For millions of people far and wide, January brings the usual new years resolutions to lose weight. But who really cares about losing weight? Judging by the number of abandoned diets and unused gym memberships, not very many people. Simply seeing a smaller number on the scale isn't particularly meaningful as far as goals go, and so the motivation to shed the pounds quickly fades.
Instead, it's important to dig down and ask yourself why you want to lose weight. Probing might reveal deeper desires such as:
- Getting off diabetes medication
- Feeling good in a bikini
- Playing on the floor with kids or grandkids
No one is truly interested in weighing less, just for the sake of weighing less. We're interested in what we think weighing less will do to improve our lives. We're actually aiming for things like better health (how it feels inside our bodies), increased confidence (how we feel about our bodies), and more capabilities (what we can do with our bodies).
Concrete goals and clear measurements of success are great! But I propose rather than benchmarking our progress on the scale we aim for these 5 achievements. I guarantee if you can do these 5 things, you have all the physical capacity you'll ever need to get a thumbs up from your doctor, feel good in your skin, and partake in every activity you'll ever want. And it's not just all about happy experiences either. With these 5 skills in your tool belt, you'll be a resilient and reliable person in a disaster or emergency event as well. Basically you'll be able to have all the fun and save the day!
Get off the floor with no hands, knees, or help.
The incredibly simple Sitting-Rising Test (SRT), designed by Brazillian physician Claudio Gil Araujo, can be used with athletes to assess functional limitations. But more significantly, for those over 50 years old it is one of the strongest predictors of all-cause mortality. In simple terms, it can very accurately predict how likely you are to die (of anything) in the next 6 years.
The sitting portion and the standing portion are each worth 5 points for a total of 10 points. You lose one point each for using a hand, knee, forearm, hand on the knee, or side of the leg. You also lose 0.5 points for a loss of balance.
In this study published in the European Journal of Cardiology, that included more than 2000 adults age 51-80, those who scored 8 or less points on the SRT were twice as likely to die in the following 6 years than their peers who scored higher. Those who scored 3 or fewer points were five times more likely (!) to kick the bucket.
When you can ace a 10/10 score on the SRT that reflects a body with the balance and flexibility to enjoy everything from easily playing with little ones on the floor to a reduced chance of slip and fall accidents.
A lot of life's great experiences require you to stay energetic, on your feet, for an extended period of time. The same can be said for some of life's worst experiences. If you develop the lungs and the legs to run 5km without stopping, you're adequately prepared for everything from dancing the night away at a wedding to hauling water out of your basement after a flood.
Do a Pull Up
If you can move your body from a straight arm hanging position to chin over the bar without any kipping, swinging, or other assistance you've got a great base of grip, arm, and back strength. You'll be able to easily do things like climb trees with your kids or hop over a fence or wall. I'll never forget the story a client excitedly told me about the first time she'd ever been able to pull herself out of the lake and in to their boat. She'd never been strong enough before and always felt stupid and embarrassed when she needed assistance. After putting in the work in the gym, she now hopped in the water with confidence and was ecstatic about her new ability!
Hold a squat for 10 min
This challenge was start by Dr. Kelly Starrett of MobilityWOD.com. All humans should have the ability to hang out in a relaxed squat position for 10 min at a time, but somehow modern life has led us away from that natural ability. We need to stay supple at all stages of our lives, and if we've lost the ability to squat we're on a bad path!
If you can't make it for 10 straight minutes just yet, try to incorporate small bouts of squatting in to your day. Squat while you fold the laundry, check your email, or wait for your cookies to bake.
Deadlift 175lbs for women, 255lbs for men
The ability to pick up a reasonably heavy load off the ground comes in handy in many, many situations. You can carry all your groceries in one load, heave that box from costco, and handle your own luggage at the airport. There is a sense of pride in this kind of independent capability.
With deadlifting skills, your friends and family will count on you the next time they need to move a couch. No need to wait for someone stronger to come along! In an emergency you'll be able to lift your child, dog, friend, or spouse and carry them to safety.
As you can see, these are not high-level skills exclusive to elite athletes. Sit, stand, run, pull, squat, and lift are normal, achievable goals that anyone can aspire to! I guarantee that if you can do these 5 things, you'll feel so confident and capable in your body that you won't give a hoot what the scale says.