America is known as a country of very hard workers — truth is, we actually work too hard.
The problem is that the workaholic attitude keeps many people constantly sleep- and rest-deprived. There's no time to exercise or take better care of ourselves because everyone is playing catch-up. Meanwhile, we're working ourselves to death. We scoff at Europeans who take six weeks off, but their longevity and overall fulfillment is profoundly higher than ours.
Research shows that cardio exercise has the same effect as a number of anti-depressants. An additional Harvard study showed that people who burn the most calories on a weekly basis had lower all-cause mortality than their more sedentary counterparts.
The jury is in: Exercise is your cheapest, easiest and most accessible means to staying healthy. It's also a great anti-depressant and an anti-anxiety cure. The key is that you need at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise on a daily basis.
According to Michael Brazeal, an exercise physiologist and fitness director at the California Health and Longevity Institute in Westlake Village, Calif., the only two reasons not to exercise are sickness and death. It's a matter of making time and setting priorities.
Nutrition counseling is more important today than ever, given that 65 percent of our country is obese. There is much misinformation about health because most of our data comes from TV commercials and the promotion of books and supplements that offer a quick fix. Unfortunately, there is none.
We are also an aging population, and if we take action now, most illness is preventable. Even if you feel great, you should get a deeper physical analysis. Blood sugar is a good indicator of how close you are to getting a chronic illness, according to Paulette Lambert, a registered dietitian, certified diabetic educator and nutrition director at the California Health and Longevity Institute.
Personal transformative moments come when we learn what we don't know about our bodies. Even those who exercise regularly and eat right may not be in the state of health they think they are. The willingness to change is a lot easier once you have the information you need. Just because the numbers on lab tests show that you are within the range of normal doesn't mean that you are immune to hardening of the arteries or even diabetes.
I have personal experience in this area. It came as a shock to me that I might not be the picture of health I thought I was. Time to dust off the sneakers and get walking, for a start. And not ordering that great chocolate torte (with ice cream) will help get me back to where I need to be.
Just remember to be mindful of what you put in your mouth and how much you move. Your emotions and body will thank you.
Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a marriage and family therapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of "100 Ways to Boost Your Self-Confidence — Believe in Yourself and Others Will Too." He also hosts "Emotional Fitness "on NPR. E-mail him at Barton(at)BartonGoldsmith.com. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.