When I was very young my knees were pretty messed up. So I was either excused from physical education or given alternative (stupid) activities to do. I gradually improved and even took up running a bit in college. Then in graduate school I started playing racquetball and lifting some weights.
When I was 39 I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, an immune disease in which the immune system goes into overdrive and the body begins to attack itself. The most obvious point of attack is the sinovial fluid in the joints, which swell and hurt. Eventually this causes disfiguring joint damage. The other major symptom is overwhelming fatigue.
For several years I basically could not exercise at all.
So I spent the next five years getting on top of the disease. That meant finding the right combination of medicines, exercise, and food. It meant watching my weight. Yoga. Meditation.
It meant spending time everyday paying attention to my health.
And now I’m 53 years old. I have friends young and old with weight problems, diabetes, heart conditions, high blood pressure, and all kinds of ailments that tend to compound with age. I have none of these problems.
It’s very strange to get older and realize that I sometimes feel like I’m just waiting for some ailment to hit me. Yes, I still have R.A., but it’s so well managed that I don’t really worry about it. I easily describe myself as “healthy.”
I have never done extreme exercise. No marathons or triathalons. No massive bulking muscles. But I can ride a bike a lot. And I can walk a lot. I got a second-story apartment intentionally so I have to climb stairs every day. I only do the little things.
But I do all the little things religiously.
One of my favorites quotes is from the business guru Tom Peters:
“The essence of sustainable competitive advantage is: 1) The obvious; 2) The little things; 3) The accumulation of little things over the years.”
The same is true with health. The key to sustainable health is the obvious, the little things, and the accumulation of little things over the years.
Not everyone can run a marathon, climb a mountain, or swim the ocean. But everyone can move a little more and eat a little less than they did yesterday.