Health and Fitness Simplified
Updated: Mar 31, 2022
In a recent article, I discussed the need for a reawakening of physical education in our schools. And the connection between physical health, mental health, and our lack of physical education in schools negatively affects our kids. This is often the case as we continue into adulthood for many of us. Adequate education on nutrition and fitness can seem daunting and overwhelming, due to the abundance of programs, dietary products, social media “influencers” and nutrition plans at our disposal. The totality often leads to many of us feeling apprehensive and uncertain about where to begin in our health and fitness journey. Given such fear, many of us slip into a wait and react mentality toward our health. Tie in the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life, it can become easy to put our own health on the backburner. Rather than being proactive and beating illness and ailments to the punch, we react and respond after the fact. Covid shined a big bright light on this phenomenon. To overcome this mentality, my goal is to simplify health and fitness for you. Let’s start with the basics
What exactly are health and fitness? According to the World Health Organization, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” I looked up a variety of definitions for fitness and found the following to be the most concise: “Fitness is the condition of being physically fit and healthy and involves attributes that include, but are not limited to mental acuity, cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, body composition, and flexibility.”
In our lexicon, it is fair to say that “fitness” is a term that could mean something different for everyone. In the majority of cases, “fitness” is regarded as being physically fit. Though, emotional and mental fitness is critical as well. Overall, "fitness” defines all aspects of health, but for the sake of this article, we will focus on the physical side.
Physical fitness encompasses muscle strength, muscle endurance, flexibility, mobility, and cardiovascular endurance. Finding a balance between all is key, as each affects the other and contributes to our total fitness. When we are truly physically fit, we possess the energy necessary to consistently stay productive, we minimize the likelihood of health problems, and we look and feel our best.
Now that we grasp the concept of health and fitness, the obvious question is how do we take action? I suggest we focus on just two things to get started:
1. Move more than we have been.
2. Eat more nutritiously than we have been.
Sounds simple, right?! Well, it is, but that doesn't mean it's always easy. However, accomplishing just those two things will make a positive impact on our lives. Remember, my goal is to make this first step as simple as possible for all of us. We can get more complex for sure, but to kick things off, simplicity is the key.
Moving more may be simply going for walks, playing outside with the dog, or doing 10 pushups before and after bed. Eating more nutritiously may consist of adding a salad every day and ingesting more water. It may be minimizing the soda we normally drink or the sweets we habitually consume. Whatever it consists of, it is the start of the journey and a step in the right direction of the best version of you. Over time, these incremental modifications will develop into more pronounced enhancements in our lives. We will see and feel the benefits. Ultimately, we only have one body to meander through this life, so we may as well take care of it.
Initial Suggestions / Recommendations
- Walking: Walking for about 10 to 15 minutes per day to start is all you need to begin to see and feel improvements. Try a walk during your lunch break or after dinner. To help our body and mind wake up, an early morning walk before your typical workday is ideal.
- Stretching: Whether it is static stretching or dynamic stretching or even yoga, stretching of any kind will assist us in easing tight areas within our muscles and reduces mobility issues.
- Bodyweight exercises: Performing basic bodyweight exercises like, squats, push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, burpees, etc. would be huge for acclimating our bodies to strength training. They will also help with flexibility and mobility.
- Activities: Being active with our kids, pets, or loved ones. Whether that is throwing a ball with the dog, kicking a soccer ball with the kids, or taking a post-dinner stroll through the neighborhood with our significant other, all these activities will boost our bodies, minds, and spirits.
- Increase vegetable intake: Veggies are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and even water for better hydration. And believe it or not, veggies actually help boost muscle function.
- Consume protein shakes: Protein shakes promote muscle gain and recovery. And get this, they have even been shown to help increase muscle mass during times of overall weight loss. Lastly, protein shakes also have been shown to decrease the hunger feeling many of us have throughout the day.
- Minimize candies and sweets: If you are like me, you have quite the sweet tooth. I would rarely ever suggest someone completely cut out sweets, as that has the potential to make me a hypocrite and I know the likelihood of success is minimal. Though, I would suggest if we were going to indulge in our craving for sweets, look to consume a small portion. Enjoying a little of what we love won’t kill us. Other sweet-tasting substitutes to consider: Fruit, chewing gum, mints.
- Increase water intake: Drinking consistently throughout the day will ensure you meet your fluid needs. There is a middle ground between drinking one serving of water after another merely for the sake of it and only drinking when we are thirsty. If we drink only when we are thirsty, we are already at a point of dehydration, and even mild dehydration can affect us mentally and physically. On the flip side, drinking too much water can disrupt our body's electrolyte balance. Just like everything in life, the answer is finding balance and it varies from one individual to another. Many factors ultimately affect how much water we need. Ideally, we want our urine to be more clear than not. Do some trial and error. Some people may function better with more water, while for others it may only lead to excess visits to the restroom. Lastly, if you live in a hot climate, exercise often, or work in the heat you should look to ingest more water than normal.
We have now taken some of the noise out of health and fitness. We have established some simple, though impactful steps, that we can take to kickstart our fitness journey as we advance towards the most optimal version of ourselves. What will be the first step(s) you take? Let's get it!