The old adage teaches that “He who has health has hope, and he who has hope, has everything.” I’d like to add one three-letter word to that wisdom and say that when you have your health, you CAN have everything.
Good health by itself is indeed a blessing and gives one a head start in the fast lane to a life of quality, but you should think of health as a powerful enabler rather than an end in itself. It’s what you do with your health that counts. (And, conversely, need we cite the many inspiring examples of people who, despite lifelong poor health and/or physical handicaps, have been some of our world’s most remarkable contributors?)
When people speak of health, they generally imply “good health.” Since there’s also “bad health,” the easiest way to differentiate is to use the popular term “wellness” when speaking of good health. Wellness ideally means “maximum health,”—where the entire body, body system, body organ, or other body component is as healthy as it can be for any specific individual, taking into account various relevant factors. For example, total wellness in a 25-year-old track star may be quite different than total wellness in an 85-year-old great grandfather, but both may at their personal level of maximum health.
Wellness is a key aspect in living a life of quality, and fortunately, wellness is generally dependent on lifestyle. In other words, you have almost complete control over whether you will be healthy. What you choose to do or choose not to do can play major roles in whether you will experience wellness.
Let’s look a little closer at three major lifestyle choices that everyone must make with regard to their health:
• Do you exercise sufficiently? Every human being needs exercise and/or some form of regular physical activity. That’s just the way we are made. What you do, how often and for how long depends on your age, overall physical condition, personal physical goals and possibly other considerations. Whatever your choices, 1) check with your doctor first to make sure you’re not being too ambitious for your current health capabilities, 2) choose something you will enjoy, stick with and can do with friends, and 3) always warm up before your workout and do a few simple cooling down exercises after your workout.
• Do you avoid physically harmful practices? If you smoke, quit. If you overeat, stop, and if you need to lose weight, find a diet you can live with and start today. If you drink alcohol to excess, don’t. If you abuse illegal or prescription drugs, get help now. These suggestions may seem like oversimplifications, but sometimes a simple but firm decision can lead to prolonging your life by years, even decades. That’s how devastating negative life choices can be not only on your life quality, but also its quantity!
• Do you give your body the nutrition it needs for optimal health? Here, we’re not asking if you eat enough to stay full, but rather if you eat the right foods in the right quantities to stay healthy. This area gets a little more involved than exercising or not smoking, because nutrition involves many considerations.
Stay tuned for an upcoming post, where we’ll cover in depth some of the latest best evidence on the powerful role nutrition can play in improving your quality of life.