Taking Action to Optimal Health - Part 2

To achieve balance in the body, it is important to focus on our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual states. In this article, we will continue our discussion on the importance of exercise in the form of resistance and cardiovascular training, and introduce a few new topics. I would like to discuss goal setting for success and how to improve sleep patterns through leptin, serotonin and dopamine hormones.

If you have decided to make lifestyle and physique transformations, remember one important element: you achieve what you want by knowing what you don’t want! If you are tired, have no energy and just can’t drag yourself to the fitness centre or outside for exercise, and seem to have developed a talent for creating excuses, or just don’t feel good about yourself, there are many methods that can be incorporated into your lifestyle to alleviate this permanently!

 

If you have followed the recommendations from the last article, you should now be eating 5-6 small, frequent, balanced meals throughout the day, and they should be consumed no less than 3-4 hours apart. In review, this will raise the body’s metabolism and allow the digestive system to begin to function effectively and efficiently. This should have already taken care of your carbohydrate cravings, enabled your body to lower its overall weight and body fat percentages, and raised your energy levels. We also created balance with these meals consisting of healthy protein, fiber, essential fats and a lower level of carbohydrates, while increasing our fluid intake to 3-5 litres a day to help our endocrine or hormonal systems to function properly. Just by making a few simple changes, the body will allow us to have better sleep patterns, lower stress levels, increased energy levels, a better functioning immune system, and fewer fluctuations of blood/glucose levels which causes mood swings and lower levels of awareness/focus throughout the day.

    Everyone nowadays seems to want to take the easy way out and purchase a magic pill to solve of all his or her health, wellness, fitness and nutrition problems. Well, the magic is available and it’s called exercise! Studies have proven 30 minutes a day of combined cardiovascular activity and resistance training will help to build lean body mass and muscle tissue, and that it will make our bones (skeletal system) strong and help to prevent osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. “This stress of mechanical loading, applied to the bone, via the muscle pulling on tendon, and tendon pulling on the [bone] has a direct effect on bone formation.” (Chamay & Tschantz, 1972) Prevention is obviously the key, for once the bone density is lost it is difficult to replace. A recent study involving estrogens and weight training conducted on post-menopausal women using 5-8 repetitions with exercises, 2 days per week, showed a 26%-35% increase in muscle strength, an increase in bone density and a decrease in the risk for osteoporosis. Exercise also improves balance, muscle strength and size, physical endurance, immune functioning, stress levels, confidence, lowers blood pressure, decreases heart disease, and lowers overall cholesterol and LDL (low-density lipoproteins) cholesterol. Exercising to fatigue allows muscles to breakdown causing them to grow and repair stronger and healthier. Although intense weight training is not for everyone, different types of resistance training can be incorporated at home or outdoors using resistance bands, water, fitness balls, the block or one’s own body weight.

Now that we know exercise is extremely crucial to overall health and wellness, what about goal setting? Isn’t the whole reason for concentrating on nutrition and fitness to achieve a goal? Yes! It is highly beneficial to have monthly, yearly and long-term fitness and nutrition goals to help us achieve health and wellness. Running back Emmitt Smith summed this up nicely by saying, “It is a dream until you write it down; then it is a goal.” It is helpful to write your goals down but remember not to place unreachable or too easy of goals into your mind! You are setting yourself up for failure! A healthy body and a remarkable physique will take time to construct. It would also be helpful to create lifestyle and work goals along with nutrition and fitness goals. A reasonable achievement for healthy weight loss would be no more than two pounds per week. Don’t weigh yourself every day! The scale does not measure how much percentage of fat or muscle (LBM) your body contains. Get a body fat test completed by a professional and don’t worry so much about body weight in general. Concentrating on the simple things every day helps to make goals easier to follow through with and accomplish. These small adjustments make a noticeable difference and affect your body daily. The slower the weight loss occurs the less likely it will be gained back along with excess weight. Remember, believing is achieving!

How much sleep do you get? If you don’t get at least 7.5-8 hours per night, your body will not create the fat-regulating protein produced by the hormone called leptin. When these levels of quality, uninterrupted sleep are reached, the body will be refreshed and can produce enough leptin to help correlate how much fat is stored in the body. It is also believed that leptin acts as a signal to the brain’s hypothalamus, which coordinates the body’s function of eating. Leptin will be produced with adequate sleep, exercise and small frequent meals. With high carbohydrate intake and insulin production from the pancreas comes the manufacture of a hormone called serotonin. This is our ‘feel good’ or ‘dulling’ hormone and is responsible for helping us regulate mental stability, sleep patterns, appetite and aggression. In the evening, this hormone is converted to melatonin, our ‘mood lowering’ or sleep regulator hormone. Thus, if you are not consuming a meal in the three hours prior to going to sleep, you may not be producing or balancing the levels of serotonin and dopamine, our ‘mental and cognitive awareness’ hormone, and cannot get to sleep at night or get woken up because the body is starving.

Next time we will introduce stress and stress management techniques.