Is it time for a lifestyle change?

Twining Village resident Barbara DiEuginio’s favorite form of exercise is water aerobics.

“I exercise five times per week; sometimes I exercise multiple times a day,” she says. “I used to exercise because I needed it, but now I have reached the point where I actually enjoy it.”

We have all heard phrases such as I have a family history of… or I am genetically predisposed to…  and don’t get me wrong, these are legitimate facts proven by modern science. However, one thing we don’t hear as often is the fact that—regardless of family history or predisposition—we are not destined to suffer from any form of chronic disease. As the famous cardiologist Dr. Dean Ornish said, “There are two ways … you can control how long you live, one is to change your genes and the second is to change your lifestyle.”

If you eat healthier, manage stress, exercise, and love more, you can change the way your genes are expressed. In other words, your body can act as if it is suppressing the “bad” genes and activate the “good” ones.

Barbara did not exercise her entire life. She was limited by Lymphedema since attending high school in the late 1960s. She began exercising because she developed gout in 2013, which became so bad that she could not walk at all. She was admitted to Twining Village for rehab in August of that year, completing it a few months later.

“After receiving great care during rehab, my family and I decided that Twining Village was the right place, so I moved to independent living, where I still reside today,” she says. “Soon after moving in, I met Don, our wellness coordinator, who introduced me to his long-term maintenance program. This helped me reinforce everything I learned and gained from rehab. To this day, I have lost 69 pounds. I am much stronger and, most importantly, I am no longer afraid of falling.”

If you practice healthy-living behaviors, you are more likely to live longer while maintaining quality of life.  It is estimated that Americans spend an average of the last five years of their lives living with disabilities. Even though our life expectancy has increased the last several decades, what remains stagnant is our quality of life. Start making simple lifestyle changes now. Be proactive instead of reactive.

Maintain your good health instead of trying to restore it, particularly through finding a favorite exercise or activity.

Barbara followed my advice to use the pool more often, and she has grown to enjoy water and attend aquatic classes regularly. It is so much easier to move in the water and the warm temperature helps to loosen muscles, making the experience that much more enjoyable. Remember—any physical activity in which you participate, whether walking, biking, lifting weights, yoga, etc., still beats sitting on the couch! When you are moving your body, you not only are maintaining your musculoskeletal system, but also and most importantly maintaining your brain.

Barbara’s advice to anyone starting out is to find something you enjoy and stay up with it.

“Don’t wait until you are sick to start exercising,” she says. “Start when you are healthy and it will help you stay that way. Last but not least, if I can lose 69 pounds in 14 months, so can you!”

By Donald Prifti
Wellness Coordinator
Diakon Senior living – Twining Village

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