Body: Building Blocks for Optimal Health

   According to the good book we are “Fearfully and Wonderfully made” (Psalms 139: 14). Even before we are born, how we are taken care of can determine our strength, size and physical condition, not only at birth, but well into adulthood. The work of maintaining optimum health then has many factors, the most significant of which is the value we place on the Gift of Life which God has given Us! Yes Life is indeed a Gift and Health is part of the package too (2 for the price of 1!). God gives us Life and all the faculties that are required to sustain health- He has even given us the bible as an instruction manual with which to guide us: “beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (3 John: 2).

Ultimately what we do with these gifts either individually or collectively is down to us. Yes of course we can argue that the accident of birth – our “nurture” not our “nature” decides our ultimate fate and reduces our best intentions to dust- not everyone has the privilege to choose what they eat, where they should live; to have an education or whether or not they should be free from other key determinants of health such as poverty, disease, disability and abuse- that raises bigger questions relating to man’s inhumanity to man: how we treat each other and whether we are indeed our brother’s keeper- that is a debate for another time.

In every choice either we make/or others make on our behalf with what we eat, drink or how we take care of our bodies has an impact upon our wellbeing in a positive or negative way. Today’s “naughty but nice” could be tomorrow’s diabetes, high blood pressure or bowel disease. That old adage “you are what you eat” is not an old wives tale, we have embraced this popular saying because it is surrounded by a ring of truth. The 18th century poet Alexander Pope, sums it up nicely when he wrote: "Sow a thought, reap a deed; sow a deed, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a lifestyle; sow a lifestyle, reap a destiny." We are responsible for carving out our destiny by the choices we make and the habits we cultivate.

So how do we make the best choices and cultivate the right habits to ensure we have optimum health and what are the building blocks? As a starting point, let us ponder the following essentials: In its most broadest sense, health and wellbeing is about our environment whether natural or built and the physical, economic, emotional and social resources which influence and shape what we experience in our communities and lives. Our influence on these factors may vary, but let us all be mindful that we are not completely powerless.

On a personal level, which is where we can all begin to make the difference- “the journey of one thousand miles which begins with a single step” (Lao-Tzu, 604 BC-531 BC). The step we can make today is firstly to choose health and secondly to understand what a healthy lifestyle looks like. In our busy lives we need to make time for health- when we take care of our bodies and our bodies will take care of us. Below are the fundamentals for a healthy lifestyle which I will touch on today and we can discuss along the way as you join me on this journey of one thousand miles and as we travel, we can learn together:

Water- is the most common substance on the Earth’s surface, covering more than 70% of the planet. It is essential to life and constitutes a large part of most living things. Human beings are made up of about 75% water. It is essential for maintaining the correct conditions for our cells to work and necessary for a whole range of body processes such as transporting nutrients and waste products around our body in blood (blood is 80% water). Water is one of the best and most refreshing drinks of all and in it other forms (ice, steam it can be used to treat minor complaints such as: ice packs for backache and sprains, cold compresses for throat conditions, hot compresses for skin inflammations as well as warm baths for relaxation and soothing muscle aches and pain.

Sunshine, Fresh Air & Regular Exercise– get out and about walking, cycling, running, gardening, take in your surroundings and discover new paths and trails that you were not aware of when you drive around or take public transport. Claim spaces as your own, whether on your, own, with families or friends- its all free. You will strengthen your bones, give your lungs and body a work out and increase endorphins- your body’s natural happy hormones. 30- 60 minutes a day at least 5 times a week, will improve fitness and overall wellbeing.

Rest- The body needs sufficient rest to function. The amount of rest for each person varies, however, on average, adults need between 7 and 8 hours each night. This restores the body and supplies it with the energy needed for the activities of daily life. When we sacrifice sleep for more activity, the body can be affected as over time the body can run itself down and this has an impact upon the ability of our immune system to function and protect our bodies from viruses, disease and stress. Lack of sleep also impacts upon our memory, concentration and mood. Lack of sleep and rest can make us more irritable, less patient and more bad tempered as we have less energy to do and enjoy things as we should.

Good Nutrition- A well balanced diet is essential for optimal health adjusted to whether we are active or sedentary, gender, size and appetite - we need the right fuel for the best performance containing carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, mineral, fibre in the right proportions; ensuring that we eat more complex carbohydrates, less fat, particularly saturated fats, more fruit and vegetables, less sugary and salty foods, more plant and fish based meals and less meat. It is important to stick to regular meals having breakfast, lunch, main meals and healthy snacks.

I hope (there I go again talking about hope!) this is just a taster of the wonderful things we can explore together that will help us to look after our body and improve our health. Join me next month to explore more.

(source: ©

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