As the final days of 2014 fly by, everyone I know complains that their clothes are too tight, they have eaten too much, have been too sedentary, and the most common New Year’s resolution is the promise to “get into shape.” This emblemizes Americans’ obsession with the way we look. While we may aspire to become toned and shapely, success is rare. Our goal should be to live long and age well. Here are some ways to accomplish that:

It is better to be fatter and fit than thinner and sedentary. Over 30 percent of Americans are obese, and a further 35 percent are “pleasantly plump.” There is no question that the life expectancy of obese Americans is reduced, but most studies indicate that overweight individuals may live longer than those considered to be at their ideal body weight. Weight loss through dieting rarely works, so a first priority should be to move more. Walking 150 minutes per week reduces mortality rates by over 50 percent. Those who accomplish this are better off than less overweight individuals who are sedentary. 

If there is one longevity pill that improves the quality of life, gives energy and enthusiasm and prevents illnesses, it’s exercise. Stretching, balance exercises, resistance training with weights and aerobic exercise to increase the heart rate are essential components of living a healthy life. 

Learn to eat healthily. It’s not eating less that is important, but eating more of the right foods in the right amounts. Lean meat and fatty fish, monounsaturated fats (olive and canola oil), carbohydrates in moderation and all the fruits and vegetables you want are the cornerstone of a perfect diet. Snacks should include apples, nuts and yogurt.

Live a passionate life. Unless you are passionate about every task you undertake, success will elude you. You can retire from your job, but not from life. Without a plan and tasks that give you passion, retirement will be dull, somnolent, sedentary and short. Those forced to retire with no outside interests will feel imprisoned in their homes and bored.

Be peaceful. Stress is the single most important factor that leads to disease. Stress raises blood pressure, leads to poor eating habits, less exercise and a greater risk of heart attack, stroke and cancer. Meditation and relaxation prevents heart attacks, resolves conflict and promotes health.

Love everyone. Love is the key to longevity. Men who maintain longstanding, loving, monogamous and intimate relationships live an additional 10 years over single men. Remember, love comes in many forms — the intimate love between spouses, love of family, community, friends and country. By contrast, loneliness predicts illness and a shorter lifespan.

Laugh more. Always look on the bright side; see the humor in your actions. Laughter improves metabolism and is infectious. Make others laugh and not only does your health improve, but so does theirs.

Be faithful. There is a strong link between faith and health. It is not what faith or denomination you belong to, but being spiritual that is important. The elements linking spirituality to health include having faith in a higher power, yourself and in others.  Being hopeful and loving, being charitable and — most importantly — being forgiving. 

Have high self-esteem. Feeling good about yourself and comfortable in your own skin is a powerful predictor of longevity. Loving yourself is the first step to loving others, and it will open the door to a world of peace and contentment. 

Be educated about health and any illness you have. The more educated you are, the better. Know what it takes to stay healthy, and learn what to ask and how to become involved in the decision-making process should you become ill. Make sure you understand the diagnosis, the treatment options, the risks and benefits. 

More freedom. A big part of being healthy is being free to break the mold of what it means to be “older.” Be free to retire and live where you want. Be free to work until the end. Be free to start a new life altogether. Be free to run for office or give back to the community. Be free to create and inspire. Be free to do whatever it is that gives you hope, inspiration and passion. 

These are some of the ways our lives can be happier, healthier, productive and longer.

Dr. David Lipschitz is the director of the Dr. David Health and Wellness Center in Little Rock. To find out more about Dr. David Lipschitz, visit www.drdavidhealth.com

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