When you hear the words “health”, “fitness”, and “wellness” does the same picture pop into your head for each word, or do you see different images?
It’s uncommon for someone to answer that they associate the same image with each word. For instance, when you think of “health” you may picture a person who eats a well balanced diet and doesn’t often get sick. “Fitness” may evoke a mental image of a muscular individual who spends their days at the gym lifting weights, and doing one armed pushups. Perhaps the idea of “wellness” sends visions of meditation, yoga, and nature to mind as a way to relax and recenter.
While all of these images may technically be true, it is dangerous to think of these elements of life as separate entities of each other. To truly achieve prosperity it is important to realize that you need health, fitness, and wellness to all encompass your daily life and work together. Without even one of these elements your mental, physical, and/or psychological welfare could dramatically suffer.
What Comes First in Fitness: Looking Good or Feeling Good?
When it comes to your personal health and fitness, it’s likely that you subscribe to one of two ways of thinking. Either you believe that when your body composition improves and you start looking good, you’ll start feeling good about yourself, or you believe that once you start to feel good about yourself, your body composition goals will manifest and you’ll start looking better.
While both of these models are likely to produce beneficial physical results, only one will benefit your psyche as well. Feeling like garbage until you reach your body composition goals, encourages poor self-esteem that is tied directly to your physical appearance.
Having a healthy relationship with your body through good health, proper fitness, and maintained wellness should be your main priority in life. Being skinny, muscular, or toned should be a secondary concern.
When you focus your attention on eating well, staying active, and minimizing your stress, your weight and body composition will take care of itself. A strict diet and an intense workout regimen may provide faster results, than a steady diet and reasonable exercise routine, but that lifestyle is not sustainable. That means that the likelihood your results remain once your diet and exercise plan changes, is slim to none.
Make Sustainable Fitness The Goal
If you cannot see yourself maintaining your current diet and exercise routine one year from today, chances are high that the sustainability of your routine isn’t reasonable. You have to remember that immediate results are not nearly as rewarding as stable results. Love the process of improvement and the results will come.
Learn about your basal metabolic rate, and how it affects the way your body burns calories. Once you know how your body burns calories, it will be easier for you to determine a sustainable diet and exercise routine for yourself. Remember that health, fitness, and wellness all have general guidelines that are helpful to everyone, but in the end they are just that – general guidelines. They are not one-size-fits-all advice that will create identical beneficial results for each and every individual.
Sometimes the best way to learn what works best for your body, is through personal trial and error. For some people, a diet high in fats, and lean meats, while remaining low in carbs works best to tone and shape their bodies. For others a vegetarian diet, paleo diet, or mediterranean diet will work better. Give yourself a few weeks on any given diet to determine the results, before switching up the way in which you’re eating again, to try something new.
One of the most effective ways to manage a sustainable diet is to incorporate weekly meal prep into your routine. Weekly meal prep simply relies on planning out your meals for the coming week and preparing them on a single day ahead of time. By meal prepping you are able to save time by avoiding daily cooking, save money by avoiding eating out on busy days, and save calories by mindless snacking. Learn more about how to make meal prep a regular part of your life here.
Much like nutrition, the type of exercise that works best for your body type and lifestyle habits is personal. While some people benefit more from high intensity workouts, others benefit more from low to moderate intensity workouts. Likewise people who prefer to engage in strength training often dislike cardio training exercises and those who prefer cardio often dislike weight lifting. This being said, it is often beneficial to combine a few of these workouts to increase your fitness progress.
Putting It All Together
Hiring a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer to customize meal plans and workout routines designed specifically for you is one of the fastest and easiest ways to determine what will work best for your body. Unfortunately these tactics can quickly become expensive, and as you progress you will likely need to continue using their services to alter your meal and exercise plans to fit your changing body composition. For many the financial commitment is just too high. Luckily there are things that you can do for yourself that will improve your health, fitness, and wellness without spending a fortune.
Start Meal Prepping Weekly
Meal prep is simple in both concept and practice. Make a menu of healthy choices that you actually enjoy for the week. Be sure to include any meals that you won’t be home to cook, and an extra two or three meals for those nights when you’ll come home and won’t feel like cooking. Once you have your menu, write down the ingredients that you’ll need for each meal and cross out what you already have at home. Use the remaining list as your grocery shopping list.
Take this list to your favorite grocery store, super store, or farmer’s market and buy only what is listed. If it’s not on the menu, you won’t be eating it and therefore any additional food will likely just go to waste – or create an unnecessary temptation. Once you’ve purchased your food, head home and start cooking. Depending on the complexity of your meals this process could take you anywhere from two to five hours. Remember that you can cook more than one meal at once though, so once you get the hang of it, the actual meal prep process will be significantly shorter.
Once your meals are prepared, portion them out into meal prep containers, and store the first three days worth of meals in your refrigerator and the rest in your freezer to keep them fresher, longer. Now you’ll have quick and ready to eat meals that are also insanely healthy, all week long. Rather than hitting a fast food joint for lunch, just pack a meal prep container or two in your meal bag and head out the door for the day. Money saved, calories avoided, health improved, all in one simple step.
Add More Steps To Your Day
No, we’re not suggesting that you make your day more complicated by adding more tasks or activities. We’re simply recommending walking more. It is amazing how much simply adding more walking steps to your day can improve your health. Experts agree that we should all aim for about 10,000 steps per day, which equates to roughly five miles of walking. People with sedentary lifestyles often average a mere 1,000 to 3,000 steps per day.
So how do you get more steps into your day? You could add a long walk to the end of your day, but most doctors will tell you that moving more throughout the day is actually more beneficial to your health than simply making sure that your step count is on point everyday. Adding more steps to your day is easier than you may think. Here are a few suggestions.
Skip the Elevator
Skip the elevator and take the stairs any chance you get. We understand that if you work on the 25th floor of your office building you likely won’t be taking all twenty five flights, but getting off of the elevator a floor or two early and taking the stairs from there, will easily add steps without wearing you out before you even make it to work.
Avoid Using Email
Avoid using email to communicate with your coworker when you have a question for them. Instead make the extra effort to take a trip down to their office and talk to them in person. The occasional physical movement will not only add steps to your day thus improving your fitness, but it may also help to clear your mind.
Stop Circling the Lot
Stop circling the parking lot for the closest spot and just head straight for the end of the lot. If you’re lucky enough to be in good enough health to walk the extra few feet, then do it. The steps that you add to your day will not only benefit your health, but may also allow someone who needs the closer spot to use it.
Check out our post about the benefits of walking 10,000 steps per day to learn more about the benefits of walking more, and additional advice on how to make walking more easier for you.
Workout Three to Four Times Per Week
Did you know that you don’t need to work out everyday to get results? Granted if your goal is to get shredded then you’ll probably need to hit the gym six days per week, but if your goal is to gain strength and lose body fat, or even just maintain your current body composition you may only need to hit the gym three to four times per week. This is because your body needs time to heal after an intense workout, so that you can become stronger.
Muscle strength increases by tearing down the muscle tissue and allowing it to regrow stronger. When the muscles are not allowed time to heal and repair themselves, the opposite can actually happen. Severe muscle fatigue from lack of rest days can slow and even inhibit your future progress. It is especially important to take time to rest your muscles when you first begin a workout regimen because you are expecting results from them that they’ve never been required to complete before.
Not only should you work out three to four times per week, but you should also ensure that each workout also lasts for at least thirty minutes. This is so that you can achieve and maintain your target heart rate, which will promote increased weight loss. While working out is important to maintaining and improving your physical fitness level, it is important to remember that you cannot expect to see any progress unless your diet is balanced. With proper nutrition, there is no reason to overexert yourself for hours per day, every day of the week at the gym. Remember that sustainability is the ultimate goal.
Get Outside Daily
Attaining physical fitness and nutritional health are important goals, but it is equally important to strive for psychological wellness. One of the best ways to achieve wellness is to immerse yourself in nature. By connecting with the natural world, stress levels and blood pressure are frequently reduced, immune systems, and moods are improved, and energy levels are increased. Researchers believe that as little as five minutes per day surrounded by trees or green space is all it takes to reap these benefits.
If you live in a city and want to experience these results, you’ll have to venture to a nearby park or garden as simply being outdoors is often not enough. Studies show that it is the presence of nature: trees, grass, natural bodies of water, flowers, etc. that promote these benefits, not simply fresh air.
To make the most of your time during the day, spend your time outside while you’re participating in other activities. Rather than eating lunch at your desk, venture outside to enjoy your meal. Instead of hitting the gym for every workout, go for a run or bike ride around the park, or join a park fitness group. When running errands near home, choose to walk or take your bike instead of driving your car. You’ll be saving money on gas, getting out in nature, and improving your physical fitness all at once.
This is the most important piece of advice that we have for you when it comes to improving your fitness, health, and wellness. Always — no matter how far you’ve come — always challenge yourself to keep improving. Don’t try to be better than the person standing next to you, just challenge yourself to be better than you were yesterday. Only in this process will you be truly happy with the progress that you achieve. You may never be the best, fastest, strongest, or healthiest person out there, but if you work hard and put in the effort, you can be the best, fastest, strongest, and healthiest version of yourself each and every day. All you have to do is keep challenging yourself.
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