Diet and exercise are, no doubt, the two main ingredients when it comes to living a healthy life. And we could dive further into the eating right component and talk about timing of meals, the importance of breakfast, portion control, eating naturally, protein and carb intake, and many other things. We could also dive further into the fitness component of the puzzle and discuss balancing strength and cardio, weight amounts to lift, changing up your routine so your body is constantly challenged, and so on.
But today we are going to focus on some lesser known, but just as important, ingredients to the ‘getting fit and staying healthy’ recipe:
1. Safety and Injury Prevention
Safety first, right? I know it sounds boring and like common sense, but safety is so important! If you are not doing exercises properly or if you are over-training, you risk injuring yourself and potentially being unable to workout at all!
There are many common over-training injuries (repetitive weight-bearing movements on a joint), that if you are unaware of or not paying attention to, can cause real harm in the long run. There is also the risk of lifting a weight improperly (without proper postural alignment) and causing serious damage to your back or other muscles.
Safety is also important when considering your diet. Eat too little and you risk starving your body and/or becoming dizzy or fatigued during a workout, niether of which are safe things! Eat too muchand you risk feeling sick or throwing up during a tough sweat session, while this probably won’t kill ya, not really ideal!
2. Rest and Recovery
We all know we need to train, we have been taught that exercise is good for us and training our muscles is important. But resting and allowing your muscles to recover is just as important, if not more important!
During exercise, we damage muscle tissue, challenge homeostasis, and cause swelling and muscle soreness. Our bodies need rest and recovery after a strenuous workout to repair and rebuild the damage muscle tissues.
While rest days, or sometimes weeks (the harder you workout, the longer you should allow your body to recover), cannot be stressed enough, it should also be mentioned that sleep is the ultimate recovery! Be sure to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night if and when possible!
That being said, we are all different, so if you always function on 5 hours of sleep and feel great, more power to you! If you are like me and require a good 9 or 10 hours to feel refreshed….well, guess we just won’t get as many things accomplished during the day as those who sleep less!
3. Balance and Core Strength
Balance and core strength are extremely important in every day living. We need balance and core strength to do simple things like stand up, reach for something on one leg, carry items, catch ourselves if we are going to fall, ensure proper posture (improper posture puts undue stress on our backs or other muscles), etc.
Balance not only goes hand in hand with a strong core, but also allows us to be aware of our bodies, which is important for injury prevention, over all well being, better quality of life, and day-to-day functions.
You can work on your balance by practicing yoga, unilateral training (ex: doing shoulder presses on one leg), planks, and maintaining proper posture throughout your day.
4. Flexibility and Range of Motion
Improved flexibility is said to enhance performance in aerobic training and muscular conditioning, assist with posture, improve performance of everyday activities, and reduce the risk of injury during exercise and daily activities.
If your muscles are tight, you risk injury. Plain and simple.
Sitting all day causes a decrease in range of motion and tightness of the hamstrings. Running can cause tight hip flexors. Hunching at a desk causes the chest muscles to become tight and pulls your shoulders forward, which cause the muscles in your upper-middle back to become lengthened and weak.
Stretching and completing range of motion movements (walking counts), especially for trouble areas, is recommended 5-7 time a week.
5. Understanding the Human Body and Your Own Body
I touched on understanding your own body in all of the points above because it is so key! We are all made different, we all have different gifts and different gripes. While there is a lot of information out there that is based on research and facts, there is also a lot of fitness hoop-la, and none of it is going to matter if you do not understand and know your body and how the human body works.
I could tell you that running 3 days a week for 20 minutes is good for your health, and as a general rule of thumb it is good for people, but if you have knee issues and a heart condition and hate running, this may not be the best recommendation for you (at least not yet…).
Understanding the human body and doing research is critical. We need to be educated in the health and fitness field, not just look for quick fixes. I truly believe that the success to any fitness or weight-loss program lies in a person’s ability to understand the human body, as well as their own body. Things are not always cut and dry: Eat this not that, workout this way and not that way…our bodies change and research findings change the way we view things; we need to be able to keep up and understand this.
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