By Karen Oslund, Executive Director

We have all heard the saying, “time is money,” but is time also health? This question occurs to me while standing at the kitchen sink, washing lettuce. It is a surprisingly time consuming project because this lettuce was growing in my garden a few minutes ago and there are bugs involved. A thorough washing requires plunging it into water, tearing it up into bite-sized pieces and spinning it dry. The process is complicated by my lingering drought-era habit of repurposing the lettuce washing water to the benefit of the azalea outside the front door. A half hour goes by, but when I am done, I am pleased with my clean, salad-ready greens.

Taking care of our health takes time: Time to exercise; time to shop for and cook healthy food with fresh ingredients; time to schedule and follow through with screening exams and check-ups. Time is something most people wish they had more of, myself included. “Time poverty” is a shortage of unscheduled time that we can use to take care of our own needs and pursue our own interests. When we are pressed for time, we may make bad eating choices such as convenience foods laden with salt, sugar and fat. When I say “we,” I really mean “me.”

Exercising, eating well, and maintaining a healthy weight are standard health advice, including some of the best advice for reducing our risk of cancer. Most of us wish we had more time and I believe that our health would be better if we had more time to take care of ourselves. What are we to do?

Short of lifestyle overhaul or winning the Lotto, I can think of two things, and both are easier said than done. The first is to make our health a higher priority. We spend time doing many things, and most of these involve some amount of choice. Speaking for myself, if I collapse into an internet-induced trance for an hour after work, I am choosing not to do something (anything!) active. Many people who live paycheck-to-paycheck, some with more than one job, have very little discretionary time. This is surely detrimental to health, especially if time on the job is spent sitting at a desk. Using the small amounts of time that we do have control over wisely, even if it is a 15-minute break at work, is better than nothing. The Mayo Clinic recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity. That breaks down to 21 minutes per day of moderate aerobic activity, which could be a brisk, 1-mile walk. Structuring our schedule to get more exercise during the normal course of things will help. This is what Fit-Bits (or any inexpensive step-counter) were made for.

A famous violinist once explained how she became a virtuoso. “I practiced first,” she said. “If I did everything else first, like make the bed, I would never have enough time to practice.” There is really not much more important than our health—we need to take care of it first and leave the bed unmade.

The second strategy involves multi-tasking, a term that has declined in popularity over the years, so hear me out. Developing an active hobby means that you can enjoy your hobby and exercise at the same time. This is not what I do. I am a quilter, a highly sedentary pursuit. I do enjoy walking, however, and I have a good friend to walk with, which combines socializing and exercise. I aspire to someday have a “walking meeting,” in which business gets discussed while also exercising.   Housecleaning and yard work are necessary tasks for most, but also good exercise, at least in my book. Let’s count it.

Time is health. Make every moment count.

This information is presented for educational purposes and is not intended to replace the advice of your health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your health care provider. The Cancer Resource Centers’ 2018 Cancer Awareness and Prevention series is sponsored by CRC in collaboration with the Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency. The Cancer Resource Centers of Mendocino County is a grassroots organization serving our communities since 1995 by providing information, advocacy, and support free of charge to anyone in Mendocino County facing cancer.