When looking at all the factors that can be addressed in the health space, we will stick to 4 of the main pillars. These will be
4. Stress Relief
Each of these may influence your overall health and can have positive impacts when followed consistently, and negative impacts when left by the wayside.
Sleep is our number one recovery tool, yet it's the first thing we let go of, despite knowing how important it is. Sufficient sleep helps our body repair, regulate, and restore function. An easy way to get back on track with sleep is to set a consistent bed and wake time. By waking and sleeping consistently, we can start to regulate our body's natural clock and create a more efficient routine to restore the body's biological functions. Solid sleep reduces fatigue and stress and improves mental clarity.
Another way to help improve sleep quality would be to create a night time routine to assist with winding down and being more prepared for a restful night of sleep. This can include reducing exposure to highly lit areas 90 minutes before bed, and moving to less stimuli, such as less lighting, noises, etc. prior to bed. Blacking out your room and reducing any noises will help maintain restful sleep as you will not have any external stimuli potentially hindering your ability to reach deep stages of sleep.
What we eat determines how well we energize and maintain our body's function during the day. Consistency is key here. Consistently poor diets or foods that aggravate you will yield poor results, and the opposite if always eating well. One bad meal will not destroy your week, and only one good meal will not make up for the whole week. Strive for 80% of your diet as whole foods weekly. Processed snacks, though small, still count towards this being a less than ideal choice.. Maybe try oatmeal and yogurt as breakfast items or fruit and hard cheeses as snack items.
We all know exercise is essential, but it does not need to be complicated. Going for walks and spending 20-30 minutes moving your body is sufficient to get things started. Walk or engage in some form of movement-based activity/exercise for 20-30min 2-3x/week. Resistance training, (even bodyweight) would be an ideal mix 2x/week when combined with low-level aerobic activities such as walking, biking, or swimming. Consistent exercise will help maintain normal hormone function, maintain strength/lean mass, and increase the body's resilience to stress.
We all have stressful lives in the environment we live in today. Environmentally this can be from technology, news, people, etc. Work stress and other factors apply here as well. Increased pressure will slow metabolic functions, age our bodies, and reduce cognitive output.
Make a plan in your day/week that is scheduled for "you time." This can be a hobby or social gathering that allows your mind to unwind and be in the present moment. It could be reading, hiking, walking, playing golf, playing an instrument, cooking, gardening, talking with friends, or anything that makes you feel fulfilled and calm.
You can take these pillars and see how you score from an overall health standpoint. If you are hitting any one of the areas at 80% consistency throughout the week, give yourself a +1 towards the health scale. If you are below 80% you would be at status quo, and anything less than 50% would be considered a -1 to your health score.. Below is an example of how someone may be graded in a health score.
Smokes daily: -1
Drinks >3-5 drinks/week: -1
Exercises daily: +1
Diet 65% adherence: 0
Sleep 50%: -1
Stress Management (plays golf 2x/week) : +1
No tobacco use: +1
Drinks >3-5 drinks/week -1
No Exercise : -1
Diet 50%: -1
Sleep: 70%: 0
Stress Management (bowling 2x/week and gardens daily): +1
No tobacco use: +1
Drinks >3-5 drinks/week: -1
Exercises 4x/week : +1
Diet 80%: +1
Sleep: 60%: 0
Stress Management (walks daily, reads, enjoys cooking): +1
You can see the choices these individual make determines the outcome of their health score. Just because someone exercises daily, which is a positive, they can negate it completely with other behaviors, just as the case in Person A. If you strive to gain a positive by being at least 80% adherent to a pillar per week, you will notice a dramatic difference in your overall health.
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Dr. Peter Dionisopoulos is the owner and founder of Dynamic Performance & Rehab. He has worked with many high-level athletes and military personnel, but his true passion is to help active adults maintain their lifestyle by providing information and potential solutions to their aches and pains so they can continue with the activities they love.