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Committing to Total Wellness

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Being healthy goes far beyond losing weight to fit into your favorite dress for a friend’s wedding, or looking great for your high school reunion. It’s about being mindful of everyday choices we make regarding our eating habits, sleeping patterns, exercise, and more. Let’s look at a few easily forgotten, but essential steps we can take to live with whole-body health.

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  • Define your ‘why.’

Ask yourself why you want and need to be in good health. Do you have children that you are trying to keep up with? Do you have a family history of high cholesterol? Do you feel tired and inefficient during your work day? Do you feel down? Really reflect on the core reasons that you want to make this change in your life. This is absolutely critical since having total body health requires constant dedication.

 

  • Create an exercise routine.

Many people think they need to go to the gym for many hours a week in order to get in shape. This will actually hurt more than help, or will cause you to burn out quickly and give up the gym all together. The body naturally responds to short, intense workouts several times a week, also called interval training. It is also important to alternate strength/resistance training using weights and endurance or cardio training. As we age, bone and muscle mass naturally decrease. Any amount of resistance training will minimize bone and muscle atrophy and help reduce the incidence of injury.

Different routines work for different people, but an example would be 20 minutes of cardio 3 days a week and 30 minutes of weight training 3 days a week with 1 rest day. Exercising can even be as short as 5 minutes to be effective! As long as the exercise is intense enough to get your heart rate elevated, then it is sufficient.

 

  • Flexibility and mental health.

Stretching is necessary to avoid injury and improve range of motion. Yoga is a great way to do this because it also incorporates mindful breathing. Just the act of focusing on slow breathing has been proven to calm the mind and body. It is recommended that yoga or basic stretching be performed at least 3 days a week.

 

  • Healthy food choices

Try to maintain a balanced diet. There are many extreme diets that completely cut out essential fats or carbohydrates that our bodies need to survive. Instead try to consume things in moderation and make sure you include all food groups in your diet. Always avoid foods with trans fats, also known as partially hydrogenated oils. Our bodies have no way of breaking them down and they lead to clogged arteries and are associated with heart disease.

 

  • Drink water.

Water is essential for every process in the body. Being dehydrated can lead to fatigue, confusion, and lack of focus. It is recommended to drink about eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.

  • Sleep.

The average person does not get enough sleep each night. It is recommended to sleep between seven and nine hours each night. You may think you can function on three hours of sleep a night, but your body cannot. Sleep is critical for the body to perform processes such as muscle repair, mental clarity, memory consolidation, releasing appropriate hormones for digestion, hunger, growth, stress response and much more. There are a few steps you can take to ensure you have a good night’s sleep every night.

 

  • Use a sleep mask and avoid looking at your phone late at night. Our bodies naturally respond to sleep-wake cycles using light as a stimulus for waking up. If you are watching TV or staring at your phone right up until you go to bed, your body will have a tough time shutting down. This is because in the presence of light, certain hormones are released to help you wake up. Making sure you put away electronics at least 1-2 hours before bedtime is important to help your body and mind relax naturally.
  • Do not drink alcohol or eat a big meal right before bedtime. Alcohol disrupts sleeping patterns and also causes snoring, which interrupts good sleep. Eating is intended to give us energy, so when we eat, our bodies are getting ready for activity and not for sleep. Additionally, we digest best in an upright position. Presence of food in our stomach leads to increased stomach acid production and release. For this reason, consistently laying down right after a big meal is associated with development of acid reflux symptoms.
  • Establish a sleep routine. Our bodies love routine and maintaining a constant schedule. Studies show that people who live the longest have a constant schedule. Find what works best for you and commit to it every day.

 

References

AGD Impact. “Committing to Total Wellness.” October 2016. Vol. 44, NO 10.

 

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