistently.
So, at the end of American Heart Month, I would like to remind any readers- that if/when you observe the discussions, events, or any coincidences that call out to you- make a simple plan for a small lifestyle change.
Project Coordinator, Community Strong
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.
Image by InspiredImages