There are so many examples of things in life that we know we should be doing and yet don’t. Sometimes it’s because we fail to muster the energy, focus or discipline and other times it’s because we avoid what we think is going to be hard before we even try. Among the lineup of things many of us fail to give priority to is our health and well-being.
Beyond being a matter of concern for our longevity and quality of life, our health also impacts our ability to perform at our best. In the workplace, high rates of absenteeism together with lethargic or restricted contributions due to chronic health conditions limit productivity and diminish the success of people and teams.
Most of us experience bouts of being unwell at times and some of us endure health challenges while having little influence on either cause or cure. While we can fall victim to accident or disease, it is also true that we play a lead role in determining the level of health and vitality we enjoy. Every day we make choices that impact our health and well-being; both for the better and for the worse.
In Australia, health department statistics show that 70% of chronic health conditions are caused by lifestyle behaviour and are therefore amenable to preventative strategies. The table below (published in a paper on preventative health and wellness strategies for Australian employees by Dr John Lang B.Ed., M.H.K., Ph.D) shows that major chronic diseases/conditions are responsive to interventions, which target nutrition, inactivity, smoking, alcohol, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol control.
Five of the most important things we can do to maintain a level of health and vitality that will enable us to strive and succeed in all areas of life are:
Maintaining a healthy diet in our fast paced / time poor world can be tough. We eat out, snack on the run or throw together whatever is quick and easy. Few of us take the time to plan ahead and ensure we are giving our bodies the type of fuel it needs in the right proportions. But it’s vital that we do. I know from experience with a little planning and commitment it’s entirely possible to control our diet even when living a hectic life. I also know it’s possible to cook very tasty and fulfilling meals while avoiding excessive portions and foods high in fat, sugar and salt.
Regular exercise is another thing people often fail to include in their life. Some people don’t exercise at all and others struggle to maintain a consistent routine. Some people avoid exercise because they find it unpleasant and even painful. Some of us use the ‘too busy’ excuse and others just simply don’t like to exercise. While we don’t need hit the gym we do need to physically exert our bodies to maintain a level of health and often our weight. Unless we make it a priority, suck up our hesitations and find the courage to get into it more of us will fall prey to the epidemic of obesity.
It doesn’t matter how much people say they enjoy a cigarette, that it helps them relax or even that they fear putting on weight if they stop, the harsh reality is it’s killing them. As an ex-smoker I can concur giving up is really hard and takes really wanting to stop to get through. Three years down the track I can honestly say mustering the strength and courage to stop smoking is among the best things I’ve ever done for both my family and I. The impact it has had on my ability to exercise more effectively and my interest in doing things that take energy with my family alone have made my struggle to give up worthwhile.
Drink only in moderation
Life can be challenging and for many people Friday night or weekend drinks is a welcome escape from their reality. While alcoholism is a significant issue in our society, here I am talking about the so-called social drinker. While the occasional glass of wine, shot of spirits or cold beer isn’t likely to harm you, living a lifestyle that includes ‘wiping yourself out’ on weekends undoubtedly will. There is loads of evidence that shows how binge drinking can take a devastating toll on our health over time.
The diminishing effect a lack of sleep has on our ability to focus and respond to the world around us is clear for us to directly observe. Less obvious in their early stages however are the more serious health consequences of sleep deprivation over time. Research shows a link between a lack of sleep and increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Immunity can also be affected with studies showing people who are sleep deprived have half the immune response to vaccinations compared to those who get the sleep they need.
According to advice offered in an interesting article on sleep at http://www.helpguide.org/life/sleeping.htm the average sleep needs we have at the various stages of life are:
|Newborns (0-2 months)||12 – 18|
|Infants (3 months to 1 year)||14 – 15|
|Toddlers (1 to 3 years)||12 – 14|
|Preschoolers (3 to 5 years)||11 – 13|
|School-aged children (5 to 12 years)||10 – 11|
|Teens and preteens (12 to 18 years)||8.5 – 10|
|Adults (18+)||7.5 – 9|
None of this is rocket science, but for many of us it’s a never ending battle to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Many people find it easy to start living well but the harder part being keeping it up. To increase our chances of maintaining a healthy lifestyle over the long-term the first things we have to do is decide our health really does matter. To do that you need to believe your health and vitality underpin your ability to reach your full potential in life. Then you are more likely to find the strength of resolve needed to make a healthy diet, regular exercise, partying in moderation and getting plenty of sleep mission critical at all points in your life.