Control your lifestyle and living space and you control your health. While I plan on discussing your living space in the near future, right now I want to explain how shaping three important factors in your lifestyle can influence your health.
The Domino Effect
When it comes to wellness, health and quality of life our choices set up a kind of domino effect: Each choice affects another, and all the factors that determine your well-being are interrelated. I previously wrote about this topic in some detail, here.
The Cycle Of Three
While health and wellness can be broken down into dozens and dozens of categories, three of them stand out as essential:
- Exercise. And these, of course, are all directed individually, by the choices we make, the lives we lead, each and every day.
Each of us has a fair amount of direct control of three of these important aspects of health and wellness.
What is interesting about sleep, diet and exercise is that each of them on its own has a profound effect on your health. However, the quality of one directly affects the quality of the others. This means that when you let one of these area slip a bit, the repercussion can be felt in the other two, and a larger negative wellness effect can be felt.
I have been lecturing and writing about the direct relationship between our lifestyle choices and state of health for 15 years. And most people still don’t understand this concept.
I am not sure if people don’t want to assume responsibility for their own health, or they can’t face that they may be directly or indirectly making themselves sick. Maybe it is just easier to seek external care and take medications while making the same poor lifestyle choices.
In any case, a recent study published in the May issue of the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy shows direct cause and effect between the state of your health and how you manage your sleep, nutrition and physical activity. Let’s look at each of these a bit more. I have included links to other stories I have written to help you drill down to the information that you need, to better take back control of your health and wellness.
Sleep is so important to health, that a steady decrease in sleep has been linked to heart disease, depression, chronic pain and other serious conditions. According to the study findings, “Less than 70% of adults get enough sleep. Poor sleep (less than 7 to 8 hours each night) is related to depression, work-related injuries, and weight gain.”
Sleep has such an effect on health that I have written several articles about it in the past. I previously wrote about how ample sleep leads to weight loss. That story is here.
And I explained that without proper sleep the brain fills with toxic waste. That story is here.
The most important ways to improve your sleep include:
- Consistently sleep and wake up at the same time.
- Do not consume sugar or caffeine after 6 p.m.
- Do not exercise after 7 p.m.
- Reduce your anxiety and stress.
- Do not read or watch TV in bed.
- Create the proper sleep space.
- Use sleep aids as needed.
The details of these tips are here.
Until the 1960s, no mainstream medical experts seemed to believe that what we ate had an effect on how healthy we are. Crazy, I know, given what we all know now about fats, cholesterol, GMOs and so on.
Eating and drinking is so important for health that a diet loaded with dense nutrients (fruits and vegetables) with whole, fresh foods can do wonders for our body and mental states.
However, according to the study findings, “Only 30% of Americans are at a healthy weight. Poor nutrition… is linked to disease, depression, and inadequate sleep.” Believe me when I tell you diet is not a matter of calorie count, but of the quality and quantity of the food you consume.
I wrote here about how eating at the wrong times can actually derail your health. Here I wrote about the importance of reading labels and eating the right kind of foods for optimal health.
Rounding off the big three subjects of lifestyle factors is physical activity.
You cannot be healthy if you do not move your body. Being active is essential to physical health, mental states and overall quality of life. Yet, according to the study findings, “Less than 45% of adults get the recommended 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Inactivity is tied to chronic disease, weight gain, and poor sleep.”
There are many ways to remain physically active. Yes, there are running, aerobics and sports; but there are also yoga, walking and biking. There is a physical activity and level for every age and level of fitness.
The Big Problem
It seems that everyone should know that sleep, diet and exercise are the most important pillars of health and wellness. The health danger of neglecting any of these threats is repeated all over in all forms of media and conversation. Yet, it is difficult for many of us to take control.
We are stuck sitting all day at work, staring at flat-screen computers, phones and televisions. We have no time for self-care, and we barely have time to eat and sleep and move — let alone set a firm sleep and exercise schedule and shop for healthy foods or prepare them ahead of time.
But there is hope. This story and the many article links provided should give you some tools to help you get on track and stay there. In addition, the study mentioned above noted how a panel of 36 experts from academia, government and the military gathered to discuss how to make the healthy choice the easy choice. Here are their six points of advice:
- Remember that small changes in sleep, activity and nutrition can make a big difference in your health.
- Challenge yourself weekly to gain a new healthy habit and break an old unhealthy habit.
- Create an environment around you that supports your weekly challenges.
- Set and track your goals.
- Ask for support from friends and family.
- Use technology (fitness trackers, apps and online tools) to motivate and support your efforts. Ask your physical therapist about more ways to make the healthy choice easier for you.
Here is additional advice on how to make better lifestyle choices. I have written offering even more advice, tricks and tips to help you sleep, eat and move in a more healthy direction.