Jane Brody - Health Feature

'It Doesn't Matter When You Start But That You Start'

Top tips from renowned health author Jane Brody on getting - and staying - healthy

September 2, 2010

NO MATTER HOW MUCH WE MIGHT WISH for an easy “magic bullet” solution to enjoying good health, renowned New York Times reporter and medical/science expert Jane Brody (Beta Xi – Cornell University) is here to tell you there’s no such thing.

Happily, she's on your side, sharing the no-nonsense truth:

By avoiding useless diet and exercise fads (a waste of time and money) and, instead, becoming an active participant in your own health starting today, you’re even more likely to see your wishes for personal and professional success come true.

The real secret to good health lies in how you live your life,” says the best-selling author, who has spent more than 45 years dispensing practical advice in her books, cookbooks, TV specials, magazine articles and, of course, her Personal Health column.

“I’m not talking about a life of deprivation or self-denial. It’s not a question of money, or where you live,” she adds. “Being healthy is about your day-to-day decisions: what you eat, how you care for your body, how you feed your mind.”

Tips for even better health

Jane’s bottom line: There’s nothing more important than your health. Each of us must passionately strive to improve and preserve it right away – not for anyone’s approval, not to meet a certain “standard,” but because we have one life to live and its quality hinges entirely on the long-term condition of your body and mind.

“Once you lose your health, everything else is in jeopardy,” she explains. “It doesn’t matter when you start but that you start."

Among the top tips she shares with audiences across North America:

  • Make physical activity an enjoyable, life-affirming ritual. (On the flip side, if you think of it as a chore, it will be.) Jane loves walking around the park with friends, swimming laps, hiking, and meeting new people who also pursue active lifestyles. “There are not just physical benefits, but emotional and social benefits to exercise, too,” she says.
  • When eating, think of your body as a biochemical machine. “It needs the right fuel at the right time, or it doesn’t work,” she says. Steer clear of fast foods, fatty meats, sweets, soda and hard cheeses. Instead, try incorporating smaller portions of lean protein such as fish (about the size of your palm), and eat more beans, peas, avocados, nuts, peanut butter, and fiber-rich vegetables and fruits.
  • Make time for good health. Says Jane: “Yes, daily exercise takes time. But you’ll find it actually makes time – makes you more efficient, more able to sleep soundly and wake refreshed. You’ll get more done with less effort.”
  • Take advantage of cancer screening tests. For example, colon cancer is among the most common cancers, yet too few people get checked – with tragic results. “These tests can mean many healthy years ahead,” she explains.
  • Remember: Even the smallest amount of exercise yields big benefits. “It reduces stress. For example, it’s helped me change from a Type-A personality to an A minus,” she says with a smile (a joke which gets big laughs from her appreciative audience). Additionally, exercise lowers blood pressure, normalizes blood sugar, helps preserve balance and stability, staves off depression and may prevent the onset of dementia later in life.
  • Pursue three different kinds of exercise: aerobic (such as walking, biking, swimming and cross-training), strength training (for example, using weights), and flexibility (think tai chi). Jane’s quick suggestion for the last item: Stand on one foot while brushing your teeth. “It’s tricky – not as easy as you might think,” she says. But it’s a daily ritual she swears by that helps improve balance.
  • Quit smoking. If you smoke, you already know why you should kick the habit. So we’ll only add here that Jane confirms no matter how long you’ve smoked, or how many times you’ve tried to quit, there are immediate benefits to cardiac and lung health, blood pressure and stress once you do. In other words, make the effort, and you'll never regret it.

“If you want to make a change, no matter what it is, don’t put it off,” she adds. “It’s never too late to make a difference.”

Learn more about JANE BRODY, one of Phi Sigma Sigma's top 100 alumnae.