Health – The Pillars of Good Health
These days it seems that we are bombarded with exhortations and messages about health and fitness, some promising ‘the earth’ whilst asking you to do little in return except part with your hard earned dollars. I have a particular issue with ‘weight loss’
In my opinion, an obsession with an individual’s ‘weight’ or ‘weight-loss’ is a negative message. Firstly, it focuses primarily on body image as opposed to general health and wellbeing. It also suggests that by being overweight, the person has failed in some way, so it’s very judgmental. Overweight and obesity in society is an extremely complex issue, heavily influenced in Australia and other developed nations by the social determinants of health, which are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. It’s not always just simply the product of “energy in/energy out”.
We all know that excess weight (read ‘fat’) is an important risk factor for a range of chronic health conditions. However, I don’t think it’s helpful to keep beating this particular drum. I doubt that over 60% of the population have purposefully set out to become overweight. It has happened and now we must focus our efforts on understanding why this has occurred and what needs to change in our society, environment and culture to make some positive and long-term changes to this statistic.
The focus for our messages should be on health, activity, fitness and wellbeing, not weightloss. These elements are more positive and inspirational. They are also non-judgmental. But the best thing about these messages is that they are simple to convey and understand.
When thinking about wellbeing, the simplest method is to go back to basics and look at four foundational pillars of good health – rest, exercise/movement, nutrition and hydration.
Both the quality and quantity of healthy sleep is important. A lack of sleep affects our mental and physical performance and mood. Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per night. A restful night will provide you with the energy to tackle your waking hours with gusto and put you in the right mood to better manage everyday stresses.
A mix of aerobic exercise plus some strengthening and stretching exercises throughout the week on a regular basis will help to keep you strong, fit and flexible at any age. Exercise also gives you an energy boost and enhances your mood.
Your body needs regular nutrients and energy from food to function well. The food that you choose should nourish your body, not aggravate it. Eat more of the foods at each meal that don’t need fancy food labels, like fresh and natural sources of protein, vegetables, wholegrains and fruits. Eat less or avoid highly processed foods that contain excessive sugar, saturated fat and salt.
Another tip – be ‘present’ and purposeful when you eat. If you eat when you are distracted or stressed you are more likely to make less nourishing food choices and/or consume excessive amounts of food. So plan your meals and snacks purposefully and take a break from other distractions when you are eating.
Water is pure and free! Ditch the processed drinks, save money and improve your health. Limit the intake of drinks that dehydrate the body including alcohol and caffeine.
If you are able to get these four elements right most of the time, then better health and wellbeing will generally follow. This includes effective weight management. So, my theory is that if we focus our messages on the four pillars of health and wellbeing, and engage our society more often in these conversations, we won’t need to keep talking about weight management because it will just be one of the outcomes of healthier living.
As business leaders, I believe that we have a responsibility to assist others to lead healthy, productive and purposeful and more joyful lives. We also have the reach and influence to make this happen. By living in alignment with the pillars of good health and leading others by example, we can influence many others and make a real difference to the health and wellbeing of society.
‘ The focus for our messages should be on health, activity, fitness and wellbeing, not weight-loss. These elements are more positive and inspirational.’
Lauretta Stace is Chief Executive Officer of Fitness Australia. fitness.org.au