This chapter is about keeping my mind and body healthy. The three basic needs to stay healthy are eating, sleeping, and exercising. It’s easy to simply name them, but there are many approaches to being healthy. I have written down a few ideals I have for each of these based on what I feel are best practices. The spirit or soul also needs to be healthy, but that is covered in the first four chapters of the book (Prayer, Study of the Faith, Teaching of Others, Service).
Ideal 6.1: I should eat 3 meals a day.
The body adapts to eating patterns. If the body doesn’t get food for a long stretch, it holds in more calories at the next meal. That means more weight gain. To prevent weight gain, I should eat 3 equally sized and evenly spaced meals every day. In a normal day, that’s roughly 1 meal every 4 hours. Each meal should be around 700 calories. A healthy snack between each meal is okay but no more than 100 calories. I should avoid sweets and junk food. I should try to eat real food whenever possible. Those bad foods are okay every once in a while, like during holidays, but I should try to stick to a good diet most of the year.
Ideal 6.2: I should eat one serving of fruits or vegetables with every meal.
The food groups most people omit in their meals are fruits and vegetables. Sometimes I’m not in the mood for a sweet fruit or a plain vegetable, but I should eat a serving of them anyway. This is a sacrifice, but it will help me live longer. The longer I live, the more I can serve God and others around me. All Catholics are called to sacrifice for God. Eating good foods that I don’t like is one of those sacrifices.
Ideal 6.3: I should get at least 8 hours of sleep every night.
Some days I have to stay up late getting my work done, but I should try every day to get to bed on time for a full night’s rest. It is easy to get caught up watching TV, playing video games or checking social networks. These are good ways to relax, but good sleep is more important. Getting a good sleep boosts my immune system and reduces stress. It also lengthens my lifetime. This maximizes my ability to do good work for God.
Ideal 6.4: I should give myself enough leisure time.
A saintly outlook is to want to give back all my free time to God. However, I need some amount of rest from work to recuperate. Otherwise, the quality of my work suffers. If I find that I never have any free time, it’s a sign I need to lighten up on some of my activities. That might mean doing a little less volunteer work or planning fewer activities with friends. I should realize what relaxes me and make sure I get enough of that each day to recharge myself for the next day.
Ideal 6.5: I should do 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week.
Doing aerobic exercise is one of the healthiest things I can do for my body. Everyone is always looking for a magic pill that will fix all their health problems. For most people, aerobic exercise is that magic pill. For people who don’t do any aerobic exercise as part of their job, doctors recommend 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. I can break that up however I want. Two easy combinations are five days of 30 minutes or three days of 50 minutes.
Aerobic exercise is exercise that gets my heart pumping for a sustained period of time. I should aim for a heart rate of 120 to 140 beats per minute. The cheapest and easiest aerobic exercises are walking, running, and swimming. Other options are aerobic classes and rowing. If I am using gym equipment, I should use the built-in heart rate checker to manage the intensity of the workout to reach the desired heart rate. If I am exercising outside, a chest strap that lets me monitor my heart rate as I exercise might be useful. I can also get a pretty good idea just by how hard I am breathing.
Ideal 6.6: I should lift weights 3 times per week.
Weightlifting is a form of anaerobic exercise. While aerobic exercise improves the heart and circulation, anaerobic exercise strengthens the muscles and bones. I should focus as much as possible on the exercises that I use in my daily life. For example, if I carry a lot of stuff, I should do exercises for my biceps. If I have to crouch down a lot for your work, I should do squat exercises. If I lift weights on the same day that I do my aerobic exercise, I should do fewer weight lift exercises. However, if I don’t do aerobic exercise that day, I should use the extra energy for more weightlifting.
A routine of 2 sets of 10 for each exercise is best for maintaining my current strength level while 3 sets of 10 is best for building muscle at a moderate rate. This means I should do 3 sets of 10 until I can handle a particular amount of weight, then reduce it to 2 sets of 10 for maintenance. I should plan some goals for target weight levels, so I can reach all my targets and maintain them.
I need to be careful not to become obsessed with how my body looks though. I need to give back to God using my body. I should gain enough strength to most effectively do my work and to look presentable. Anything more is called vanity, a waste of time.
Ideal 6.7: I should see the doctor at least once a year.
Using preventative medicine is the best way to stay healthy. This comes in two forms: vaccines and tests. Many diseases, such as Hepatitis B, have vaccines available that will prevent me from getting the disease. These diseases can be costly on top of the disruption it would cause in my life. It’s much better to get a cheap vaccine early and not have to worry about it ever again. Tests are a way to see if I am in the early stages of a serious disease. Most commonly this is cancer. The earlier the disease is caught the greater the life expectancy of the person. Some forms of cancer are very survivable if caught in the first 5 years but nearly impossible to treat after that early stage.
I should ask my doctor about the recommended preventative medicine for my current age and how it changes as I age. For example, the doctor might recommend a blood pressure test once a year and a vaccine I never received as a child. Whatever the doctor tells me, I should write it down on a calendar or somewhere else I regularly see to make sure I follow the recommendation. It’s very easy to forget about a test if it’s a few years down the road.
Ideal 6.8: I should see the dentist at least once a year.
Cavities can form on teeth at any time. The earlier a cavity is taken care of, the cheaper it will cost and the least painful it will be. Also, the teeth are living bone. They can move and form in unpredictable ways. While this movement slows down as I age, it still happens to some extent. A tooth might need to be moved with braces or pulled out, even at a later age. The dentist can diagnose these problems and treat them early.
Just like the doctor, I should follow all recommendations. I should blush and floss well at least once every day, more whenever I feel food stuck in my teeth. I should get any recommended medical procedures done as soon as possible. Dental work can usually be postponed for a short time, but no more than a few months. Of course, the dentists like to see me every 6 months, but generally every 12 months is fine if I am keeping up with brushing and flossing. Any time and money saved can be donated.
Ideal 6.9: I should see the eye doctor at least once every 5 years.
I should get a regular eye exam to update my prescription. The eyes are constantly changing as I age, usually for the worse. I need the right prescription for safe driving and better work. However, new prescriptions usually also require new frames which costs money. I shouldn’t just go as many times as my insurance will cover. I should actively pay attention to my vision and get a new prescription only when I need it. An updated prescription every 5 years is usually good enough. Most likely there is small vision loss every year, but it’s usually not bad enough that I need to get new glasses that soon. However, I should always go to the eye doctor right away if I notice any sudden changes in my vision.