Sharrol Jose talks to Dr. Jacqueline Michael, a lifestyle consultant about enjoying a vibrant and healthy lifestyle

Dr. Jacqueline Michael is a doctor and lifestyle medicine consultant, a Diplomate of the International Board of Lifestyle Medicine (IBLM) and Member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. We discuss with Dr Jacqueline on how to live a vibrant and healthy life. As God’s children each one of us are called to live an abundant life. A life full of vitality, a life which is giving and that has the capacity to give, a life which is nurturing and that has the capacity to nurture.

Are we living vibrant and healthy lives in today’s world?

Most of us aren’t. We are able to add years to life as witnessed by longer lifespans thanks to the advancement of science and disease modifying drugs. But we haven’t been able to add life to years. What I mean is, though many of us are living longer, these added years are neither healthy nor vibrant and often plagued with disease and disability. On the other hand, we also have the phenomenon ofyounger and younger people, yes, those in their 20s even, suffer from lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease etc. A large proportion of these diseases are preventable, and it is a shame that not much is being done toward that end.

Does sport or physical activity have a role to play in preventing disease and in leading a vibrant life?

Most definitely yes and very important too. You see, the human body in its minutely crafted awesomeness was adapted over hundreds and thousands of years for a life lived in the wild, one with nature. Movement of the body came in all shapes and forms – crouching, leaping, squatting, running, hopping, swimming, climbing, heaving, reaching, lifting, pulling and pushing. And every possible movement that the human body can make was designed to enable and enhance our existence.

It is just over the last 100 years or so, especially with the advent of formalised classroom-based education, that young humans were forced to adapt to a new normal where sitting became the foremost ‘activity.’ Recent studies show that excessive sitting can be as dangerous as smoking as a risk factor for disease. So, to answer your question once again, physical activity in all its forms, including sports is essential for health and longevity.

Are you saying that we are doomed by our desk based jobs as most of our ‘jobs’ are desk based jobs?

Doomed would be too strong a word to use. There are several things which we can do to mitigate the risks posed by too much sitting. The most important thing is to understand that sitting for too long is indeed quite detrimental to health. Especially in the same position for more than an hour. Every one hour of sitting we need to stand up, stretch a bit and perhaps take a short walk. It could even be just to the coffee room, or the restroom or the water cooler. Break up that sitting with movement. Another effective method is to stand at your desk instead of sitting all the time. In some companies people do use stand-up desks. Even standing for blocks of five minutes helps. Also, try and incorporate some exercise during lunch break. Add a 10 minute power walk during your lunch break along with friends. That way you can get the office gossip done as well!

Now, if your desk job also involves using a screen then you might also want to incorporate some eye care. Just remember the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes take your eyes off the screen and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This will help relax your eyes. Setting a pop up reminder will help you remember to do this.

How else can we incorporate physical activity into our lives?

Our home is a great place to start. Instead of getting a gym subscription, fire the cleaner. Jokes aside, sweeping, swabbing and dusting can be a great work out too. If you don’t trust me try getting the soap scum off bathroom tiles and glass! Do it as a family and get young ones to help as well. Plant a vegetable garden. It will give you regular physical activity as well as fresh food. Sit on the floor as often as you can and pull yourself up, squat every once in a while, jump and even skip!

Most girls stop sport once they finish high school. Boys and girls alike should be encouraged to pursue some kind of sport throughout life. Sports, dance, theatre, are great enjoyable forms of physical activity. Walking, cycling etc are again great and easy ways for fitness. Our modern life is full of conveniences and machines to make life easier. Try doing things the harder way. Use public transport. Taking the bus or the train greatly increases the number of steps we take each day.

So there is hope?

Yes, there is hope. If we want it enough we can make big changes to our lives by adding small amounts of activity throughout our day and all these small amounts do add up. Going to the gym or doing a prescribed workout is good, but moving well throughout the day is even better because you are more likely to make it a habit. Every little thing we do adds up for a life brimming with vitality and health. Above all keep your outlook positive.

Sharrol Jose has been actively involved with Jesus Youth movement since her college days and is currently the formation coordinator in Chennai. She lives with her husband and three children in Chennai, India and is part of the Kairos Global Editorial Council