What it means to be ‘fit and healthy’
posted on 2/11/2017 5:06:00 PM
WORDS CHRIS FEATHER
Being ‘fit and healthy’ means different things to different people, but in relative terms, or at least as defined in 1948 by the World Health Organisation, health is ‘a state of physical, mental, and social wellbeing’. Physical wellbeing means that you are free of injury and major illnesses, mental wellbeing means that you don’t suffer from a mental illness or high levels of stress and anxiety, and social wellbeing means that you believe you have a purpose in society and you have friends.
To me, a ‘basic’ level fitness and health would mean that my eating, training, and recovery habits would increase my quality of life. They would allow me to make my day-to-day duties, chores, and routines easier. For instance, I should be strong enough to carry the shopping from the back of my car into my house without too much effort, and I should be able to run around with my kids.
Your healthy lifestyle should also assist in the management of your stress levels. Studies have indicated that we are working longer hours and are more stressed than we were a decade ago. In fact, according to the Psychology.org, Australians are reporting lower levels of wellbeing and workplace wellbeing and higher levels of stress, depression, and anxiety symptoms than they were even five years ago.
Exercising and eating well is something that you can control to help manage your stress levels, as well as helping your body fight ‘sedentary lifestyle’-related disease and illness. Exercise increases endorphins, can be meditative, and improves your mood and self-confidence, while putting bad foods into your body can increase inflammation and, in some cases, anxiety. Additionally, having a basic level of fitness and health should also promote a greater life balance and will help you to feel energised to spend quality time with family while not at work.
I train a lot of clients who have high-powered jobs that demand a lot of their time, but many of them find that fitting in exercise and eating well throughout the day helps with their focus and productivity, as well as maintaining somewhat of a work–life balance.
To both achieve and maintain this, I suggest that people include as much varied, functional activity as possible. Run, walk the dog, swim, cycle, complete basic bodyweight strength sessions, gym sessions, and individual and team sports. Pick an activity you enjoy; it should be fun, not a chore. Carry out these activities with friends or family in the surroundings you like.
I personally enjoy training at the gym six days a week, and one of my favourite workouts is walking from Bondi to Coogee with my wife, Kate. This gives me a chance to clear my head and spend some quality time with Kate in some beautiful surroundings while walking 12km and gaining a fairly decent, varied workout.
This type of training split will help you to develop consistency, as well as a basic level of health and fitness — or a foundation if you like. Where you take it is up to you. You can maintain your base with all of the above and live a happy, healthy life. You can also build on the base and make your training a bigger, more important, part of your life.
Health and fitness is addictive. Once you start to feel the benefits of your healthy life, you will find it hard not to increase your training, maintain a relatively clean diet, and look after your recovery. Once the base is there, the possibilities are endless.
Chris Feather’s top tips for getting started
1. Time management: Be realistic with how much time you have available. As an example, people often plan to come to the gym at 6pm after work, but if your boss decides to keep you back for an hour and you need to get home to see the family before 8pm, you end up skipping the gym. Maybe plan your gym session for the morning to ensure you hit your workout regardless of what the rest of the day may bring.
2. Find something you enjoy: If you don’t enjoy training, it can become a chore. Pick something you enjoy. This way you will look forward to it, rather than dread it. After all, why should you dread something that should be fun!
3. Track your progress: Use times, distances, steps, body composition measurements and so on to track your workouts and exercise. If you can see the improvements as well as feel them, you are more inclined to stick to it. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
4. Be consistent: Consistency is key when it comes to fitness. One good week followed by one bad one just doesn’t cut it.
5. Surround yourself with people on the same mission: Get your friends, family, and workmates involved. This will help you to stay on track and will add an element to your social life.
If you are someone who enjoys a challenge, I would suggest picking an activity that you can train for. Sign up to a fun run such as the City2Surf, or if you prefer a gym setting why not try CrossFit, or if you prefer a social environment, sign up to the local touch footy team — that way you will also be held accountable.
A basic level of health and fitness should work to help enrich your life. Find something that you enjoy, boost your endorphins, eat well to lower the inflammation received from other stresses in your life, allow your exercise time to be meditative or even invite your family or friends to join you so it can be social. Make it work for you.
Once you have achieved a basic level of health and fitness, you can work your way up to achieve new goals, whether it’s a strength-related goal, an event that you want to train for, or even a physique-related goal.
I suggest that you plan your workout and eating week ahead of time — at least until it becomes a habit. That way you know exactly what you should be doing and when.
The average adult makes around 70 decisions per day, so the more things you can turn into habits, the better, especially when it comes to health and fitness, which should ultimately become daily rituals anyway.