By Dr. Emily Kane
For Senior Voice 

Focus on food, exercise for lifetime health


July 1, 2022 | View PDF

Is your “lifestyle” correlated to your health? Although the intuitively obvious answer is a resounding “yes”, very little credence is given in the standard of care to the powerful impact of your day-to-day choices on your wellbeing. It’s not just about living longer, folks. It’s about living longer with energy, grace and satisfaction.

Our health care system, unfortunately, is mostly monetized to support illness, not wellness. Therefore, we are largely on our own to promote and maintain good health. Fortunately, there is increasing awareness, with concomitant resources, about the foundations of wellness, namely food and exercise. Primitive as that may sound, the choices you make every single day about food and movement are key to healthy longevity.

I don’t fault the professionals in our healthcare system. How can they explore what you are eating, drinking and doing for exercise in a 15-minute visit that typically involves a prescription refill? Pharmaceuticals can save lives in emergency situations, no doubt. However, they typically don’t promote health unless you also commit to a good diet and regular, enjoyable movement. 

‘Real’ and whole foods

I appreciate author Michael Polan’s concise definition of a health-promoting diet: “eat food; not too much; mostly plants.” I would add eat “real” food — something your grandmother would recognize as food. Not stuff that comes in a box and can literally be “shelf stable” for years. My first nutrition teacher liked to say, “don’t eat food that wouldn’t rot, but eat it before it does.” I was once teaching a nutrition class to kids and asked what they thought “whole food” meant. One child gave a memorable answer: “Food that hasn’t been cut.”

Keep moving

As to movement, walking is fantastic. Enjoy it daily. If you cannot, move the parts of your body you can. All muscles support the heart. The stronger your peripheral muscles, the less burden on your heart to keep oxygen flowing to the brain. If possible, cross train. As well as walking, consider adding swimming, biking, hiking, kayaking, ballroom or salsa dancing, yoga, Youtube aerobics, weightlifting, paddle boarding, pickleball. So many options! Design a program of 30 or more minutes of moving your body, six days a week. Schedule this time and commit. It’s a wonderful gift to yourself.

Plan ahead for wellness

Similarly, real food takes time. Allow for several hours over the weekend to shop for produce and make a pot of veggie-rich soup and roast robust, nicely seasoned veggies to store in glass containers for the week ahead. Limit eating out. Make time to sit down and eat slowly. This not only improves digestion but is crucial for eating less. There is a lag in satiety which has bedeviled our society.  Stop eating when you are 80% full.  In 20 minutes you will be 100% full.  Check it out. You deserve it.

Emily Kane is a naturopathic doctor based in Juneau. Contact her online at


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