Achieving and maintaining a healthy quality of life is extremely important, because it allows us to get the most out of our daily activities without getting tired or stressed. This healthy quality of life is all part of our physical wellness, the first pillar in holistic health. If you’ve missed our post that covers the 5 pillars you can read it here.
What Is Physical Wellness?
Physical wellness is so much more than simply what shape our bodies are in.
Physical wellness means living responsibly, taking care of your body and recognizing which of your habits and behaviors impact your quality of life, either positively or negatively.
And because our mind, body and spirit connection is so strong, neglecting our physical wellness can affect us in other areas of our lives as well.
Our goal should be trying to achieve a balance between all three.
As you become more aware of your physical health you can more easily identify areas you are doing well in as well as those that have room for improvement.
The 3 Steps To a Healthy physical wellness
Physical wellness is about adopting healthy habits and avoiding, or reducing, destructive habits.
The route to managing your physical wellness can be made easy if you break it down into these three areas:
- Eat healthily
Hands up if the thought of going to the gym fills you with a sense of dread.
And how much easier is it for you to come up with excuses not to exercise rather than reasons to exercise?
However, being physically active is the top thing to do to optimize your physical wellness.
Benefits of exercise
Not only is exercise good for keeping our lumps and bumps under control, regular exercise also has a myriad of other benefits, including:
- It is the most under-used anti-depressant! Elle Woods was entirely correct when she said that exercise makes you happy
- It increases your energy levels
- It strengthens your bones and muscles
- It reduces your risk of chronic disease and stroke
- It can help with your brain health and memory
- It can help with relaxation
How much exercise do I need?
It is recommended that we get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week, and that the exercise should be spread out over the week.
One of the most commonly used excuses for not exercising is lack of time, and let’s face it as women who work, run a household and all the demands that come with that, it’s a pretty valid excuse.
However if you break down 150 minutes into seven day, that equates to roughly 20 minutes a day, which sounds manageable.
Furthermore, according to researchers from the Healthy Lifestyles Research Centre at Arizona State University three 10-minute workouts may be even more beneficial for your heart than one 30-minute session.
And we can all find 10-minute slots during the day, can’t we?
I pop in a few squats, lunges and waist-twists whilst cooking and have been taught a great ab exercise that I do several times a day whilst sitting at my desk.
- Sit on your chair with your legs uncrossed.
- Place your hands on your desk
- Take a breath in
- As you slowly exhale, push down on the desk with your hands and pull your belly button towards your spine – you should feel your core ‘switch on’
There is also a great series of 10-minute workout DVDS that you can get, everything from yoga to kickboxing. Each DVD has five 10-minute workouts and you can do one, two or all five depending on the amount of time you have available. I also have several of these.
What kind of exercise is best?
Exercise is a very individual thing. Some people actually like pumping iron at the gym, others prefer a dance class and some are just happy walking the dog.
The main thing about exercise is to find something you like. You will get no enjoyment and subsequently very little benefit from pumping iron at the gym if you’d prefer to be at a salsa class.
Another big thing to remember when it comes to exercise is that there’s a big difference between how you should workout in your 20s and how you should workout as you age.
- 20s – try and incorporate cardio, weight training, balance work, and stretching
- 30s – as your body is no longer at its peak, and you might feel it takes longer to recover from workout try adding some resistance training and interval-based cardio
- 40s – strength training is essential to add to your routine, along with some moderate-intensity cardio
- 50s – continue with the resistance and strength training. It may also be time to reduce running to walking speed
- 60s – this is the most important time of your life to exercise. Cardio, bodyweight exercises (sit-ups, push-ups, etc.) and yoga are excellent ways to work your muscles
Keto, Paleo, 5:2, Atkins, South Beach, Raw, Zone, how many have you tried?
And with photo-shopped media images beamed around the world of the perceived ideal of what women should look like, is it any wonder that the diet industry is worth over $72 billion in the United States alone.
Eating healthily most definitely does not mean skipping meals, starving yourself or just eating lettuce for the rest of your life.
To nurture your body and physical wellness, consistency in eating a well-balanced diet filled with a variety of nutrients, vitamins and minerals will not only help prevent illness, but will also keep your body functioning at its best.
It’s by skipping meals or eating too much when you aren’t really hungry that can affect your metabolic rate which in turn can upset your physical and mental health.
Top tips for a healthy diet for life
Middle-age spread is real!
Even though you need as many, if not more nutrients as you did in your 20s, you don’t need as many calories. That’s why if you continue to eat the same number of calories per day as you did when you were younger, you could easily gain extra fat, especially around the belly area. This is especially true as women go through menopause, as the decline in estrogen levels, may see an increase in stomach fat.
We all know a healthy diet consists of eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, drinking plenty of water, and eating oily fish and whole grains, but how can tweak our diet as we age?
- Eat more protein – as you age it’s common to lose muscle mass and strength, but increasing the amount of protein in your diet can help your body maintain muscle
- Eat more fibre – diverticular disease affects up to 50 per cent of people over the age of 50 in western countries, and eating more fibre helps prevent this by stimulating regular bowel movements
- Take in more calcium and vitamin D – calcium helps build and maintain healthy bones, whilst vitamin D helps the body absorb the calcium. Calcium can be found in dairy products and dark green, leafy vegetables whilst vitamin D can be found in oily fish
- Get more vitamin B12 – which is essential for making red blood cells and maintaining a healthy brain function. It’s estimated that 10 to 30 per cent of people over the age of 50 have a reduced ability to absorb vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 can be found naturally in fish, meat, eggs and dairy products along with some fortified breakfast cereals
- Drink more water – it’s important to keep hydrated at all ages, but even more so as you age, as your body may become less able to recognize the signs of dehydration. Try drinking one or two glasses of water at mealtimes, or carry a water bottle with you during the day.
What happens when you are asleep impacts, in part, to how you feel when you’re awake. You know how sluggish and ‘off’ you feel when you’ve not had enough sleep. However, did you know that not getting enough sleep not only affects your ability to function properly, but also contributes to weight gain?
Eight hours sleep is the optimum length you need for your body to repair and restore itself ready for the following day. A good night’s sleep helps with:
- Healthy brain function – whilst you’re sleeping, your brain is ‘taking stock’, forming new pathways to help you learn and improve your memory
- Emotional well-being – a good night’s sleep enhances your emotional well-being and behavior, and helps you cope better with change
- Physical health – sleep helps a myriad of physical processes including; the healing and repairing of heart and blood vessels, healthy growth and development as well as your immune system
- Daytime productivity – getting enough sleep helps you function and be more productive throughout the day. You will be able to finish tasks on time with more accuracy.
Strategies for getting a good night’s sleep
With today’s hectic lifestyles, sleep is always the first thing people compromise in an effort to get everything done.
The top strategy to help you get a good night’s sleep is simply to make time to sleep and stick to a sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, including weekends. Not only does this help you feel better, but it also keeps your own body’s circadian rhythm, your body clock, in time.
Other strategies include:
- Turn off devices, including the television, an hour before you go to bed. The blue light emitted from devices tells the brain that it’s time to be alert and awake
- Try taking a hot bath, or use relaxation techniques before you go to bed
- Your bedroom is a place for resting, try to keep it quiet, cool and dark
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine which are both stimulants and can interfere with your sleep patterns. As the effects of caffeine can last up to eight hours, try not to have any caffeinated soda, coffee, tea or chocolate within the eight-hour period before you go to bed
- Eating before bedtime is a controversial topic, but a general rule of thumb is not to have a large, heavy meal in a couple of hours before bedtime, however a light snack is okay
What about power naps?
Taking a power nap of no more than 20 minutes during the day may provide a boost in alertness and performance. However, if you have trouble falling asleep at night, limit naps or take them earlier in the afternoon.
Good physical wellness provides almost instantaneous benefits to your physical and psychological state. The benefits of looking and feeling great often lead to greater self-confidence, self-esteem, self-control and a sense of direction.
Improving your physical wellness will take time as you adjust to the changes you make in your life, but stick with it and you’ll feel better.
What’s your favorite form of exercise and what do you avoid doing?
What diet works for you?
Drop us a comment below!
Read on in the series:
2nd Pillar : Emotional Wellness Are You Emotionally Healthy?
3rd Pillar: Social Wellness – Strategies You Can Use To Improve Social Wellness