What is “health?”

Before we dive deeper into the details behind wellness and fitness, we need to define what it truly means to be healthy. What is “health?” Being healthy is so much more than “not sick.” If we draw a graph, health encompasses a continuum of sickness, wellness, and fitness. We believe that the fundamentals of health include a balanced approach to movement, nutrition, sleep, stress management, and social connection. We are continually balancing these fundamental tentaments of health in our journey away from sickness and towards fitness. Like health being defined as more than “not sick”, fitness as defined more than being “in shape.” Fitness is being resistant to injury, illness, and stress. We are all striving to reach higher levels of fitness to increase not only our quantity of life, but our quality of life as well.

Move More

Humans were designed with regular, daily, movement in mind which includes full, active ranges of motion that are pain-free. Movement is something we take for granted until it is gone. It is not unreasonable to believe that you can possess the range of motion necessary to squat to sit in a chair or in your car, bend over to pick up your child, and lift/press heavy objects overhead, all without pain. So often in life, we believe that losing range of motion and strength alongside the development of pain with movement as part of the natural aging process which is simply not true. The best way to maintain functional, pain-free movement throughout your life is to perform it as often as possible, 3-5 days per week.

Food Is Fuel

Regarding nutrition, it is important that we begin to view food as fuel. Our food is the catalyst to many of the changes, good or bad, inside of our healthstyle. Food gives us the energy to perform daily tasks, work out, recover, resist sickness, manage stress & sleep. Optimizing these areas of our life are key to improving our health. Usually, when we hear the word nutrition we associate that with a diet or an approach that asks us to be restrictive with certain food types or food groups. The word diet should be disassociated with nutrition. A diet is something you try out or do for a set amount of time. All diets come to an end and so do any of the results we experienced. It’s more impactful for our long term success that we find a system that allows for a lifetime of adherence. We want to stay away from meal plans or “diet” protocols that ask us to eat the same foods over and over with little flexibility. Diets teach us nothing about ourselves or food being the fuel that drives optimal movement, sleep, training and recovery.

Don’t Lose Sight of Sleep

It has been said that sleep is the performance enhancing drug that no one is utilizing and we firmly agree with that statement. “You can sleep when you’re dead” has never been more true with mountains of research emerging on the devastating effects that chronic sleep deprivation has on the human frame. Poor sleep has been firmly linked to weight gain, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and sudden cardiac death among many other disorders. More car accidents happen per year due to tired drivers than drugs and alcohol combined. After just 10 days of getting only 7 hours of sleep per night or less, the human brain begins to experience cognitive issues similar to staying awake for 24 hours straight. Sleep is crucial for the body, both physically and mentally. Rapid eye movement or REM sleep, performs a “memory storage” function, helping us learn and master skills as well as regulate our emotions. Non-rapid eye movement (NREM), deep sleep serves to repair our muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones. Without adequate sleep, our bodies begin to degrade very rapidly, both physically and mentally.  

Don’t Stress It

Management of stress, both physical and mental, is crucial for balanced health. Physical stress at work and at home can lead to overuse injuries while accumulating mental stressors can affect our emotions but also our physical health. Stress or even perceived stress can drastically alter our cardiovascular and nervous systems. The proper management of our stressors with exercise, diet, sleep alongside other modalities like meditation and breathing exercises can help balance our stress.

“Laughter is the best medicine” is rooted in a strong scientific basis. Time spent with friends and family is crucial for more balanced health. Social connection, laughter, and touch release a variety of hormones and neurotransmitters. When we spend time together, natural pain-killing chemicals called endorphins are released, producing a sense of happiness and euphoria. When we hug, laugh, and high-five, the neuropeptide oxytocin is released, reducing blood pressure, anxiety, and feelings of depression. Finally, laughing and having fun releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter that has effects across the body, but most notably in making us feel happier.

Life Is About Balance

Movement, nutrition, sleep, stress management and social connection are five pillars of balanced health. We can borrow or trade some balance in one area for another, but when we take too much from too many of these fundamentals is when we start to see a decline in overall health. In the coming weeks, we will elaborate on each of the fundamentals in order to help you progress on your journey towards fitness and overall improved health.

  • Dr. Mitch Babcock, PT, DPT, CF-L2
  • Dr. Alan Fredendall, PT, DPT, CF-L2
  • Billy Glowacki, B.S., Pn1, CF-L1