Now we have cleanly categorised the elements of health through our “What is Health?” article whilst also acknowledging the overlapping between the categories, we can now look to implement successful strategies that maximise your health.
It is important to remember that everyone should be treated as an individual. What may be “healthy” for one person may not be “healthy” for another. Take this advice (and all other advice you see!) into consideration and apply your specific circumstances with critical thinking. If you decide to implement something then do so carefully and, ideally, under the guidance of an expert.
Just as the physical, social and psychological “pillars” of health clearly overlap, there is a strong overlapping between the components of each pillar. For example, metabolism has a bearing on body composition and body composition can be influenced by levels of various biomarkers. We will try and divide out the physical components, but I’ll apologise in advance as they may all end up merging together!
– Measuring Biomarkers
Biomarkers attempt to quantify health in some way.
A one-off measurement is usually only useful if you are seriously deficient (or abundant) in the substance you are measuring. For example, someone can have naturally higher than average levels of testosterone and these levels may remain static. That person can still experience good health. Measuring the change in one’s levels is far more beneficial to monitor health improvement and/or deterioration. Measurements are relatively easy to do with rapid improvements in technology – Vitamin D levels, Iron status, Thyroid function, Hormone, Triglyceride and Cholesterol levels are inexpensive and accessible. The challenge is in trying to rectify any issues – this is where you may need to work closely with a Health Therapist or Clinician.
There’s a strong argument for measuring biomarkers such as the above before any health issues arise rather than when you experience problems, as then you have a “healthy” baseline from which to monitor change in the future.
A good time to obtain a baseline would be prior to embarking on an exercise programme.
– Balancing Catabolic and Anabolic States
Metabolism is designed to work to keep your body in balance and is the sum of all of the chemical reactions that are involved in catabolism and anabolism.
Anabolism and catabolism are metabolic processes. Anabolic processes produce molecules that comprise all the material of living cells. Catabolism is the opposite – larger molecules are broken down into smaller ones. It is for this reason that metabolism is the sum of all of the chemical reactions that are involved in catabolism and anabolism. It can be quite tricky to get your head around this seemingly simple subject but essentially all you need to know is that both are needed – catabolism releases energy that drives anabolism forward.
Get your head around metabolism and we hope you’ll be in a better position to make educated decisions regarding your health.
In relation to exercise and health, to increase your muscle mass and/or decrease your body fat, you will probably need to engage in both anabolic and catabolic workouts to some extent. Generally speaking though, in the anabolic state you are building muscle and in the catabolic state you are burning fat. You do also require the nutrition to make this happen effectively.
As you can probably tell, it’s a massive topic in itself. A good Personal Trainer, Nutritionist or Coach will be able to explain how metabolism is integrated into your fitness plan and/or workouts to ensure you reach your desired goals whilst maintaining health.
– Get a Personalised Exercise Programme
You may have identified that you need to improve your strength or reduce your levels of adipose tissue. As we mentioned in the previous article, a lack of strength can lead to increases in mortality and high levels of adipose tissue increases the risk of chronic disease.
Some degree of strength training seems to be beneficial for long term health so you don’t need to become super strong, you may just need to obtain a higher baseline through one or two short sessions per week that implement anabolism and catabolism, to get your desired effects. More muscle mass as one gets older seems to be more protective so focusing more on strength as you age is a sensible approach according to a lot of literature.
Although it is generally assumed that less adipose (fat) tissue is more beneficial for health, the body does require a level of adiposity in order to function effectively so you may need to focus on increasing your levels rather than decreasing them, especially if there is an imbalance in your metabolism.
We can be confident in saying that an indiviudal’s requirements will be just that – individual. So get hold of an expert to guide you through a personalised exercise programme.
– Improving movement and overcoming movement restrictions
We have all experienced injuries and we have all experienced injuries that have had a negative effect on our health. In order to engage in the other aspects of physical health, you may need to overcome a pain or dysfunction that has resulted from an acute or chronic injury. For example, it would be unwise to engage in a strengthening programme if you are suffering from a spinal injury.
Rectify your injury or movement restrictions (or at least get them to a safe and manageable level) before taking the next step to improving physical health.
In the previous article we focused a lot of attention on social isolation and how this has a bearing on our social health. We also mentioned other aspects of social health that we can now attempt to address through different methods. We remind you that there are far more educated professionals than us in which to seek information from in this realm so please reach out if you feel you need further information.
– Form Quality Relationships and Maintain them
Organise time with friends and family who have a positive influence on your life – you know who they are! A period of enforced or unforced social isolation may have left you intentionally or unintentionally neglecting the time spent with positive people.
Make sure that the contact with the above people is of good quality to eliminate any susceptibility of loneliness (to you or to them!) but some degree of (positive) contact is better than none.
– Remove Unnecessary Stress
Like a lot of the previous points, this sounds obvious but always seems difficult to do in practice! We often experience things that cause stress but sometime we are reluctant to remove ourselves from them. An example might be an Instagramer who annoys you after every one of their posts, or a colleague who is constantly complaining about their workload. Take yourself away from that negative stress – you could unfollow them, both of them!
– Don’t obsess over having to have “a purpose”
Spend time on the things you are passionate about but not so much time that it detracts from other areas of your life and health. You don’t have to obsess over one thing in order to obtain a “purpose“. Don’t engage in things that you feel you “should” do because everyone else is doing them or you feel like they are things that are expected of you.
For example, maybe you don’t feel like you have your “dream job“, something you always thought you needed to achieve, because you don’t like the work you are doing. Fretting over this is going to lead to more stress and unhealthiness. Take yourself back from the situation and maybe you’ll learn that it’s actually something else, like the culture in which you are working (maybe the negative work colleague mentioned previously) and not the work that is causing problems.
In sport, don’t get disillusioned by the idea of focusing disproportionately on the sport that you enjoy. If you’re an age group triathlete with a family and stressful job then spending 25 hours a week training is probably not going to lead to a balanced lifestyle and great health.
– Yoga, mindfulness and meditation
At Optimal Movement, we are strong advocates of any practice that induces stimulation of your parasympathetic nervous system, especially for sportspeople. This is one of the reasons we have spent a lot of time constructing effective yoga classes both for groups and individuals. The aim is to counteract daily stressors and discover the ability to be more “present”. To get more information on this it’s definitely a good idea to reach out to Sally our Yoga guru.
Again, there is a strong crossover with the social elements, but we will attempt to outline some more applications from the psychological element of health.
– Get a Good Perspective
From the previous article (and from some of the feedback we received) it is clear that we can be led to a biased perspective as the result of an irrational thought process. Quite easily, your biased perspective can be the result of an irrational thought process, simply being aware of this process is half of the battle! If you are feeling stressed out then take a step back and try to put the stress into a bigger picture.
A good analogy for gaining perspective is to imagine that you are standing below big skyscrapers. When you look up, everything seems massive. Now imagine you are at the top of the tallest skyscraper and looking down. Things now don’t seem so big and overwhelming.
Simply understanding your thought process can let you consciously distance yourself from irrationality and give you the opportunity to select the thoughts that will lead to good psychological health.
– Add Value
We know that mental health issues often arise from the perception of not being valued. The key word here is “perception“. Perception may not reflect reality. In reality, I value you for getting this far through the article! Your perception maybe different though.
It’s probably not going to be successful to ask people to value you more so why not let people know that you value them instead? If you ask for support when you need it, maybe it’s support that relates to the other areas of health – workload, stress or exercise for example, then you will add value to that person’s life and they’re going to be more likely to value you in return. We’re sure that anyone can add value to someone else’s life.
– Become Resilient to Negativity
The best way to stop negative energy rubbing off on you is to remove yourself from the source, just like removing yourself from unnecessary stress. Sources could include: people, social media, environments, physical pain…
If you can’t remove yourself from the source then don’t get drawn into engaging with it. Negativity can lead to self-doubt and further psychological health problems. If you allow external negative sources to lead to self-doubt then you may end up doing things you feel you “should do” rather than the things that will lead to psychological health.
Thank you for taking your time to read this article. We hope that you can take something away from it, apply that to your lifestyle and subsequently see improvements in your health.
Simply being mindful of certain situations and aware of your own thought processes can be hugely beneficial but we encourage you to get in touch with us here at Optimal Movement if you feel you need some further guidance. If we are unable to help then we will be able to recommend someone who can.
The Optimal Movement Team