We all think sometimes that there is a secret universal recipe to stay fit and healthy. The truth is: there isn’t. To achieve a desired level of fitness and health, different people have to do different things. A desired level is here defined as the (medically healthy, of course) level in which you feel most comfortable with your body, the way you look and the way you feel. We think each person should take general health and fitness advice seriously, but cautiously. In fact, as said before, not every advice is good for everyone.
Anything that improves your physical and mental health can be considered to be part of a health and fitness plan. From exercising to eating properly to sleeping enough hours, many things in your daily life can contribute to making you feel better, as these things affect your overall health. There is nothing wrong with browsing through general health and fitness tips to get inspired or get some advice: however, you should ultimately create a personalised plan. There are certain elements and factors that you might want to consider when you create such plan, tailored to your needs and wants. Here we consider some of them:
A diet comprising proteins, carbohydrates, fats and vitamins and minerals ensures your body receives the nutrition it needs for a healthy and active life. Maintaining the proper body weight is achieved by keeping a balance between your food intake and energy (calories) used. Being either overweight or underweight is unhealthy and makes it difficult to achieve an appropriate level of fitness. Being overweight places extra strain on body processes and on the joints. Many serious diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and back and joint problems are associated with being overweight or obese. On the other hand, lack of energy, fatigue and loss of muscle tone are characteristics of an underweight person.
Frequently undertaken with the aim of weight loss, exercise should be viewed as an all-round health and fitness enhancer. Your level of fitness is reflected by your heart and lung functioning, muscle strength, flexibility, and body structure. Lack of physical activity and a sedentary lifestyle, usually lead to weight gain. They are also associated with an increased risk of serious diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes, which may be prevented by taking regular exercise. Moreover, problems with muscles and joints that are part of the natural ageing process, such as arthritis, osteoporosis (loss of bone) and muscle wasting, can be delayed by strengthening exercises.
Physical exercise works the muscles to help us attain a healthy body shape and improve our physical performance. Importantly, exercise strengthens the heart muscle, enabling it to pump blood more efficiently. While exercise may be difficult at first, causing breathlessness, aches and fatigue, your body soon gets used to it. Both exercising and daily activities become easier as your physical health and fitness improve. The benefits of exercise are reflected not only in your physique but in your mental functioning. Physical activity stimulates chemicals in the brain, which ‘lift’ the mood and reduce stress levels and, in turn, may work to increase your ability and motivation to do more exercise.
What should I do?
The key to good health and fitness is to maintain a healthy weight. A healthy diet is achieved through eating sensibly; it does not necessarily have to exclude those ‘guilty’ foods, provided they are eaten in moderation and you are taking regular exercise. Physical activity should be part of your lifestyle whatever your age, and is easily incorporated into a daily routine (e.g. taking the stairs not the lift; getting off the bus a stop earlier, etc.) or as part of your social life (e.g. walking with a friend, going to a gym).Before embarking on a health and fitness programme or dieting, it is advisable to consult your doctor particularly if you have any illnesses or problems with your health. Your doctor will be able to advise you on the best course of action.