Good health is exercise AND…  !

(This article is general nutritional advice for the average adult. Discuss your health goals with your doctor, and then see a Dietician, a Wellness Coach and / or a Personal Trainer.)

 “Nothing changes if nothing changes.”   This adage translates well to health and fitness. Most of us exercise and eat fairly well, but haven’t yet reached our fitness goals. What else can we change?

Good health and a healthy weight are not as simple as “Calories in vs. calories out”  or “Exercise more. Eat less.” Good health incorporates many elements: nutrition (macro- and micro-nutrients) and exercise (type, amount, intensity.) But many things affect metabolism and body composition, like when and how we eat and exercise, recovery periods, sleep, “gut” health, hormones, water, and fiber.  Just as important are the things we shouldn’t do/consume OR do less of (smoking, alcohol, caffeine, red meats, sugary foods and drinks, “bad” fats, salt, fried and fast foods, empty calories and artificial colors/flavors/sweeteners and chemicals we can’t pronounce.)  Good health includes work/life balance, time with family and friends, being mentally active, mindful relaxation, and spending time outdoors in nature. 

What will motivate you?   A goal weight?  Reducing blood pressure or cholesterol?  A shift in how you feel?  Being able to do certain activities again?  How can you be held accountable?  A weekly weigh in? Working out with friends, a support group of people with the same goals, small group or personal training? 

SLEEP: most of us need between 7-9 hours daily (at about the same times each day) for the obvious reasons (physical recovery and mental functioning) but also for hormone health.  The hormones Ghrelin and Leptin signal our hunger and satiety.  When these are off kilter (due to lack of sleep) we overeat.  Insulin, Estrogen, Testosterone and Cortisol are influenced by sleep, and affect our weight. In turn, our weight affects hormone levels.  Sleep, hormone levels and weight are interrelated.  Unfortunately, many of us sacrifice sleep (for screen time, social media, etc.) when it’s one of the most important things we can do for our overall physical and mental health. 

 RECOVERY periods in between exercise sessions are essential for muscle growth.  Fibroblast cells repair our muscles after exercise but it takes some time.  Inadequate recovery leads to physical and mental stress, a decrease in performance, and overuse injuries.  Strength training specific muscle groups requires 48 hours to recover.  On recovery days you can rest or try gentle yoga or tai chi, massage, steam/sauna, foam rolling or balance work.  

 A WELL ROUNDED EXERCISE PROGRAM INCLUDES:  cardio, strength, endurance, flexibility, core strength, coordination, balance and mind/body work including meditation. But knowing your BMI, body composition, skeletal muscle mass, percent body fat, and target heart rate will determine where you are and identify your goal range. These vary by gender, age, height and special conditions.   Ask one of our Personal Trainers to help.   One important note about exercise:  HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is one of the best exercises you can do for its efficiency and for cardiovascular health and endurance improvement.  You define “high” intensity by your fitness level, but an example of HIIT training is 30 seconds of high intensity followed by 30 seconds of lower (jog/walk or incline walk/flat walk) for 8-10 rounds. Doing this just a few times a week increases your metabolic rate, meaning you burn more calories for a longer period afterwards.

These are as important as all of the above:

  • KEEP LEARNING – Take up a hobby – an instrument, game, an adult education class – that uses different skills.  Do puzzles, read ( read something new!)  Dance and sing!
  • Develop a MENTAL HEALTH practice – Practice guided relaxation, Yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, receive Reiki, and sound, aroma or other energy healing, or take a walk in nature (look up “forest bathing” which is a prescribed health treatment in Japan.)  Practice SELF CARE.
  • MAINTAIN SOCIAL CONNECTIONS – Come to The Connection, keep in touch with friends and family, take classes and make new friends.  Join clubs and groups in your town, the Library and Rec Centers are wonderful resources.  Live like you’re in a Blue Zone – areas around the world where people have very high rates of healthy longevity.  What they have in common are diets high in whole plant foods, alcohol only in moderation, exercise, eating until 80% full, AND meaningful social connections.

This is a lot of information, so start with small changes.  Choose the most important one for you, for just a week and add on every few weeks. Talk to us!  We are here to offer information, advice, a personalized plan, and support.  Part II of the post is coming soon with more information about food and metabolism, and ideas to help you achieve your goals!

Submitted by:  Sangeeta Prasad Benbow, Program Director Adult Health & Wellness