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What is physical health?

Physical health is not just looking thin and not calling in sick to work that often. It’s a state of being free from illness or injury and being able to maintain a healthy quality of life. So, how can we achieve physical wellbeing?

 

Physical health is not just looking thin and not calling in sick to work that often. It’s a state of being free from illness or injury and being able to maintain a healthy quality of life and get the most out of our daily activities without undue fatigue or physical stress. This state of wellbeing can be achieved and maintained through a wide range of our daily habits and behaviors such as dieting, sleeping, relaxation, physical activity, personal hygiene, dental health, and much more. (1)

There is no single perfect formula to achieving this. Humans has individual needs in regards to these elements and responds differently on our physical health. 

However, the purpose of this blog post is to present the science behind and general guidelines on some of these elements which are considered essential to maintaining good physical health- then you can decide for yourself how you want to prioritize your time.
– then you can decide for yourself if you are prioritizing your physical health with your current habits 

– and maybe you can recognize some of your daily behaviors that could be changed to improve your physical wellbeing. 

Sleep

Recommendations on sleep suggests that the average adult should get 7-9 hours every night to function optimally (2). You may not be achieving this for a number of reasons, some due to necessity and some by choice. However, science shows that your sleep heavily influences your productivity, meaning that thinking you are achieving more throughout the day by sleeping less probably has the opposite effect (3). On top of that, insufficient amount of sleep for longer periods of time has shown to increase risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and poor mental health (4) 

If you think sleep and how it affects your body is interesting, we can recommend Matthew Walker’s book “Why We Sleep”, which goes into further details on why you should sleep, how it affects your physical, mental and emotional health and how to improve your quality and quantity of sleep by using a science-based approach. 

Relaxation

Taking time out throughout the day to relax can have several benefits on your physical health and actually increase your productivity. 

Being stressed, and suffering from other mental health disorders, takes a toll on the nervous system, causing physical symptoms such as high blood pressure, headaches, muscle tensions, and chronic physical pain (7). Practicing methods of relaxation such as mindfulness and mediation has been shown to reduce levels of such mental health disorders (8) and has been used as a tool to treat and prevent the physical symptoms of stress. (9) 

If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness, check out our blog post explaining how to practice and implement it in your everyday life and get a more elaborate explanation of the benefits this brings. 

Dieting

An unhealthy diet is considered among the top health risks leading to lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer by health experts (5).

But what actually makes a diet “healthy”? To answer this, we could write a separate blog post, but instead we will boil it down to two key aspects- how much you are eating and what you are eating.

Your diet heavily influences your weight, and no matter if you are trying to maintain, lose or gain weight through your diet, the means to keep track if you are achieving your goal requires the same tools.

It is “simply” a question of math. If you are trying to maintain your current weight, you should make sure your daily calorie intake matches your daily calorie expenditure. Having your daily calorie intake exceed your daily calorie expenditure for longer periods will result in you gaining weight and subceeding your daily calorie expenditure will result in you losing weight.

Now comes the tricky part- actually keeping track of the numbers in this “simple” math question.

Keeping track of your daily calorie intake by weighing your meals can be a tedious practice but reading the nutritional content on the back of your foods can quickly give you an idea of the calorie density of what you are eating. Also, calculators estimating your daily calorie expenditure based on your height, weight, age, and physical activity level can easily be found online.

In addition to how much you eat, you should also consider what you eat. Recommendations suggests, that for the average adult the daily calorie intake through protein should be 10-35%, no more than 30% through fats, no more than 10% from free sugar and between 45-65% from carbs. In addition, 400g of fruit and vegetables per day is recommended, to get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals. (5) (6)

Physical activity

According to World Health Organization the average adult should do around 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75-150 of vigorous-intensity physical activity on a weekly basis (10). Achieving this doesn’t just bring numerous short- and long-term health benefits but it also prevents all the negative consequences of physical inactivity. 

Along with a healthy diet, staying physically active is considered as one of the main ways to prevent lifestyle diseases, such as heart diseases, stroke, diabetes, and cancers. In fact, World Health Organization considers physical inactivity and sedentary behavior as the 4th biggest cause for mortality, being responsible for 5,5% of all deaths globally (11). 

On a short-term basis, being physically active increases your calorie expenditure, and can contribute to maintaining and losing weight. Also, doing muscle-strengthening activities improves bone and functional health. 

Long term, staying physically active decreases the risk of the negative health consequences of physical inactivity, such as the lifestyle diseases mentioned above. In fact, according to WHO, people who are insufficiently active for a longer period of time has an increased risk of dying of lifestyle diseases by 20-30% (10). Reversing these severe health consequences of physical inactivity can be difficult, as a study found that middle-aged, inactive males engaging in a 2-year individualized, progressive training program was only able to increase their fitness level by 18%, despite engaging in 5-6 hours/week of physical activity for most of the 2-year training program (12). 

Talk to a specialist if in doubt

All of the ways to keep a good physical health you have just read about is preventive and even if you keep all the healthy habits mentioned above in your everyday life it does not mean you are 100% covered from developing lifestyle diseases. As an example, you should still see a dentist regularly despite brushing your teeth twice a day. 

Therefore, if in doubt, you should always reach out to your doctor without hesitation, similarly to going to the dentist regularly despite brushing your teeth on a daily basis. Getting a referral to a specialist to make sure nothing is wrong can give you a peace of mind and catching a disease early and starting treatment as soon as possible, can have a significant impact on the possibilities of treating the disease (13).

How does an office job complicate this and how can you prevent it from being an obstacle

We are not surprised if reading about all these recommendations for healthy habits has you thinking “There is no way I have time to do all this every day”. Keeping healthy habits next to a full-time office job can be tricky and is something a surprisingly large number of people are struggling with (stat). However, this group is actually heavily exposed to the consequences of sedentary behavior and physical inactivity, while working a stressful day looking at the screen, leaving people too exhausted to exercise and cook healthy foods after work. 

To help this group, Pleaz tries to help companies implement healthy habits during the working day and educate employees about healthy choices. Read more about how Pleaz can help you prevent physical inactivity during your workday and try one of our video guided exercises below for free!

References

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