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I look good, so I must be healthy.

Looking good is an easy way to evaluate your health; unfortunately you may not be getting the whole story. You may look good but what about your actual health? There are so many other and frankly better ways to measure your health.

Body Weight
What is body weight besides a number? It can’t tell you how much fat or muscle you have, or how you carry your weight. Yet so many people hold themselves to preconceived numbers that have been set without very much thought. Scales that measure things like fat and muscle give you more information but are still based on ideals that may or may not be ideal for you! For many an ideal weight is often a previous weight when a person felt healthier and younger and likely looked better. So maintaining a healthy and appropriate weight is important to your overall health but it is far from the only tool you have.

You don’t have to have to be Arnold Schwarzenegger but on the other hand not being able to lift every day objects should be a wake up call. Strength training has been shown to increase bone density, helping to stave off osteoporosis. Having more muscle mass also helps to keep body fat levels down.

Does your heart pound or do your lungs burn after going up just a few stairs? Cardiovascular health is an important factor in keeping a long and healthy life. Elevated blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol all can put you at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Regular exercise and good nutrition habits can help you control these factors leading to a longer life. Choosing not to smoke is still one of the best things you can do for your health and it gives you a big head start towards better health compared to those that do smoke.

Feel like something is missing? Have you considered?

Your body physically recovers when you sleep; it is when you build muscle and heal injuries. Sleep is also when your brain creates new connections, so getting good quality sleep can actually help you learn more and increase your memory, thereby improving your mental health. If you regularly consume alcohol chances are you aren’t sleeping well. You may drop off more quickly but you’ll wake up more often in the night, keeping you from a deep restorative sleep. Aim to get around 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, although some people thrive on less or more.

Is your body constantly reminding you of all your aches and pains? People that exercise regularly, eat well, and lead an overall healthy lifestyle often report less pain or symptoms despite having many conditions that should cause them pain. If you are healthy, day to day activity and exercise should not be a struggle but even if you do find it difficult to move around, doing some activity is better for you than doing none! Build your way up to more!

Do you eat the same thing week in and week out? Eating a variety of foods is a great way to maximize the health benefits of your food. Including more colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet is an easy way to increase variety. The next step is eating more whole and less processed foods.

Digestive health
Your “gut feeling” can tell you a lot about your health. Being regular is important in order to eliminate toxins from your body. You should care about what’s in the toilet bowl. Dark yellow pee is a sure sign that you are dehydrated or sick. If your poop is hard and pellet-like or loose and watery, either your digestive system is not working properly or your micro biome might be out of whack. Bloating and swollen fingers are a sign that you may be retaining water. As counterintuitive as it may seem, drinking more water and improving your nutrition can help balance your water and sodium levels alleviating bloating and water retention.

The people you choose to surround yourself with have a big impact on your health. Not surprisingly, stress can greatly affect your well being, making it harder to exercise, keep normal relationships, and sustain a healthy lifestyle. Loving relationships, good friends and a supportive social network can help decrease stress, promote exercise, and lead to better overall health. Of course, simply staying active can help reduce stress levels too.

Mental health
Is your mind as sharp as a tack or as dull as a bean? How clearly you think can be an indicator of your health. If you are in good health, eat well, and exercise regularly chances are your mental performance will be great as well. On the other hand a foggy brain is a sure sign you are falling short in other areas of your health. A healthy body promotes a healthy mind, making sure you are exercising, eating well, getting enough sleep etc. will help you achieve better mental health.

So, how healthy are you?

Staying healthy doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying life.

Making simple changes that fit around your life will bring out the best in you.

Paul Bradshaw l Kinesiologist