A wise man once said, “If you don’t take care of your body…where else are you going to live?” No, it wasn’t some comedian trying to get a laugh. It was Robert Pirello, and wiser words have never been spoken. He knows from personal experience as a man who has been to the pinnacle of fitness (running multiple marathons). He then faced severe osteoporosis with his body literally crumbling beneath him. And now, through years of research and diligence, he has regained his efficiently functioning body and once again lives in a healthy (and happy) body.
Here is my version of why this quote is so profound. Working with tens of thousands of people in my 28-year physical therapy practice, I have seen it all (well almost, someone always surprises me). My patients have included world class athletes to a 102-year-old woman, severe accident victims with multiple severe injuries and people with strokes, heart attacks, headaches, TMJ, joint replacements and everyday neck and back pain, just to mention a few.
I’ve seen people who take care of their bodies be able to do amazing things, and not just the pro athletes. I’ve had 80- and 90-year-olds playing tennis, too. I also had a 92-year-old man who completed his rehab and went back to brick laying as a hobby because he could do it “better and faster than the young guys!” He also said, “And you wouldn’t believe what they will pay me!” Anyway, the point is that if you take care of your body, it will take care of you. We are not supposed to be tired and sore and getting sick all of the time. We should feel healthy, energetic, and vital every day. We should be actively enjoying life, traveling, dancing, hiking, playing sports, gardening, playing with the kids and grandkids (and great-grandkids). We should not be held back by feeling sick or being in pain. Each day you miss, you can never get back. Life is too short to miss even one day, especially from a self-inflicted cause.
Everyone has difficulties to overcome, but if you live thoughtfully, not blindly, you can overcome them. There are many diabetics playing professional sports. And have you ever seen the ParaOlympics? All it takes is a positive attitude, some body awareness, and a spirit of perseverance so you can “live where you want to live.” It’s a way of life that you can choose for the long haul by decisions you make. Things you do or don’t do everyday…day in, day out (not a fad diet or fad exercise or fad supplement or fad pharmaceutical) will determine where you live. You must realize that you – and only you – are in control of your life and ultimate happiness. Life throws different things at all of us but it’s up to us how we deal with them.
I know that there are no guarantees in life and some of the cynics will say even if I eat right and exercise, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. I may not be able to guarantee that eating well and exercising will add years to your life (it most likely will if you can manage to dodge the buses) but I can 100% guarantee it will add LIFE to your years!
So are you ready? No, really are you ready? Ready to commit to a healthy lifestyle and live the life you deserve, right now?! Here is an outline of things you will need to do:
1. Take responsibility for your health and happiness. Don’t give it to your doctor (or P.T) or anyone else…remember, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me!”
2. Get regular physical check ups so you know how you’re doing and can catch potential problems early and make the changes as necessary. Health is a continuum, not an either/or proposition.
3. Commit to studying and learning how the body works and what makes you feel good, healthy and alive. You don’t need to be a doctor or P.T., but you need to know what to do with the information we give you.
4. Read. But choose carefully. Look for credentials with more scientific backing. Look for authors who live the experience and authors that don’t have an agenda other than to give you quality information.
5. Make food the centerpiece of your good health because you ARE what you eat. I know it’s become cliche΄ but it is so very true. It’s the one thing we do over and over daily that has the biggest impact on how we feel moment by moment. So commit to carefully selecting the food you eat (mostly plant foods) and paying attention to the way it’s prepared. Eat whole foods, not processed food like substances. You will feel the healthy energy provided with every bite.
6. Make exercise a daily routine. Move it or lose it! 3 times per week workouts are great, but it’s just as important to be active daily. Take a walk, take the stairs, walk the dog, ride a bike, park farther away instead of closer.
7. Learn stress management techniques. Meditation, yoga, and tai chi are great. But it could also be dancing, singing, or gardening. Find out what works for you and do it.
8. Get enough rest. Sleep is your body’s recuperation time. You can’t skimp and then try to make it up later. You may not need a full eight hours. For most it’s between 6-8 hrs( 7 seems to be optimal). You will know. If you can get up without an alarm, you’ve gotten enough sleep.
We must take daily small steps to avoid major self-inflicted illness, ensure the longevity we seek and also enjoy the smallest of pleasures moment by moment. If you are serious and commit to making daily healthy choices, you will have a lifetime of good health and learn to choose happiness. You only go around once in life, there are no “do-overs.” This is no joke. You only get one body and you are the only one who can fully take care of it. Because if you don’t…then, “Where else are you going to live?”
Ken Dill, a nationally ranked tennis player and high school coach, is a physical therapist specializing in manual therapy, low back pain and sports orthopedics. Ken has taught as an adjunct professor at UD and authored, “Tennis Elbow…A Closer Look,” “The Healthy Back School” and “Clinical Applications of Water Therapy.” Contact Ken at Kenneth.firstname.lastname@example.org.