What is health and fitness? Its a term that's used all the time, but we probably don't take the time to think about what it really is. Id guess that most people who compete in sports, bodybuilding or work in 'fitness industry' probably think they are healthy... but that depends on what your definition of healthy is. Recently ive found out about a few people who would probably have considered themselves fit and healthy, but when faced with potentially life threatening or life altering illness, have been forced to look at whether they can make their lives more healthy and have made quite radical changes to their lifestyles. But why so we wait until we are forced to stop before we look at all aspects of our lives... I guess we are all just busy living our lives and sometimes it takes a massive shock to make us re-evaluate things. So I am challenging you now, dont wait until you are forced to, just pause for a few minutes and look at all aspects of your life and see if there's more you can do to make your lifestyle more healthy. The earlier you give your body a break and look after it, the more likely it is to cope if you do face a life altering illness you may even prevent illness in the process.
If you do want to make changes, tackle one thing at a time, in manageable chunks, putting too much pressure on yourself can just lead to failure if it all seems to much, but every little step you take to improve your health and fitness really will add up!
The obvious. Diet. 'you are what you eat' this phrase has been around for ever! but it really is literally true. Your bodys cells are constantly renewing and can only function and repair itself on what you feed it. Feed it crap and you cant expect it to run at full capacity. If you went to a wildlife reserve and saw the keepers feeding the animals coke, pizza and cake, you would think it was abuse, they aren't supposed to eat that, its unethical... so why is it ok for us? were we meant to eat that stuff? Now im not saying you cant enjoy any of these, but my point is that you need to get the right nutrition in first, as the main part of your diet and enjoy these in moderation if you want them, but a diet based on non nutritious processed food isn't going to give your body the nutrients it really needs to stay healthy. Now what is the best diet, well, that can be debated for hours... and may well be different for different people, depending on your sensitivity to certain foods, allergies, intolerances, susceptibility or risk factors for disease (genetically/ hereditary illness in family), current illness / health situation. But it does seem that many faced with life threatening disease do opt for plant based diets, alkaline diets, removing processed foods, and lowering meat, dairy and sugar intake. Personally this is what I consider a healthy diet, but why wait until you are ill before improving your diet, ive been vegetarian for 25 years and following alkaline 70:30 for the last couple of years and am lowering my dairy at the moment and adding hormone balancing foods. Its a journey and im doing it a my own pace, one that I can manage, but each little thing I do, I know is going to add up to a healthier me. But at the very least, most of us don't even eat the minimum 5 a day fruit and veg, so regardless of what you consider a healthy diet to contain, most people would agree that getting some good nutrients from more veg and fruit would be a good place to start!
We all know that exercise is important, for heart health, bone, joint, muscle health, posture, lungs... pretty much every part of the body benefits from moving around. What's the best type of exercise? well we could debate that for hours depending on the person, but walking, swimming, riding a bike, participating in sports, dancing, going to the gym, taking up a martial art or an exercise class, there's something out there for everyone. But it isn't just what the body needs that benefits here. Serotonin, the feel good hormone is released during exercise and, well, most people will tell you they just feel better after they exercise, whether that's a result of hormones, getting out in the fresh air, or just taking time out from your day to do something positive for yourself, the feeling of accomplishment, whatever it is, it makes you feel good so exercise is helping your mental as well as physical health. Finding something you enjoy is really important as its more likely to become part of your lifestyle.
Emotional & Mental health, well I just touched on that. Im not just talking about severe mental illness, depression etc, I m taking about general feeling of wellbeing and happiness, whether you get stressed or feel down. Emotional well being is probably the least looked after aspect of our health. So what can we do to help stay emotionally well? Exercise is probably the most under utilised anti depressant there is. Like I said, whatever causes it, exercise has a positive affect on mood and emotion. A morning walk, can clear the mind, give you space to think, plan and take a little time for yourself before the day runs away from you. You feel good because you already accomplished something positive before the day got going and that positivity can last throughout the day. Stress, life has become so fast pace since the internet took off, everything has to be done faster, our crazy busy multitasking lives where everything has to be done yesterday and demand for your time and attention are higher than ever before, juggling a thousand tasks, feeling overwhelmed can come to anyone, sometimes completely out of the blue, one day you are invincible, but the next, you don't know where to start, yoga, tai chi, meditation can really help to slow things down for a little time, so you can focus your mind and rejuvenate. Making time to do something you enjoy, a hobby, meeting a friend for a cuppa, or seeking professional help for a problem, theres so much we can do if we recognise its important. Most of us are so busy running a family and earning a living that we forget to take a breath and actually enjoy our life!
Pollution / Toxins
So you may do all this already, so you are already doing an amazing job of keeping your mind and body healthy, but there's still another aspect to consider. In our industrialised, technological world, there are pollutants, chemicals & toxins all around us and these can have a negative impact on our body too. In the last year I have stopped using products containing parabans which have an oestrogen like affect on the body, ive stopped heating food in plastic containers in the microwave as that can also release oestrogen like chemicals into food. Smoking, car pollution, factory smoke, pesticides, artificial additives to food, we are bombarded by man made chemicals every day and little by little the effects can add up, so I try and reduce the amount of processed food I eat to a minimum , avoid artificial sweeteners wherever possible, choose oil or butter over man made margarine, little changes, but they add up so quick if not aware, just simply choosing organic produce or at least thoroughly cleaning fruit and veg before eating can make a difference. And whle I mention fruit and veg... diets really important here too... if you eat lots of antioxidants, it helps mop up all the nasty free radicals that cause havoc in the body from stress poor diet and pollution!
So my message is...
Heres to a healthy future!