Ask yourself, did you end 2013 fitter, faster and stronger than you started the year? If not, then the next several tips should be on your to-do list for 2014. It is a political year, so let's put it in political terms. Ask not what your body can do for you, ask what you can do for your body. How can I become healthier and fitter, faster and stronger? Here are the answers.
Breathe: Learn to meditate. Being in the moment is good for your mind and your body. Meditation lowers cortisol and makes you more resilient to stress. It heightens awareness and improves performance.
Flex: Lift weights. Weight-bearing exercises are key to maintaining bone density, especially for post-menopausal women. You don't have to become a crossfit buff to get into weightlifting, but organized coaching for fitness definitely helps diminish injuries and build strength. Your bones will thank you.
Sweat: Get your heart rate up and blood flowing. Sweat once a day (thanks, Lululemon), and preferably in the morning. Post-exercise endorphins calm the mind and help produce a wonderful and productive day.
Sprint: Make your body go fast every now and then. Sprinting is one of the most efficient ways to stay fit and keeps muscle tone. It also gets you huffing and puffing, which is a good change from long, steady endurance activities. Challenge your body and make it move in new ways. Can't sprint? Fine, just move faster and faster in some medium such as a pool or a bike. Think about accelerating your body to counter the deceleration of aging.
Fuel: Eat for health. Eat local foods. Go for a diet of lean protein, vegetables, grains. Avoid the common evils (processed foods and sugar).
Drink: Drink lots of water, one glass each hour. Hydration improves your brain, skin, athletic performance, joints and metabolism. Water decreases calorie intake by diminishing your portion size (because it fills you up). Think about washing your hands to clean off the dirt — wash your insides regularly.
Dose: Instead of multivitamins, self-medicate with smart foods like nuts and proteins. You absorb the nutrients better and in more balanced quantities when they come from whole foods instead of concentrated pills. They're also much more enjoyable to ingest.
Snack: Snack on protein. Animal- and plant-based proteins are the best way to satiate a pang of hunger or cure a hypoglycemic slump. Reach for a hard-boiled egg, bean salad or a chicken breast instead of a carbohydrate bomb like a muffin.
Stretch: Contort yourself somehow. Go to yoga or Pilates or just make some space in your bedroom. It's not always comfortable and you probably won't feel like it's something you're good at, but stretching will keep you from growing old and stiff. The point of stretching is not just to loosen the tissues and joints but also to take the time to focus and concentrate on the body that carries you around all day. Pay attention and negative physical surprises will diminish.
Repair: Have injuries repaired. Replace and repair missing meniscus, ligaments, tendons and cartilage. Don't just live with injuries and arthritis.
Smile: Be really, really nice to everyone. Smile and the world will smile back. Whether you are a passive or aggressive person, use friendliness as your handshake. It works, try it.
Learn: Pick up something new, every day. Pick up a new skill and then pass it on. Learn a fun fact and share it. Stay curious and engaged.
Help: Give back. Do a good deed every day. Make somebody's day. It's good for the world and it feels great. Giving boosts oxytocin, enhances empathy and helps you be the person you deserve to be. At the end of 2014 you will be feeling younger than today if treat yourself to the best your body has to offer.
Dr. Kevin R. Stone is an orthopedic surgeon at The Stone Clinic and chairman of the Stone Research Foundation in San Francisco. He pioneers advanced orthopedic surgical and rehabilitation techniques to repair, regenerate and replace damaged cartilage and ligaments. For more info, visit www.stoneclinic.com.