Vitality – Physical Health
When we talk about physical health, we are not talking about having a body like the cover of a fitness magazine. We are talking about having a body that is optimised to take on the daily challenges of your life, and the goals that you aspire to achieve.
Having all the vitality you need to live meaningfully.
It is only 12,000 years since we were all hunter gatherers, and our bodies have not evolved beyond being for this purpose. Picking up a ready meal from the supermarket you drove to in your car does not count as hunting and gathering!
Yes, if you are a professional athlete then you need to focus on having excellent physical fitness as a priority, but for the majority of people, a good standard of physical health is just a vehicle to allow them to do what they want.
For example, I love the thrill of downhill mountain biking. But it is hard work! I need to eat well and look after my body so I have the stamina to ride up to the top of the hill to enjoy the descent. Actually, over time you get to enjoy the uphill bit. Experiencing the bitterly gruelling task of slogging up a hill makes the sweet taste of exhilaration as you zoom back down all that bit sweeter.
When it comes to physical health, we all need to be realistic about what is achievable within both the context of the physical attributes our bodies have, and our chosen priorities in life. If we have a busy job and a hectic family life it, may not be possible to fit in lots of time to dedicate to exercise, we can however make choices in some other areas of our lives that will bring positive health benefits.
This post is not intended to be physical fitness program, but your physical fitness does significantly contribute to your vitality. It is an area where you can make quick and easy choices which can have a significant positive impact on your level of vitality. We will have a look at some of the areas that you can choose to review your choices in, and some information you can review your choices in light of.
- Body Composition
- Health goals
Starting here is almost a bit of a trick. To know what is a choice, you must also be able to accept what is not a choice. Based on our natural physical attributes combined with our current physical condition, differing amounts of effort will be required to improve our health. We are all composed of the same matter and energy but our genetics still determine the structure and composition of our individual bodies.
The somatotyping body classification system was developed in the 1940s by psychologist, William Herbert Sheldon. It has three loose categories that bodies fall in to:
- Ectomorphs: Usually have long, lean bodies and have a fast metabolism. They often have a hard time gaining weight and muscle but excel when it comes to endurance.
- Mesomorphs: Naturally muscular and have the ability to lose weight or gain weight easily. They’re often described as having athletic builds and can be considered all round athletes.
- Endomorphs: This group is usually characterized by a larger bone structure. They generally store up fat easily and often struggle with weight loss but excel in the area of explosive power.
The somatotypes are often represented using a triangle as the pretty much all bodies are a combination of the three types rather than being specifically just one:
The somatotyping system is purely a guide and it is not set-in stone. What I mean is you are not consigned to a predetermined fate.
Yes, an overweight endomorph may have to put in more effort (thus prioritise more) if they want to lose weight or, an ectomorph what wants to hit a goal with power lifting may need to accept a longer progression of improvement in their training. Ultimately though, we are all unique and we will not actually know how our bodies will respond to training until we actually give it a try.
Regardless of your perceived or actual somatotype, it is simply a starting point for where you are now. With enough effort and discipline, you can transform your body in to anything you want. If you want it that much.
For me personally I have a meso-endo body. I can get fit fairly quickly but I can get fat and sluggish much quicker! Knowing this, to keep my health in check I know that I need to keep a watchful eye on both my diet and the amount of regular exercise I do. Yes, I can drink a few beers and get a bit loose with some indulgent food but I need to balance it out evenly with activity and a healthy diet.
The reason I have raised this as the first area of consideration is so that you are better able to evaluate and accept what will be involved in achieving improvements to your physical health. We cannot choose the bodies that we are given, we simply need to accept them and the opportunities they provide. The opportunity to strengthen our resolve by discovering our grit and determination in pursuit of our goals.
Accept what is and plan realistic and achievable goals for yourself.
Exercise is classified as physical activity requiring effort, which is carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness. Training is the process of preparing the body to achieve a specified goal.
Same same, but different.
Regardless of if you goal is to get better at a particular sport (training), or if you just want to improve your physical health (exercise); they key thing is that your select the psychological perspective that inspires you with the motivation to get on and apply yourself.
The effectiveness of or exercise and training is governed by these three areas:
- Consistency – how regularly we exercise
- Duration – how long each session lasts
- Intensity – how much effort we put in
Consistency is paramount. Be it once a week, twice a week or every day, the crux of consistency is to develop habits and routines that include physical exercise. When planning our physical activity, it is important to consider our starting level of fitness and plan across all three areas accordingly.
For somebody that does little to no exercise, simply walking (low intensity) for 10 minutes (low duration) every day (high consistency) will be significant enough to effect positive change in their health.
The healthier you become, the more you can increase the duration. Once the duration has hit the limit of your available time, it is then time to start to increase the intensity. Once intensity is under your control and you have the fitness required to really push yourself, you can even start to reduce the consistency a little so that you train fewer times per week. You still need to remain consistent week on week though!
Think outside the box when it comes to planning your activities. Try hoovering your entire house in 10 minutes, or mowing your lawn using only one hand on the lawn mower. You can make almost any task challenging enough so that you can get a health benefit from doing it. That is my challenge to you!
The physical act of performing exercise increases your heart rate and also triggers the production of certain key hormones in your body. The increased blood flow through your body will aid the delivery of oxygen, dietary nutrients and hormones to your brain. These are the key hormones released during exercise and a brief summary of their main psychological health benefits:
- Serotonin – Positive mood regulation
- Endorphins – Suppression of other hormones related to pain, stress and anxiety
- Dopamine – Aids the brain to focus tasks and the achievement of rewards
- Melatonin – Aids sleep and rest
Elevated levels of these hormones all contribute to increased psychological health which then aids social connections and your motivation to complete more physical activity. And so, begins the cycle…
When your body is fit and you feel more energy flowing through you, and you also need to take in more energy to cope with the demand. It is like putting a turbo on an engine; you can drive much faster but you also need more fuel!
Nutrition and diet is an extremely vast subject, there is a multibillion-pound industry behind it!
I am not going to attempt to recommend a golden diet plan or any strict rules that you need to limit yourself with. Here are just a few simple things for you to consider when it comes to nutrition:
- Stay hydrated – your body is 50-60% water. You want that water to be fresh like a mountain stream and not stagnant like clogged up pond.
- Prioritise wholefoods – Basically cook from scratch and minimise your consumption of processed food. When choosing things like rice and pasta and bread, more often than not choose brown or wholewheat.
- Eat less meat – Meat has a significant impact on the environment and is much harder for your body to process than plant-based food. Start by trying to have 1-2 meat free meals a week and see where it goes from there. To be clear, I am not advocating a fully meat free diet here, just one that is balanced and wholesome.
- Eat some crap! – A healthy mind gives a healthy body. Allow yourself to indulge yourself from time to time.
- Get real – don’t waste your time with fads and diet plans. Learn to accept what is and the fact that change always takes time. If you develop eating habits that you enjoy, you will be more likely to fully integrate them in to your life so you can reap the benefit of long-term consistency.
Remember the atomic cycle of matter thought your body? Where do you think we get those atoms from? The saying is true:
You literally are what you eat!
Sleep is often overlooked but it is an essential requirement for our minds and bodies to effectively recover from the strains and challenges we subject them to.
Just as our bodies are all unique, we all have unique requirements for sleep.
Some people need more and some people need less. Some people like to stay up late and some people like get up early. Developing an awareness of your natural body clock is important. Be honest with yourself about the time of day when you think you perform at your best and take responsibility to adjust your sleep pattern accordingly.
As a general rule, the more you exert yourself mentally and physically, the more you will need to rest and sleep.
When we are sleeping, our brains regulate our hormones levels; our unconscious mind wakes up and process all the experiences we have had that day; and our muscles recover and rebuild.
If you want to be able to perform at your best. You must ensure that you are consistently getting enough sleep. Simple.
When evaluating our physical health, we need to consider the following areas:
- Cardiovascular / respiratory endurance – The ability of the body to gather, process, and deliver oxygen.
- Stamina – The ability of the body to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.
- Strength – The ability of our muscles to apply force.
- Flexibility – Maximize the range of motion at a given joint.
- Power – The ability of our muscles to apply maximum force in minimum time.
- Speed – The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.
- Coordination – The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.
- Agility – The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.
- Balance – The ability to control the placement of the body’s centre of gravity in relation to its support base.
- Accuracy – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.
Spend some time thinking about which of the areas matter most for you in the activities you like to perform?
Which areas do you need to work on to help you achieve your goals?
What activities can you plan that will help you in each of these areas?
There is no separation between your mind and body. Physical health and psychological health go hand in hand and form the foundation for every other success you will ever have in your life. They are the cornerstones to your vitality.
Use this information to get curious. Ask the right questions and take responsibility for finding the right answers.
I will leave you with this:
We get unfit much faster than we get old.
Enjoy, for now.