Most people view physical health as a number on a scale or level of pain, but that only touches the tip of the iceberg. Physical health is how we care for our bodies through personal choices and habits that lead to long-term health.
So what holistic habits and choices can you make to improve your physical wellness?
Sleep is a great place to start. Our bodies do a substantial amount of healing while we are sleeping. Dr. Kenneth Wright Jr., a sleep researcher at the University of Colorado, says that everything from blood vessels to the immune system uses sleep as the most effective time to repair.
Adequate sleep improves your mood, brain performance, and overall health. It is important for brain and cognitive function, including attention and concentration, problem-solving, and decision-making. Deep sleep is also necessary for your brain to send memories to long-term storage, learning, and memory recall.
Conversely, poor-quality sleep can raise the risk of many diseases and medical complications like heart disease, stroke, and even obesity. A chronic lack of sleep increases your chances of anxiety and depression. So a reduction in sleep means a reduction in the ability to handle stress and irritability.
Eating nutrient-dense foods is also a great way to naturally improve physical health. Nutrient-dense foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, and other vital nutrients while containing fewer calories than processed foods. An overconsumption of calories, especially processed ones, can lead to weight gain and obesity.
Some nutrient-dense foods are also in water and fiber, like fresh fruit. Fruit has low-density energy, meaning you consume fewer calories in a more significant amount of food.
For example, two cups of sliced raw apple are roughly 100 calories, while one cup of unsweetened apple juice is approximately 113 calories. You will feel more full after the sliced apples because the volume of food per calorie outweighs the cup of juice.
The typical American diet is technically energy-rich, considering the high amounts of added sugars, refined grains, and processed oils. However, this diet is highly nutrient-poor due to being stripped of health-promoting compounds that we can find in whole foods.
Here are some examples of nutrient-dense foods: Seaweed, leafy greens (kale, spinach, collards), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts), bell peppers, garlic, herbs, berries, bone broth, grass-fed beef, beets, green beans, lentils, pumpkin, tomatoes, black beans, cacao, sweet potatoes, yogurt, avocado, and even MORE.
Exercise is another crucial element to staying physically healthy. It can increase strength, improve balance, sleep better, reduce depression and anxiety, help control blood pressure, and even give you more energy throughout the day.
We know it sounds silly that to gain more energy, you need to exert some, but it’s true! Changes begin to occur inside your cells when you are physically active, like the production of more mitochondria. Mitochondria create energy out of glucose from the food we consume and oxygen out of the air we breathe.
Exercise also boosts oxygen circulation in the body, which supports energy production and allows the body to function and use energy more efficiently. This is because we have two different ways of creating energy in the cell.
The fastest way to make energy in the body is through the Anaerobic pathway. This pathway is a 20-step process resulting in 2 units of energy. However, when we exercise, we pull more oxygen into the body. As a result, our cells can use this extra oxygen in what is called the Aerobic pathway. By simply adding oxygen into the equation, this 8-step pathway will produce 36 units of energy.
So what is the easiest way to get into exercise? Start walking. It improves mood, reduces fatigue, lowers stress hormones, and boosts endorphins. Walking for 30 minutes to an hour a day can kickstart that aerobic pathway and provide you with the energy you need.
Now that you know a little more about how to keep your body physically healthy, it’s time to set out for action! Exercise, nutrient-dense foods, and physical activity are great stepping stones to living a happier, healthier life.