Saturday, February 20, 2010

Staying Fit and Young

During a conference on applications of finite element analysis at Boston, a few Tsinghua Alumni at U.S. were chatting during a break. A younger alumnus, who was a China Representative of commercial software ABAQUS, joined our conversation. A few moments later he raised a question to us -" All of you look so fit and young! Men in China your age typically are fat, have pot bellies, grey hairs. How do you do it?" He was flattering us of course but also kind of pointing out an obvious truth about us. Looking around, we - the older alumni, all had flat abdomen, looked healthily lean and none of us had obvious grey hairs on our heads.

Being fit and Looking young has a lot do with your genes, but it also depends on your diet, exercise and your attitude toward life.

Monitor Physical Conditions

Nobody can escape illness. On top of exercise and diet, one needs to monitor his physical conditions, have any symptoms treated at early stage

Every Tuesday at work, during my mid-morning stretch exercise, I go to nurse station to measure my weight and blood pressure. I go to my annual physical diligently since turning 40. I also have my teeth cleaned twice a year. When there is a persistent symptom that worries me, I go to see my doctor. Most of the symptoms went away right after I saw my doctor without any treatment - as Lily said, I am a little too sensitive to the symptoms.

But annual physical and check up do occasionally reveal less than good conditions.

Good health is the prerequisite of being fit and staying young.

Balance Energy input/output

Eat a lot, and eat a lot right before going to bed is a sure thing to pack on pounds fast. Even if you eat the right portion, but you eat shortly before sleep, you may still gain weight.

My theory is, if one has dinner 3~4 hours before sleep, and No snack after dinner, the person will lose weight gradually. It is also my practice, and one reason my weight is about the same as it was when I graduated from college more than 20 years ago. I pitch this theory to anyone when the topic of losing weight comes up.

Lily, for one, did not believe in it for a long time. One day she came home telling me a female graduate student in her department lost enough weight to look slender by doing exactly what I pitched. Apparently other people discovered the nature's secret like me. Now she wants to try.

No snack after dinner is easy said than done. When you watch TV/movie after dinner, it is hard to refrain from having snack; when you work overtime at home for your project, research proposal......., you may want to chew on something even if you are not hungry.

It will take some effort and will to accomplish having dinner 3~4 hours before sleep and no food of any kind after dinner. Once you accomplish it, and you work too hard, you will find out that you may lose weight more than you want. That is why the real key to have proper weight is to balance your food intake and body energy consumption.

Exercise Regularly

Having the right body weight is one of the many elements to be healthy, strong and energetic. To be physically fit one needs to exercise regularly. Exercise is not hard, everyone can do it; the hard part is to exercise regularly at high enough intensity.

Ever since I joined corporate America, exercise daily is near impossible - time wise and energy wise. What I do now is walking around my office buildings during morning (~ 10am) and lunch break daily, and then jogging/running 2 miles twice weekly around our community on Saturday and Sunday morning. It has been my habit for about a dozen years. Initially I just walked around, then mixing walk and run, and now run about ~1 mile and half and walk the remaining distance.

In addition to trying to be fit, there are a lot of other incentives for me to go out of the house - fresh air, birds around the community , my curiosity about what is going on around our beautiful neighborhood, ..... Exercises regularly is a good start, to really gain cardiovascular benefit, one has to have high enough exercise intensity. Since started work, I sat in front a computer almost all day long daily and quickly my HDL became low. Despite years regular exercise, my HDL number did not improve until I volunteered to be Nicholas' soccer coach, playing soccer with kids weekly on top of my exercise routine.

For each person, there might be different incentives to achieve the goal of exercise regularly. A friend could not do it despite his wife's nagging. Then they bought a dog, he walks the dog daily, and soon enough he slims down.

Look young and Stay young at heart

I hold the belief that being who I am, not trying to be who I am not. So plastic surgery is definitely not in my book. The exception I take is to dye grey hairs if one has them at relatively young age. A young co-worker, who had a lot of grey hairs, once asked me about suggestions for how to improve his chance of finding a girl friend. I asked his age, he said he was 32 years old. I told him blatantly that he should dye his hairs so he would look his natural age. A few weeks later, he came to chat with me, he looked so much younger than before because he had his hair dyed!

I don't dye my hairs just yet since I don't have obvious grey hairs. But I do have quite a few grey hairs. A secret to have a full head of black hairs for me: When I had just a couple of grey hairs, I pulled them; now I have too may of them to pull, but just a handful would show, I cut my grey hairs short, usually only a couple near forehead.

Another important but simple step one can do is to take care of skin. Ladies usually take good care their skins, men, on the other hand, typically not pay attention to this aspect at all. I did not use any cream at all except soap when I wash. In recent years, I started to use moisturizer, it did make me feel better, and skin seemed to look better too. More recently I stared to use some sort of anti aging moisturizer Lily bought for me, twice a week - I am weary of all the chemicals that come with it.

Looking at our wedding picture, all I can say is that nothing beat youth as far as looking young is concerned. No matter what one does, one can not turn back the clock. Wrinkles will creep up in my face, grey hairs will eventually spread all over my head. So I think that it is more important to stay young at heart - stay active physically and mentally, be curious, and be optimistic.

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