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Journey to a Healthier You:
Physical Wellness: Health-Enhancing Habits
By Emily Smith
Last month, we kicked off our new “Journey to a Healthier You” series by talking about the difference between health and wellness. Wellness is a multidimensional, holistic, evolving state and process of achieving your full potential. It is subjective, personalized, individual, cultural and situational. Each month, we’ll look at one of the eight dimensions of wellness: physical, social, intellectual, emotional, mental, financial, vocational and spiritual.
This month we examine physical wellness. What is physical wellness?
Physical wellness is the ability to achieve and maintain a healthy quality of life and have enough energy to be productive in our daily activities both at work and outside of work.
Daily decisions, choices and behaviors all play a role in a person’s physical wellness. Do you choose a fast food sandwich for breakfast or a bowl of fruit and oatmeal? Do you drink coffee or an energy drink in the morning? Do you overindulge at happy hour or pass to take a fitness class with a friend? Do you stay up late for your favorite TV show or record it and watch on the weekend?
Improve your physical wellness by choosing to follow these health-enhancing habits:
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and stay properly hydrated
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
- Lead an active lifestyle and engage in a regular physical activity
- Practice sun-protective behaviors: use sunscreen, seek shade and wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat
- Get at least seven hours of quality sleep in a tranquil environment
- Follow regular medical, dental and vision check-ups, accept personal responsibility and care for minor illnesses and seek medical attention when necessary
- Manage stress by altering the situation or your reaction to the situation
- Monitor and manage chronic conditions through lifestyle choices and/or medication (as determined by you and your physician)
- Avoid risky sexual behavior, abstain from tobacco products and avoid substance misuse or abuse
Optimal physical wellness can be achieved by adopting health-enhancing habits and avoiding destructive ones. For example, think about how you feel in the following situations:
- When you get four hours of sleep vs. eight hours of sleep?
- After you eat a bowl of potato chips vs. a bowl of grapes?
- After sipping on soda throughout the day vs. drinking plenty of water?
- After half an hour of sitting playing video games vs. half an hour of jogging?
- After drinking too much at the bar vs. pacing yourself throughout the night?
- When you return home from your beach vacation with sunburn in addition to those fun memories?
- While you wait for the results of your annual physical?
As your physical wellness improves, you will become more familiar with your body’s vital signs and warning symptoms, how your body reacts and performs based on what you do (and what you don’t do) and what your body craves. Your body is talking – all you have to do is listen.
Future articles in the “Journey to a Healthier You” series will explore health-enhancing habits in greater detail.
[Emily Smith is the Health Promotion Division’s Wellness Coordinator.]