Of all the claims and counter claims surrounding health and fitness, the number one fitness myth is that healthy diets and lifelong exercise guarantee that we can live long and healthy lives. So says Dr. Anthony Goodman, who received his BA from Harvard and MD from Cornell. He teaches “The Myths of Nutrition and Fitness,” a course offered by The Great Courses, which I am currently taking.
Dr. Goodman also teaches the Lifelong Health: Achieving Optimum Well-Being at Any Age course which I took earlier this year and posted several useful items to the blog at the time. One of them is Sleep Habits Affect Weight Loss Results. Besides his professional credentials, he is also a lifelong athlete who surfs and rides a bicycle at the age of 71. In college, he competed in and won international rowing contests.
He offers the example of Winston Churchill who lived a long and productive life while smoking, drinking and being largely sedentary. In his later years he was obese by any measurement. Nonetheless, he lived to the ripe old age of 90 and enjoyed mental clarity all his life.
We have to face the fact that in our quest for longevity there are many factors beyond our control, such as genetic predispositions.
In the current course Dr. Goodman makes the point that nothing can guarantee a long and healthy life, but when it comes to increasing our odds of attaining this desirable goal, nothing beats the combination of a well-balanced diet of fresh whole foods and lifelong vigorous body movement.
I would like to add one of my favorite quotes from Damon Runyon here. “The race doesn’t always go to the swiftest, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s how you bet.”
“There are hundreds of combinations of whole foods and countless ways to move your body that will all pay enormous benefits,” Dr. Goodman says.
Because each of us is different, he says that we all need to learn to pay attention to our bodies and listen to the signals we get from them. This will better prepare us to create ways of eating and moving that work for us. Also ways that we can modify our diets and exercise as circumstances change which they will as we age.
Dr. Goodman says that while there is a lot that science can teach us about fuel and fitness programs but we must never forget the importance of listening to our own bodies.
He makes a great point in comparing humans to animals. While animals all have specialties only humans can generalize. We can sprint as well as run long distances, and swim above the water and below it. We should learn to enjoy and savor our versatility. At the same time we should avoid abusing our bodies with excesses in terms of diet or exercise.