Long-term vs. Short-term Health Investments

Most of us already know what we should be doing to improve health. We need to exercise, eat better, sleep adequately, and keep a balance in different areas of our lives. These needs consistently rise to the top year after year regardless of fitness fads, and arguing against them would be poor use of our energy.

So instead of discussing what things improve our health, let's discuss what type of investments we are making in our health. An investment is most often understood financially. A financial investment is using money for something now in order to bring a larger return back later. We would devote our money now, thus removing our ability to use it at the moment (for the most part), so we would have more later.

What is the difference between a short-term and long-term investment? Both are investments, but length of term and potential return differ. A short-term investment ties up resources for a shorter length of time with the hope of an adequate return. A long-term investment requires us to give up resources for a longer amount of time, but with hopes of compounding, we will receive a much greater return.

Here is the basic idea: one long-term investment should be more beneficial than 2 short-term investments of the same total length. A twenty-year investment would hopefully be worth more than two ten-year investments. 

What, then would be a short-term and long-term health investment? In review, exercise, nutrition, sleep, and life balance are what we know we need to focus on for better health. So in terms of our health, these are the "resources" we would invest with. What would be a short-term and long-term health investment given these resources? 

If we consider exercise, doing anything is a good start. Something instead of nothing will always be improvement. If we consider nutrition, analyzing what we eat is a good start. Picking better sources of nutrients will always yield results. And sleep? Sleeping another hour will work for most of us who sleep less than 7 hours per night. And life balance? We all tell ourselves, "I need to do ___." We say this because we recognize something is not receiving enough of our attention. So we do it and work closer to balance.

But what if we keep starting these changes, but don't keep up with them? We start trying this training plan, or this fitness class, or this method of running, but we do not stick with any of them for more than a month. We go back and forth between good and bad food day to day. We sleep nine hours one night, but five hours four nights in a row afterward. We read for one hour one day but miss the next six. 

In the above examples, we made one short-term investment, with no long-term follow through. We acted once. The action in itself is great, but we missed the benefit of adding the next day to it, thus we miss the compounding effect.

What if instead of trying a new type of exercise every month, we stuck with one thing for twelve months?

What if, instead of overhauling our diet completely one day, then missing everything the next, we just removed one thing completely each month?

What if, instead of sleeping nine hours one nights and five hours the next four nights, we just slept six and a half hours every night?

What if, instead of reading one hour one day and none the next six days, we read fifteen minutes per day?

We have been programmed to think "more, more, more" and we always aspire to changing 100% immediately. Making a start is great and is a 100% decision, but we need to ensure our long-term success by making a long-term consistent investment. Just starting something, and then starting something else, and something else, and so on, is a bunch of short-term investments; starting something and coupling it with consistent effort over time is a long-term investment. 

We will always celebrate starting. Getting started is sometimes the hardest part. But just starting, and starting, and starting will take away from a greater return. Yes, you will see a return, but not the same return you would see if you made one long-term investment.

Maintaining is the challenge, and indicative of the long-term health investment. That's why we coach. We want to see you succeed long-term. We want you to continue moving forward on a steady incline for the rest of your life. 

So make the commitment to be consistent in one thing right now. We can all come up with multiple things to start doing right now. Write them down to do; but focus on one of them right now. Make it consistent so you get long-term returns.

Consistent effort over time.


Jonathan de Friess