Four Pillars of Health and Wellness
By David Arend, PT, DPT and Bethany Cuatt, PTA, ATC
Orthopaedic Rehab Specialists, PC
The COVID-19 pandemic has provided us with an opportunity to reflect on our overall health. Those with underlying conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity are at the highest risk of having a more severe response to the virus. Now, more than ever, it is important to take steps towards a healthier lifestyle. The first step is becoming more aware of the lifestyle factors that contribute to the health of our immune system and overall well being. Nutrition, physical activity, mental health, and sleep all play pivotal roles and are what we like to refer to as the “Four Pillars of Health and Wellness.”
Nutrition is of utmost importance when beginning the discussion of healthy habits. The American diet is regularly composed of foods high in fat, carbs, and sugar. These types of foods provide little nutritional value and can lead to elevated blood sugar levels. A more focused eating approach is needed. To simplify things, a good start would be to concentrate on more nutrient-dense whole foods (fruits, vegetables) and meats not treated with hormones or antibiotics. By and large, less processed foods are considered healthier.
Advancements in technology are playing a part in making our lives easier and more convenient (i.e. delivery grocery, zoom calls, online banking). As a result, we as a society have become more sedentary over time. This pandemic has only exacerbated this trend. We now need to make a more conscious effort to move and challenge our bodies. Regular daily tasks that once required us to go out in the community no longer require the same effort. Our physical health through activity now requires a more thoughtful approach.
Stress and overall mental/emotional health play a huge role in how our bodies heal and how we perceive change. General effects of stress on the body are increased heart rate and blood pressure, increased respiratory rate, and increased muscle tension. While this response is designed to protect the body, prolonged time in this heightened state of arousal can lead to illness or exacerbate current chronic conditions. When we become aware that our system is distressed, we can try to combat this by engaging our body’s relaxation response through deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.
Lack of sleep increases the risk of developing chronic diseases that can affect your overall health and wellness. Quality of sleep- which is impacted by the sleep environment- is something we can control. Simple changes can be made to your daily habits such as a cooler sleeping space and limiting electronic usage around bedtime.
In summary, making small changes within these four pillars can have a profound effect on your overall health and wellness. Increased awareness of these aspects of your health will enable you to make decisions that can bring you future well being.