Cultivating a positive mindset by surrounding yourself with people who lift you up and help expand your knowledge. Know you will make mistakes, and that’s okay because we learn from them — it’s part of the human experience. We all fail forward.
The term Blue Zones has been used to describe places where people live long and healthy lives. What exactly does it take to live a long and healthy life? What is the science and the secret behind longevity and life extension? In this series, we are talking to medical experts, wellness experts, and longevity experts to share “5 Things You Need To Live A Long, Healthy, & Happy Life”. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Janet Omstead.
Janet Omstead is an author, speaker, personal trainer, elite behavior-change health coach, and play expert. With over 20 years of experience in the health and wellness industry, Janet’s strength lies in working with individual and corporate clients to make sustainable progress toward optimal health while having fun! She is on a mission to end the inactivity crisis by inspiring the world to play for better health.
Janet knows there is no one-size-fits-all approach to health. Using her PLAY method, she coaches busy people who want long-term, sustainable solutions with their movement, nutrition, and managing stress. She keeps you on track and inspired, even when the going gets tough, for results that last a lifetime.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
I have many exciting stories from my career in Television Sports and the Health & Wellness Industry, so it’s tough to choose just one! But the most interesting story was what inspired me to become a personal trainer in the first place.
My husband and I, with our eight-month-old daughter Meredith, became expats from 1996–2001. We lived in both The Netherlands and Belgium. I joined a running group in Amsterdam which was part of the gym we joined as a way to keep social and do something for me outside of my role as a mother and wife.
Before moving abroad, I hadn’t ever run more than 10k. But that running group was a lifeline for me as we traveled around Europe running in different events, from 10k’s, ½ marathons, and a full marathon. I learned a lot about how to train for these distances, and when we moved from Amsterdam to Brussels, I quickly sought out other runners there to connect with.
I ended up finding an amazing group of women at The American Women’s Club that had never run a ½ marathon. So, confident in my new running ability and with the Brussels ½ happening in the Spring of 2001, I volunteered to train them. They all finished the race! That was the first moment I helped others achieve a fitness goal and it lit me up knowing that this is something I could do as a career.
When we moved back to Canada, I got certified to become a personal trainer and have never looked back. Helping others be the best version of themselves is my calling.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There have been many people who have helped me, but the one that stands out was an executive producer I worked with on the Olympics in both Barcelona 1992 and Lillehammer 1994. John Shannon was the first boss I had that ever pushed me outside of my comfort zone, giving me opportunities to be in places where I could thrive.
I’ll never forget the Winter Olympics, where I was the researcher covering Freestyle Skiing. The Canadian team was expected to win many medals. I had interviewed and gotten to know many of these athletes, in particular, the Olympic favourite for the men’s moguls, Jean-Luc Brassard. We had chatted many times and became friends over the years.
The day of the gold medal, John had allowed me to be at the bottom of the hill with our on-air talent and cameraman for when Jean-Luc finished. As you can imagine, the energy and excitement at the hill was electric. Jean-Luc was the best after his first run and so had the final run position to clench the gold. And just like that he became the gold medal winner! It was magic. From the broadcast center, John told the cameraman and me to stay with Jean-Luc for the rest of his night to record firsthand everything that he did. It was a front seat for me to be with a gold medallist. John Shannon put me in a position to thrive that day and it became the fuel that helped drive my career in the early days.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
I’d say the three character traits that were most instrumental to my success are having a positive, gratitude-based outlook on life, believing that I can make a difference and feeling like the best is yet to come.
- Having a positive outlook on life comes right from my Dad. He had such a positive demeanor that it truly rubbed off on me growing up. Thanks to him, I often feel grateful because that’s what life is all about — appreciating everything around us.. I even have the words ‘grateful’ tattooed on my right arm. My gratitude for life has been solidified by my three near-death experiences. When you’ve been reminded about the fragility of life and that anything can change in a moment, there is no time to waste. Life is happening for us all, and it’s up to us how we use it.
- I believe that I can make a difference — I’ve never given up on that. I believe I can do something positive to change the outcome of inactivity. No matter what gets thrown my way, I still move forward — it fuels my purpose.
- Having a purpose that aligns with who I am makes it clear to me why I keep going. I’ve reframed exercise as play, and play is my calling. I also have “play” tattooed on my left arm! It aligns with everything I believe makes for a good life, including adventure, inclusivity, and community.
I want to help millions of people reconnect to their inner child through movement, and PLAY is my method.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview about health and longevity. To begin, can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fields of health, wellness, and longevity? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
I’m on a mission to reignite people’s passion for play so they can fight chronic disease while improving their quality of life.
As a trainer, I amassed many certifications and credentials, like becoming a Master Behaviour Change Health Coach. However, despite how much knowledge I gained, something seemed “off” about the personal training industry.
Everywhere I looked, people seemed to think of fitness as a chore and avoided exercise because they hated going to the gym. So I wrote a book about the one habit I believe is the simplest yet most effective health behaviour we all have: exercise as play. The book is called The Play Book: How To Get In The Habit Of Good Health.
The stats are a real eye-opener: 1.4 billion people do not do enough physical exercise! And what’s actually needed is not what people have been taught. It takes only a minimum of 150 minutes a week to keep healthy. That’s 20 minutes a day!
With such exercise avoidance and hatred for the gym, I knew something wasn’t right. I asked myself, ‘how could people hate doing something so bad that they will risk their lives to avoid it?’ Literally risking their life by not working out because the ‘rules’ for what was considered exercise was wrong!
“How could people hate doing something so bad (exercise)
that they will risk their lives to avoid it?”
I realized that something was missing.
That “something” was play. Play is belonging regardless of your shape and size and it’s absent from so many diet and fitness books, challenges, resolutions, and programs.
So, I wrote a book about it for three main reasons, to teach people that:.
- People make exercise too complicated
- The statistics about inactivity aren’t changing and haven’t since 2001.I don’t believe it has to be this way. I want to make a difference in the world, and I believe we can integrate health and fitness seamlessly into our lives with a playful approach.
- I want people to understand that ALL movement matters.
When we reframe exercise as play, like going for a walk with a friend or playing with your grandkids, it counts. You play not to fit into those skinny jeans again. You play to create a better quality of life. There is no pill you can take — the dose is different for everyone — and the medicine is play.
“You play not to fit into those skinny jeans again.
You play to create a better quality of life.”
When you survive a few near-death experiences like I have, you realize something fundamental and life-altering; you don’t waste time, and you truly live every day with gratitude.
That’s where I come in. My goal is to reframe “exercise” as play, so you can get (or stay) active and have a blast doing it!⠀
Seekers throughout history have traveled great distances and embarked on mythical quests in search of the “elixir of life,” a mythical potion said to cure all diseases and give eternal youth. Has your search for health, vitality, and longevity taken you on any interesting paths or journeys? We’d love to hear the story.
My search for health, vitality, and longevity has taken me on interesting journeys for sure.
What I know for sure is that life as we know it can change so fast. When I was 40 years old, my family and I were part of a seven-car chain reaction accident and hit head-on by two reckless drivers in broad daylight.
It was horrific. Two women died. We walked away. We got to live. It’s why I look at every day as a gift, no matter what.
When I do leave this planet, the one difference I want to make is to inspire people to fully embrace life with all its magic and never forget to play.
Not many of us get a second chance. Don’t wait for your wake-up call. I want people to Please Look After Yourself (PLAY), and enjoy the little things every day — there’s no time for anything else. I’m still here for a reason, and that is to inspire people who are less inclined to move. There is a secret potion that only requires you to tap into your inner kid and what brings you joy. Move 20 minutes a day, and you live longer and be happier.
Based on your research or experience, can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Live A Long & Healthy Life”? (Please share a story or an example for each) –
- I really resonate with Blue Zones. The longest-living people in the world have never stepped foot in a gym. They move naturally throughout the day, which is a very powerful reminder not to take exercise so seriously.
- Community building and nurturing meaningful relationships add so much depth and value to life. From my research, I discovered that social isolation can increase your risk of premature death by 50% compared to those with better social connections. Take care of your family, friends, and yourself.
- Cultivating a positive mindset by surrounding yourself with people who lift you up and help expand your knowledge. Know you will make mistakes, and that’s okay because we learn from them — it’s part of the human experience. We all fail forward
- Curiosity/Belief in something greater than yourself. The universe has everything you need to help you if you slow down and pay attention. Watch the sunsets, smell the flowers, and listen to the birds.
- Have fun! Life goes so fast.
Can you suggest a few things needed to live a life filled with happiness, joy, and meaning?
Think of everything you have in life versus everything you don’t have. And if it’s not a great picture, you have the power to change it.
To live a life filled with happiness, joy, and meaning, I suggest that:
- Don’t be afraid of dying, be fearful of not truly living
- There are no guarantees in life, so stop living like there are.
- It’s a miracle we are here on this planet together; start treating it like a gift
- The little things are the most significant — kindness, an “I love you,” a hug, a warm hand to hold, kisses, dogs, nature, a great cup of coffee and an excellent glass of wine
- You can’t take stuff with you when you die; make memories instead
- Change is yours to make
- Do what makes YOU happy
- Every day you can play big or small — it doesn’t matter how you play — win or lose — it’s up to you to show up, do your best and never take it for granted
- Do something today that your future self will thank you for
Some argue that longevity is genetic, while others say that living a long life is simply a choice. What are your thoughts on this nature vs. nurture debate? Which is more important?
Oh, I love this debate. I’d say that I heard this a long time ago — genetics loads the gun, and lifestyle triggers it. I think that resonates with me the most because nature gives us the body by which to live, but nurturing it and taking care of our body is our privilege. The human body is an amazing machine, and we have more control over how we treat it than we think. It all comes down to mindset and the willingness to love ourselves even when it’s hard.
Life sometimes takes us on paths that are challenging. How have you managed to bounce back from setbacks in order to cultivate physical, mental, and emotional health?
I’ve had many, but I will share the most recent challenge. Having helped my husband through his cancer journey was a big one.
On a plane, in an emergency, there’s a reason you put the oxygen mask on yourself — you have to take care of yourself before others. Self-care isn’t selfish — it’s necessary to be the best version of yourself to be there for your loved ones when they need you most.
At some point in each of our lives, we will be caregivers — for a pet, child, aging parent or a spouse that is ill.
It’s part of being human, and it’s challenging when it happens.
It isn’t easy watching someone you love suffer without being affected mentally and physically.
When you’re a caregiver, it’s essential to prioritize your health too, because your loved ones need your strength when they can’t muster it themselves. Life will create certain challenges for all of us, but you aren’t your challenges.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“People will forget what you say. They will even forget what you did today. They will never forget how you make them feel.” — Maya Angelou
“Life MUST be lived as play” Plato
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I started a movement this year called “PLAY January.” I want to have people to be motivated to move more and I want it to be as big as Dry January.
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
Go to www.janetomstead.com and sign up for The Play Of The Week. It’s my weekly newsletter full of simple tips and motivation to lead a happier and healthier life.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.