Friday, December 26, 2008

Health, Fitness and Quality of Life City Rankings

Men's Health and Women's Health magazines just reviewed data from well-known national sources in order to rank 100 of America's largest cities in multiple categories regarding health, fitness and quality of life. All 50 states were represented, and rankings were grouped into best and worst cities for men and for women. Important to understand for this ranking is that the data crunch was not focused on suburbs, but rather the cities themselves.

I'm going to speak to the overall rankings for Memphis, Tennessee since that is my hometown. Memphis ranks 98 for women and 95 for men. Let's put this into perspective: 1 is the best and 100 is the worst. WOW. Before those of us that are suburbanites blow this off I would daresay, unfortunately, that we would not have had much positive impact.

The people of Memphis can change this ranking. It is within our power to do so, but it will take significant change, one step at a time. The short-lived weight loss frenzy that always dominates January is not going to do it. So what steps can we take?

Get motivated.

How important is your health and quality of life to you? It's never too late to take your health and fitness to the next level, which in turn dramatically improves your quality of life. This is true of the self-professed couch potato or the athlete actively competing in a sport. You cannot do all that you want to do or be all you want to be if you continue to put your health and fitness on the back burner.

Set some goals.

I mean long and short term, very personal goals. Long term might be how you see yourself this time next year. Short term goals with specific dates attached keep you grounded and focused. Challenge yourself but don't set yourself up for discouragement with an unrealistic goal. Each short term goal should push you a little further. Do you want to lose fat, gain strength, build muscle, increase your endurance? You can't get there if you don't know where you're going.

Establish accountability and support.

Very important! If no one knows what you're doing, you're not accountable. Seek out someone that will understand your goals and actually hold you accountable. This is probably not the same person that will meet you for dessert when you've had a stressful day. Also, enlist as many family members and friends as possible to help support you during this process. It will make the road easier, help lift you out of a slump and you'll probably be a positive influence on them!

Develop a plan.

Having the motivation and setting goals will still get you nowhere if you don't develop a plan on how to achieve them. Action items are crucial. What workout program will you start on what date? What is your strategy for food preparation and eating? Who will watch the kids? How does this fit into your work day? Make sure your plan is doable.

Clean up the eating.

The hardest part for most and yet one of the most important steps of all. Memphis is not known for healthy eating out options. That means you have to eat at home, figure out healthier options in restaurants, plan your fun meals (instead of just letting them happen to you) and pack a lunch bag. We can say that fast food is cheap, but what's cheaper than a big hand full of fresh green beans from the local grocery?

Begin a sound workout program.

Always get clearance from your physician to begin a workout program. Find a trainer for advice if you're not sure how to get started. Make sure your workout program lines up with your goals. You'll have to decide whether to join a gym or workout at home and potentially puchase equipment. The good news is there are great workouts available that require very little equipment and can be done at home or on the road.

Finish your workout program.

Seems obvious, but next to good nutrition this is the hardest accomplishment. If you have goals, measure your progress along the way and complete what you start, you will achieve success. Remember that once you've gone through these steps, it won't be for lack of knowledge, it may be from lack of just doing it.

Do it again.

Revisit your goals often to make sure you're focused. Revise them as you grow. Also revisit your action items. Are they helping you reach your goals, or is it time for a change?

Come on Memphis and all you other low-ranking cities. We have some work to do!

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