How Much Exercise You Need

A shrink told me that the current thinking corroborates that engaging in short periods of exercise throughout the week is definitely okay.

I’m 54–I’ve been lifting weights for over 8 years so far. I find that my older body cannot sustain my former madwoman intense 50 to 60 minute lifting sessions 2x per week anymore.

The health coach I employed vetted what I thought myself months ago: it’s time to exercise in more frequent sessions of shorter duration.

The spring issue of the NIH MedlinePlus magazine gives these exercise guidelines:

Adults and older adults: 2 to 5 hours per week.

Adults with chronic conditions or disabilities: 2 to 5 hours per week as able.

Pregnant women: 2 hours and 30 minutes per week as able.

Kids: 1 hour per day.

Young children: 3 hours per day.

I’m 8 years older than when I first started lifting weights.

I’ve learned firsthand that you need to adapt as you go along. To be flexible to changing when your needs change. To honor your limits in any given session and modify your approach for that day.

The benefits of exercise are numerous. To be blunt: You’ll feel better when you exercise.

My father died of Stage 3 colon cancer that spread to his liver.

He spent 3 hours a day watching FoxNews. Regardless of his choice of state news channel the fact is he was sitting around doing nothing all day when he was older.

Please–I urge you–step away from the TV and break a sweat.

It can be gardening, raking leaves, walking your dog, salsa dancing.

I will report back in 2 weeks the outcome in my life of exercising more frequently in shorter time sessions.

My goal is to give people hope that engaging in any form of moderate sustained physical activity is well worth the effort.

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Having 5 Commitments

Easily over five years ago I read a Leo Babauta book where he told readers to list their 5 Commitments in life.

This approach made great sense to me. In the spirit of talking about recovery I want to riff on choosing and committing to 5 areas.

Do this for the sake of your mental health and physical well-being first of all.

As I head into my fifties and go through changes at mid-life the benefit of having 5 Commitments resonates with me more than ever.

It’s called a routine: adopting healthy habits that you engage in every day or every week.

This isn’t to say that the focus of your life won’t ever change. As you get older, you’ll need to improvise as you go along.

I find myself at 53 engaging in a form of woodshedding, which I talked about in one of the first blog entries in this Flourish blog.

While isolating inside because you’re afraid to go out your front door isn’t healthy I say:

Enjoying your own company when you’re alone in your apartment or house is imperative.

As I’ve started journeying through mid-life I can vouch for the positive health benefit of needing more time for yourself to rest and engage in recreation.

You need to rest after going out socially or having a long, hard day at your job.

The key to maximum productivity in your personal life lies in the beauty of honoring your 5 Commitments.

My 5 Commitments are art, music, fashion, books and writing, and exercise.

Making time each week to do something involving these 5 things I love has been the way to feel healthy and be happy at mid-life.

What are your 5 Commitments?

In coming blog entries I will continue with the focus on careers.

Yet I will apply this wisdom to everyday life.

Living in recovery doesn’t have to be so hard. Even if you’re in pain that’s when doing the things you love can help you feel better.

That’s it exactly: focusing on the 5 Commitments that bring you joy.

 

Finding a Career You Love

About a year ago I read a scathing book titled Do What You Love and Other Lies.

The author excoriated this method of obtaining a job.

Her most famous analogy was that of individuals with PhDs who can’t get tenured positions at colleges and universities. They’re hired as adjunct professors making barely above the minimum wage. They’re forced to pay their own expenses to attend academic conferences.

We cannot ignore the reality that some jobs pay a dismal salary.

What is the remedy? Having a “side hustle”–a second source of income–is imperative when your primary job isn’t high-paying.

It’s better to have two jobs you love than one soul-sucking job.

The point is you should not hate your job as a matter of course. Continuing to show up to a job you hate you might be tempted to numb how you feel with food, street drugs or alcohol, or expensive vacations you can’t afford.

How might you figure out the kind of job or jobs that earn you a livable salary that you’re inherently happy to go to?

I created a method to do this which is predicated on promoting The Business of You.

The first step when you’re collecting SSI or SSDI or attending school is to create what I call an Action Grid: doing work in a variety of fields first. You can get experience in one field for three to five months then move on to another field for three to five months.

Here’s how:

Getting an internship or doing volunteer work in one field and then getting an internship or doing volunteer work in a second field and then a third field can help you narrow down the job or career you want to work at first.

Conducting an information interview with a person working at a job you’re considering doing is also a method for ruling out or verifying what you want to do.

This isn’t an interview for a job. You’re asking the person for advice on what they like and dislike about their job, what skills, traits, and experiences they have that benefit them on the job, and other salient questions.

Armed with this information you’ll get a clearer sense of the path you might like to go down.

People who collect SSI or SSDI are in the perfect position to do these things while unemployed.

Taking these action steps can help you determine what career is the right fit for you right now.

I recommend doing more than one internship while you’re searching for a full-time job. I helped a woman with a career search who listed 3 internships on her resume to account for what she was doing while unemployed.

Eighty-five percent of hiring managers think volunteer work is impressive according to one study. Doing volunteer work linked to a future job or doing an internship can set you apart from scores of job candidates without this kind of experience on a resume.

I’ll end here with this positive advice:

It’s not ever too late in life to get a job you love.

It wasn’t until I was 35 years old that I found my ideal career.

I worked with a guy who had collected a disability check. When he turned 55 he said: “This is it. No more. I want to get a job.” He was able to obtain a job as a peer advocate.

In coming blog entries I’m going to talk about promoting The Business of You, which is a visionary method of finding the job you love that can pay a livable salary.

How to Eat Healthier – Part Three

One of the scariest true facts is that chemicals thought to cause cancer are often found in food and drink products in the U.S.

Not all chemicals in food and drink products are regulated. Most aren’t.

Awhile back I had no energy to get out of bed on most days. Without resorting to taking an anti-depressant (I wasn’t depressed just fatigued) I was willing to try any non-chemical method of regaining my vigor.

My primary care doctor had told me that emotional distress can cause physical fatigue.

One idea she told me was to buy Ubiquinol from the pharmacy. The pill was supposedly a better version of CoEnzyme Q10.

CoQ10 is thought to give a person energy. I thought nothing of popping this pill until I read the ingredients. The Ubiquinol was listed as having Red and Blue Food Dye.

No kidding. After that, I stopped buying and taking this supposedly healthful product.

The pills were coated in an orange color–which should’ve been a tip-off.

Shortly after I stopped taking this OTC product my energy started to get elevated again. So I was lucky the fatigue slowly slowly got better.

You might not know this: a lot of drugs that are prescribed like atypical anti-psychotics cause weight gain precisely because the pills cause a person to have a ravenous appetite.

I take a pill that I’m grateful didn’t cause weight gain.

To end this blog entry I want to give you a dose of common sense.

Alas, common sense isn’t at all common.

I’m 53 years old, so technically I’m living in mid life.

Yet I haven’t packed on any extra pounds in mid life and have maintained the same weight as when I was 40.

Part of this equation is that I don’t eat a lot of food. I eat healthfully 80 percent of the time. I wrote about the 80 Percent Rule in a long-ago blog entry.

When I’m not hungry anymore I stop eating. Often I leave food on my plate–not a lot yet there’s food left over.

Thinking that you have to “clean your plate” so as not to waste food is a mistake. Why are you cooking too much food to begin with?

It’s also not your fault that chain restaurants sell huge portions of food. The food they’re giving you is unhealthy most of the time: the food was bought cheaply and prepared cheaply.

Then it’s loaded up on the plate. You could be tempted to eat it all or take home the leftovers.

Taking home leftovers is better than eating the huge portion all at once. You’ll have a second meal the next day.

Eating healthful food in moderation–five a day of fruits and vegetables–is one sensible guideline I think is non-negotiable if you want to stick to the one best nutrition guideline.

In How to Be Well: The 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life Frank Lipman, MD goes so far as to recommend eating two servings of fruit a day.

Eating two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables isn’t that hard to do every day. I have an organic navel orange for breakfast and a serving of an in-season fruit for an afternoon snack. I have a salad three days a week for one serving of a vegetable that day. Mix in a vegetable for dinner on most nights:

Voila–you can see it really isn’t hard to eat healthfully 80 percent of the time.

How have I been doing in executing my sub-goals for Step Three Perspire with the  Changeology 90-day action plan?

Remember: I wanted to buy and bring salads to my job to eat for lunch 3x/per week. And I wanted to exercise at the gym 2x/ per week.

In the next blog entry you’ll find out whether I succeeded or not.

The Truth About GMOs

Roundup–the Monsanto pesticide–was proven to cause cancer in a legal trial.

Farming communities have high rates of cancer. Pesticides cause all sorts of health issues.

Eating produce that’s locally grown is better if you’re able to do this.

The cost of shopping at a Greenmarket offsets the catastrophic cost of becoming ill from disease. You either pay more for healthful food or you pay more for medical costs.

After skimming pages in How to Be Well I’m committed to changing my behavior in terms of consuming food.

My goal is to persuade blog readers to buy mostly organic food.

As I see it, to eat healthfully 80 percent of the time is a great goal. I’ve talked about this 80 percent rule before in the blog.

Monsanto and the other biotech firms will stop at nothing to keep advertising GMO crops as safe and nutritious. Only GMO food isn’t better for you than organic food.

Luckily, I can buy organic food and shop at Greenmarkets where I live in New York City.

In the coming blog entry I’ll talk more about the benefits of eating mostly organic food.

Mother’s Day Message

This is a Mother’s Day greeting to every women reading this blog entry. It’s thought that all women are mothers in some way taking care of other people.

My mother turned 80 this year. I’m 53 now. In 1987 when I was 22 I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. My mother had driven me to the hospital within 24 hours of my breakdown.

This greeting goes out to every mother whose adult children and or the mental health staff have blamed them for what happened to their kids.

Ever since I decided to become a mental health Advocate in 2002 – over 15 years so far – I’ve credited my mother’s one courageous act to drive me to the hospital as the number-one reason I recovered. Recovered with an ed at the end of recover because of my mother.

I will go to my grave championing getting the right treatment right away when a person first experiences mental or emotional distress.

My mother isn’t well. For 40 years she smoked two packs a day. Though she quit when she was 61 it was too late to prevent smoking-related disability. She has emphysema because of her addiction. Today she sleeps and travels everywhere with an oxygen tank.

Though I’m the one diagnosed with schizophrenia I’ve become my mother’s caregiver. Unlike how a lot of mothers are the caregivers for their adult kids with schizophrenia.

No one at mental health organizations like NAMI talk about this reverse dynamic: how adult children are becoming caregivers for their parents. Hell NAMI isn’t even addressing the mental health needs of senior citizens living with mental health issues.

What will happen after our parents are gone and we have no one to care for us?

I’m fortunate that I’ve recovered and have always been independent. I will continue to be fit and active because of my own efforts.

Yet what will happen to people diagnosed with schizophrenia who can’t care for themselves after their parents are gone?

What will happen to our parents if we can’t care for them when we’re older?

Nobody’s talking about this. Not NAMI. Not anyone else.

Over five years ago I first wrote about geriatric psychiatry when I was the Health Guide at the HealthCentral schizophrenia website.

Back then I was a pioneer in writing about this. Today I’m still a lone wolf crying out about senior citizens with mental health issues.

We need to think about the passing of this health baton. We need to get real and start talking about the services and supports available to people with schizophrenia and other illnesses that are becoming senior citizens.

We need to talk about the reality that soon those of us who are caregivers will need someone to take care of us.

I’ll end here by sending every women reading this blog entry words of compassion, appreciation, and gratefulness for all you do.

Women with SZ and Menopause

I find myself drawn to wanting to write about health topics.

Yet again I’m going to be the first person to write about a hot topic in recovery.

NAMI isn’t doing this and neither is MHA.

No one except me has dared to focus in detail on SZ and recovery at mid life. We need to have this conversation now.

For women, you’ve hit menopause when you’ve gone 12 months without your monthly period. As you approach 50, your primary care doctor can test your hormone levels.

Reading the book Menopause Confidential: A Doctor Reveals the Secrets to Thriving through Mid Life by Tamara Allmen, M.D. might be helpful.

It’s a short book yet has vital information. You can also read Body-for-Life for Women by Pamela Peeke, M.D.

Women as we age gain fat in our abdomens–the dreaded “menopot” according to Peeke.

Her book talks about the 4 stages of a woman’s life and how to cope with the changes we experience in each stage.

It’s possible to not have it so hard when you’re in menopause. Taking 400 mg of Vitamin E is thought to help with hot flashes. You can ask your mother what kinds of symptoms  she had at menopause if you’re able.

The average age of getting menopause for American women is 51. I’m 52, and I have 2 months to go. So far, I’ve had no hot flashes, I’ve been the same weight (because I strength train), and I still have a photographic memory and no fuzzy thinking.

It’s a joy not getting your monthly period.

Yet if you’re having sex, make the guy wear a condom and get tested for HIV/AIDS. People diagnosed with SZ have a higher risk for HIV/AIDS, according to research I reported on when I was the Health Guide at the HealthCentral SZ website.

A More magazine news article years ago reported that a significant number of women over 40 develop HIV/AIDS. If I remember right the statistic was 1 in 4 women over 40. They’re not having a guy use condoms, and they’re at higher risk.

I’ll end here with what I think makes sense:

If you have to take SZ medication, or thyroid pills, or whatever you have to take, do this to have a better life at 40 and beyond. You shouldn’t have to be in any more mental, physical, or emotional pain than is absolutely necessary.

A therapist told me years ago: “Suffering for the sake of suffering is bullshit.”

In coming blog entries I’ll feature a guest blogger–a guy who’s a peer in his fifties–to talk about mid life from a male perspective.

I’ll report more about the female view of mid life in the coming months.