Jumpstart Your Health With Smart Diet And Exercise
Column by Jeanne Ruff
I remember the first mile I ever ran. I said to myself, I don’t ever want to feel this bad ever again. And so it began, my 30-year dedication to exercise.
Exercise is a part of my life — my family, my culture, my passion, my career. After that first mile, I challenged myself with every run; each time, I went a little farther, a little faster. I liked the camaraderie of running with others and, of course, the shoes and the attire.
Going to a running event with friends was an adventure, a weekend getaway where we shared our successes, challenges and always-unique experiences. It was the physical change — the calming sense, overall well-being, energy, transformation and sense of accomplishment that instilled in me the importance of physical activity. I loved the physiology and science behind exercise, which is now validated by research as a treatment for several conditions that coexist with other conditions, otherwise known as comorbidities.
This passion for running became the foundation of my career; I believed I had to set the example for my patients — patients with cardiac, pulmonary or vascular disease — as they recuperated from a heart attack or surgery and were learning to live with the disease. This role further motivated me.
I may not be the best at any one sport, but I respect them all — running, racquetball, cycling, group aerobics, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and waterskiing. I eventually found barre classes and, of course, Pilates.
As my career evolved into more sitting, listening and computer work, and away from direct patient care, I decided I didn’t want to be the person with “the sitting disease.” I discovered years of running had taken its toll on my hip flexors, gait and feet, and I began to feel stiffness, hamstring issues, even a little belly.
I learned that building core strength counterbalances the effects of being sedentary and evokes overall strength and flexibility. One session on a Pilates reformer will change you forever and humble you. This testimony is not only from me but from a few of the physicians I work with who have also endured the reformer. I believe Pilates/core training and a regular aerobic exercise program — three to five days per week — is the key to maintaining your health and an active lifestyle.
As we get older, we need to eat less as our metabolism slows down, our body composition changes and we lose muscle mass, which is needed to burn calories. Here are some ways to jumpstart your metabolism:
• Interval training: slow run, skip, fast walk, fast run, slow run, repeat
• Eat vegetables and fresh fruits, complex grains and lean sources of protein
• Drink alcohol in moderation/no binge drinking
• Avoid sugar
You feel better when you move, eat right and maintain a healthy weight. This “feeling better” is all about positive energy and a positive attitude. I was blessed with great parents who instilled in me my sense of self-responsibility, accountability and independence to take care of myself, as they did. This foundation led to a successful career, solid family unit with sisters and brothers and, of course, my health.
It’s a new year and I challenge you to “go a little farther.” You may be amazed by what you can accomplish.
YOU’VE GOT THIS! — PRMC provides several services and opportunities to improve your health, including adult-fitness and group-exercise classes, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, cancer rehabilitation, and heart and vascular screenings. To learn more, visit peninsula.org/heart.
About the author: Jeanne Ruff is the Executive Director of the Guerrieri Heart & Vascular Institute at Peninsula Regional Medical Center.