Michelle Obama has openly made her health and fitness a priority, a first for any first lady. As Editor-in-Chief of Prevention magazine, I wanted to know more. We met recently, and she shared her rules for living a balanced lifestyle. Here, in her words, are her 9 essential moves for staying happy and healthy:

1) Allow Yourself to Be Happy

Good health is multifaceted—it’s physical, it’s internal, it’s my diet, and my emotional state. It’s all tied together. Throughout my life, I’ve learned to make choices that make me happy and make sense for me. Even my husband is happier when I’m happy. He has always said, “You figure out what you want to do,” because he’s discovered that personal happiness is connected to everything.

2) Find Balance as a Mother

I think my mother taught me what not to do. She put us first, always, sometimes to the detriment of herself. She encouraged me not to do that. She’d say being a good mother isn’t all about sacrificing; it’s really investing and putting yourself higher on your priority list. You can be a good mom and still work out, get your rest, have a career—or not. She encouraged me to find that balance.

3) Make Yourself a Priority

I have freed myself to put me on the priority list and say, yes, I can make choices that make me happy, and it will ripple and benefit my kids, my husband, and my physical health. That’s hard for women to own; we’re not taught to do that. It’s a lesson that I want to teach my girls so they don’t wait for their “aha” moment until they’re in their 30s like I was (laughs). Maybe they can experience it a little earlier.

4) Embrace Your Age

Nothing really scares me about aging. I look at my mom—she’s 72, and she’s happy and looks great. To me, with age, everything has gotten better. You have way more control; you know yourself better. My goal is to be a great-looking 70-year-old! I won’t mind being 70, but I want people to say, “You’re 70?”

5) Define Your Own Happiness

You know, happiness for me really is when my kids are good and when my family is whole. Moving [to the White House], whatever stresses would be on my husband and me, we could handle; we are grown-ups. But it wouldn’t be until the day that my kids came home and said to me, “I like it here,” that I’d feel like I could breathe and know that we’re all going to be okay here. And that happened very early into the year. My happiness is measured against theirs—when they’re in a good place, I feel really good.

6) Get Healthy While You’re Young

I always want to be in the best shape that I can be. What I’m discovering is that the older you get, the more work you have to do to stay there. When I was younger, I could eat whatever I wanted, as long as I exercised; or if I didn’t exercise and just watched what I ate, I’d maintain. Well, now I have to do both. I’m varying my workouts so it’s not just cardio but also includes moves to maintain my flexibility. I incorporated Pilates and do much more stretching. I try to tell young people to get in shape now, because it’s easier. If you’re 30 and want to drop 10 pounds, all you have to do is just walk (laughs).

7) Do Workouts You Enjoy

I’ll do intervals because I don’t run long and those are killer, so I’m always happy when I’m finished. I enjoy arm exercises because you can actually see what it’s hitting.

From Karen Vaughn – Working Divas

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