Health and Fitness
There are few things more important to leading a full and enjoyable life then being healthy and fit. A person who is healthy and fit will be able to enjoy life without worrying about restrictions due to health problems, or frequent fatigue.
Health and fitness are in many ways two sides of the same coin. The healthier a person is, the easier it is to stay fit. The more fit a person stays, the healthier they will be.
Staying or getting healthy is not entirely under anyone’s control – genetics, environment and past history all contribute and can’t be changed. What can be changed are the things that effect health now, and in the future. There are three key points to health that are largely under an individual’s control: nutrition, sleep and stress.
With an obesity epidemic declared in America, nutrition is a topic popping up just about everywhere. There are dozens of diets to help lose weight, keep weight off, cleanse the colon, improve memory and a dozen other things.
Seriously, forget the hype.
Good nutrition is based on eating enough calories and a balanced variety of nutrients. As long as a person is getting enough protein, carbohydrates, fiber, fat and vitamins and minerals, they are good. Try and include a bit of each in every meal and eat a wide variety of proteins, fruits and vegetables and all is good.
American’s definitely tend to be carb heavy, so it’s a good idea to watch how much bread, pasta and rice gets included in each meal. Half a plate of fruits and veggies, and the rest split between carbs and proteins, with a healthy fat garnish is a good rule of thumb.
And on the subject of healthy fats, in general, if a fat is liquid at room temperature (like vegetable oil) it’s a healthy fat, and if it is solid or semi-solid at room temperature (like butter, margarine or animal fat) it’s unhealthy.
Finally, as important as it is not to eat too many calories, it’s also important not to go to long between eating. In general, try and eat something every 3-4 hours. Waiting longer to eat sends the body a message that food is scarce and it needs to build up fat reserves against a lean time.
Sleep is an aspect of health that gets overlooked a lot, but good sleep is invaluable in staying healthy both mentally and physically.
Getting too much or too little sleep are both unhealthy – try to aim for 7-8 hours of solid sleep a night. Some things that can help sleep are to get rid of as many electronics as possible from the bedroom, try not to eat right before climbing into bed, and try to be asleep before 11 o’clock at night.
Some people suffer from racing thoughts that make it difficult to fall asleep. Meditation, reading a book and listening to music can all help overcome this. Racing thoughts are often a sign of stress, so anyone who suffers from racing thoughts might benefit from looking into stress relief.
And speaking of stress . . . Next to nutrition and sleep, stress levels are one of the strongest indicators of health. Unfortunately, stress tends to fall into environmental type stuff – things going on around a person that they have very little control over.
Addressing stress then is a matter not of avoiding it, but of learning to deal with stressors in a healthy manner. It is not the stressors that lead to bad health, but the way they affect people.
Anyone dealing with high level of stress will most benefit from two things: finding ways to release the stress and doing things that are enjoyable and relaxing. Basically, stress builds up inside like pressure in a tea kettle. As long as there is a hole for the pressure to escape through, the stress won’t build up to dangerous levels. And having things to do that are relaxing and enjoyable gives time away from stress. If a person is constantly dealing with and worrying about stressors, they will never have time a chance to relax and be healthy.
While it isn’t always possible, try to balance each day so that for every hour spent dealing with stressors, an hour is spent on something fun. When this isn’t possible, work as much enjoyable and relaxation time into the schedule as will fit (and yes, taking a nap on the couch of hammock counts!) the better the ratio of dealing with stressors to doing other, enjoyable things, the healthier a person will be.
If a person is eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and is not overwhelmed with stress, they will have the energy to be active and stay fit. If they are active, they will sleep better at night, and burn calories better. Plus, many activities are great for releasing stress or for fun and relaxation. It all really does work together.
The general rule of thumb on staying fit is 20 minutes of exercise three times a week. Which makes staying fit another chore to be accomplished, as well as another source of stress.
As an alternative to keeping track of how many hours and days per week are spent exercising, another way to approach staying fit is to try and find fun activities or classes. Even better is if it is something you can share with friends.
For instance, an hour lunch is more than enough time to eat, so on a nice day it’s possible to take a 20 minute walk with a friend from the office before having lunch together. Many areas have group exercise meetings where anyone who wants to join gets together in the park and does yoga, tai chi or aerobics with the group. Join a dance class, tennis club or marital arts dojo.
Health and fitness are in important part of living a full life, but they don’t need to be a matter of counting calories at dinner and reps at the gym. With a bit of thought, health and fitness can become a simple – and maybe even enjoyable – part of a person’s daily routine.