Physiologist Nick Flanagan outlines the steps you can take now to lessen your chances of life-threatening disease later in life.
Around Australia, the rate of chronic health conditions — heart disease, strike, obesity and diabetes, for example — is soaring higher than Floyd Mayweather’s bank account at the moment . . . and you don’t need to remind Nick Flanagan.
The exercise physiologist opened his first NJF Wellness Centre in 2009 and now has more than 200 clinics around Australia, managing people who suffer from these chronic ailments.
So how can you make sure you look more like Arnold Schwarzenegger than Danny Devito later in life, and protect yourself from chronic disease? You can safeguard yourself with basic lifestyle changes while you’re young.
Maintain a healthy weight
This might be right up there with ‘the grass is green’ and ‘the sky is blue’ in terms of obviousness, but it’s worth repeating: obesity increases the risk of chronic health problems. “The increase of people being overweight and/or obese has sky rocketed in the last 10 years,” Nick says. “The scary thing about all of this is the increase in obesity in children. Professionals are trying to help this epidemic by educating people on diet and exercise, and how simple changes can have dramatic affects.”
Stick to a healthy diet
You wouldn’t pump diesel into a Ferrari and you should treat your body with the same respect. “In order to keep your body functioning at its optimum, it’s vital that you make sure you’re consuming a healthy variety of nutritious foods while avoiding foods that are high in saturated fats, salt, and sugar,” Nick explains.
Train hard, not long
If you’re short on time, short bursts of high-intensity interval training are the best way of squeezing in a workout. “Exercise can be broken up into cardiovascular or resistance training,” he says. “Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. You can make it enjoyable and keep it in short bouts if you’re struggling with time.”
Get off the couch
That said, movement doesn’t have to be intense to improve the health of your body — “sitting is the new smoking”, as Nick points out. “Even if you have a desk job through the week, there are many things that you can be doing to get moving throughout the day — try to move every hour, make sure you go for a walk at lunchtime, take the stairs or the lift!”
With all this talk about the new smoking, don’t forget about good ol’ fashioned smoking. Everyone knows the risks, and even a few cigarettes a week can increase your risk of heart disease. “Reducing this or — even better — not smoking at all will help you towards a healthier later life.”
Cut back on alcohol
The occasional glass of red is good for your heart, but spending every Saturday getting rugby league drunk is no good for your body. “Excessive drinking puts a lot of pressure on your liver and kidneys, and can also cause an increase in weight,” Nick says.
But drink plenty of water
Schooners are still good for you . . . so long as they’re full of H20. “Now telling people to drink water is probably a pretty boring and obvious point to make, however findings suggest that 80% of Australians are dehydrated every single day so clearly we’re not listening to the advice,” says Nick, who recommends 10 cups a day. “When you’re dehydrated, not only does your heart and other organs have to work harder, but you may get mood swings, headaches, dizziness, bad breath, muscle cramps, dry skin and you may find it difficult to concentrate.”
Hear more from Nick at njfwellness.com.au