Health professionals, policy makers and individuals can potentially improve the chances of having a healthier life by addressing the complex interactions between genetics, development, and life events and lifestyles. The most recent data from the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement shows that almost 40% of Arkansas youth are overweight or obese; Arkansas ranks 6th in the nation for childhood obesity indicating years of future chronic disease if no changes are made. For 10 months out of the year, Clarendon’s Elementary School serves 273 Arkansas youth. Many students live in town, less than a mile from the school. However, train tracks cross the main roads to access the school and pedestrian crossing areas are very narrow. Due to these safety concerns, most parents do not let their students walk to school. The Department of Education reported that 100% of the students in the school qualify for free or reduced meals. With no recreation facilities in town, low- or no-cost ways to keep youth active are critical to the youth in this town.
In early October, 46 adults and students met at a central location instead of heading straight to school. The excitement was evident as police officers turned on their lights, the local newspaper snapped photos and Clarendon’s first Walk to School Day kicked off with a mayoral proclamation. Two students even rode home on brand new bikes that day. The event spurred a movement in the school and community. The Clarendon Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) coalition worked with the city to calm traffic along roads with paint crosswalks and speed bumps. Later that year, one coalition member stopped to talk to a railroad repairman at work. That same day, the shoulder was widened for youth to cross the railroad tracks safely. With these improvements, now all 2500 residents can walk and bike safely through the area.
So, what do we need to do to enhance the length and quality of our lives even more? Researchers worldwide are pursuing various ideas , but for Mattison and colleagues, the answer is a simple change in diet. They believe that the key to a better old age may be to reduce the amount of food on our plates, via an approach called calorie restrictionâ€. This diet goes further than cutting back on fatty foods from time-to-time; it’s about making gradual and careful reductionsÂ in portionÂ size permanently. Since the early 1930s, a 30% reduction in the amount of food consumed per day has been linked to longer, more active lives in worms, flies, rats, mice, and monkeys. Across the animal kingdom, in other words, calorie restriction has proven the best remedy for the ravages of life. And it’s possible that humans have just as much to gain.
Eat small meals. Choose several small meals over huge meals. This evens out your energy distribution. It’s also better for your stomach because it doesn’t over-stretch from digesting a huge volume of food at one go, which can lead to a hiatus hernia In general, eat when you feel hungry, and stop when you’re full (see tip #24). You don’t need to wait until official meal times before you start eating. Listen to your body and what it tells you.
8 Engage in some resistance exercise Resistance exercise helps to maintain muscle mass and strengthens the body. This has particular relevance as we age, as it reduces the risk of disability and falls. Many highly useful exercises can be done at home, such as press-ups, sit-ups and squats. Invest in a Dyna-Band or dumbbells to extend your home routine to other exercises, too.