Staying Healthy—Why It's Important ALL the Time

It is easy to put our own health aside as we deal with the everyday hassles, demanding job duties, and deadlines. Not to mention balancing all of this with the pressures from home from time to time. Often times we sacrifice sleep, nutrition, and physical activity and place our energies on life's demands.

The truth is, it is a matter of life and death that we take care of ourselves. As we face challenging times, it is important to call to mind the following facts about what everyday "stressors" can do to our health, and remember the importance of taking care of ourselves first:

  • Stress contributes to heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, and other illnesses in many individuals.
  • Stress affects the immune system, which protects us from many serious diseases.
  • Stress contributes to the development of alcoholism, obesity, suicide, drug addiction, cigarette addiction, and other harmful behaviors.

The question then becomes, how do we keep in mind the importance of staying healthy and allow that concept to remain a point of priority and focus?

Attitude is Everything!

Justin O'Brien states in his book The Wellness Tree, "the working rule, however, is that your body's reactions take their cue from your mind."

Attitude plays a crucial role in affecting that reaction. Suzanne Segerstrom, PhD also says that people who focus only on negative information to the exclusion of more positive information will perceive more stress and, therefore, suffer more serious consequences in their mental and physical health.

Managing Wellness

The definition of wellness or health must stretch beyond physicality, beyond simply the absence of disease, and include the complex, intertwined ideas of body, mind, and consciousness. Often, small lifestyle changes in the physical dimension catalyze a quest for total wellbeing in other dimensions: social, spiritual, occupational, emotional, and intellectual. But the door to wellness opens differently for every individual.

Fitting Fitness In

"You don’t have to go to a gym to get the wide range of health benefits of exercise," says Steven Blair, PhD, professor of exercise science at the University of South Carolina.

Fitting in just 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity activities—walking, gardening, even doing housework, substantially reduces the risk of chronic diseases, according to the latest federal physical activity guidelines. Building and maintaining muscle strength may take a little more ingenuity. One option: learn a set of basic calisthenics that include push-ups, sit-ups, deep knee bends, and leg lifts. Another alternative: buy an inexpensive set of stretch bands, which can be used to do dozens of strength-building exercises.

Exercise can also inspire creativity. We always have those "aha" moments in the shower. A good brisk walk can be just as stimulating!

Nutrition

A limited food budget and a lack of time are no reason to reach for junk food. "Some of the healthiest foods out there are actually the least expensive," says Kathy McManus, PhD, director of inpatient nutrition services at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. A few examples:

  • Beans
  • Peanuts
  • Homemade breakfast cereal
  • Make-them-yourself beverages
  • Frozen vegetables

Cooking at home instead of eating out is another way to save money and stay healthy, especially when you skip processed foods and cook from scratch. Home-cooked meals tend to be lower in fat and salt than what you may find at restaurants. Surveys show that people who eat at home are less likely to be overweight or obese.

The good news is that all foods can be part of a healthful diet. Simply balance the foods you eat and engage in regular physical activity. For example, eat a wide variety of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Information Sources

Source: Janet Kroencke, UI Campus Recreation Wellness Services