The last 12 months have taught us a lot about what it really means to be healthy. The threat from a global pandemic had meant that more than ever people are looking after their health.
12 months of on and off lockdowns have also shown us that humans need a lot more than a TV screen and sofa if they’re going to stay both healthy and happy. Healthy body = healthy mind? Or is it the other way round??
How do we blend all the right elements together, and how many are there?
As a team at Encore, we ended up with 7 Pillars of Health and Wellness.
Those pillars are Body, Mind, Soul, Nutrition, Mobility, Self and Sleep.
Before we go any further, I need to let you know that we tried and failed to create a system that allows you to cover all the bases over a day and still get done all the things you need to get done.
Some you should do every day. Some you may already be doing every day. But the self-improvement challenge is to start including some more from different pillars. However, our Beta trial if you like, with our lovely Encore members found that the magic number seems to be four.
Committing to making an improvement, on a daily basis, in four of these areas is challenging but achievable, and still leave time to do all the other things our lives are already filled with, such as work, children and Zoom quizzes. You can even do a different four each day.
The point of this article is to help you think about what areas might be lacking in your own health and wellness. Plus, some practical examples of daily habits you could add.
I’m going to go into each pillar, why it’s important, and the sort of things we can do to make sure this aspect of our personal health is taken care of.
To make this a bit more digestible and easier to adopt, I’m only going to cover the first three of our 7 Health and Wellness pillars; Body, Mind, Soul. In part two I’ll cover Nutrition, Mobility, Self and Sleep.
This is the exercise one. Sweat, move, lift, run… exert yourself, move in the way nature intended. It doesn’t matter what, but it needs to happen.
Honestly, anything is good. But don’t go from 0-100mph if you’ve been out of the game a while.
Walking definitely counts as does a run. A blend of the two: run-walk as I do with my 7 year old son is brilliant as it allows you to run faster for shorter periods meaning your stride stays longer and faster as opposed to dropping into a shuffle.
Lift heavy things, throw frisbees to your (socially-distanced) friends, climb trees (carefully), dance crazily by yourself of with your kids. Doing anything that takes your body from the zigzag shape of a chair or sofa is great.
As with most things, there’s a scale: anything is infinitely better than nothing, but too much isn’t good for you either. If all you can manage is a 10 minute walk, that’s fine, but 40-50 minutes is probably best. A mixture of resistance training and different types of aerobic work across the week would be a great idea too, but if obsessing over the perfect workout pattern is going to prevent you from starting at all, then just Move!
But why? Just do it and find out... You’ll feel great both during and after any moderate movement or exercise. The fun factor, the engagement of your brain and co-ordination, developing skills, balancing… I could go on. And afterwards, you’ll feel even better…
If you want a slightly more scientific explanation, then we know that endorphins are released after exercise. These are the body’s feel-good hormone, causing feelings of mild elation. Nice.
Challenge that grey matter with something beyond a screen… Books, crosswords, Sudoku, new languages, all of these keep those brain cells active and engaged. At the same time, they need protecting too.
This is where practices like meditation and mindfulness come in, allowing the brain to decompress and become better prepared for whatever the day throws at you.
If you’re stuck behind a screen studying and reading documents all day, then maybe meditation is what your mind needs. Whereas, if you find your job mundane and unstimulating, then ‘breaking a mental sweat’ is going to be the one for you.
Where to start with meditation? It can be as simple as sitting alone and counting your breaths.
I’m not talking Stevie Wonder or Marvin Gaye here. I’m talking about being a good person.
Altruism is a little bit like a hard workout: There’s a bit of your brain that is selfish and tries to avoid it, then you do something genuinely kind (or have a great training session), and you feel absolutely brilliant. The type of random act of kindness is unimportant, just that you do it. Or, maybe an easier question is, “how can I be a better person?”
Some of the examples I brought to the table with the members of Encore were texting an old friend, giving someone a genuine compliment, helping someone in need (that can mean a lot of different things); it could even be stopping in traffic to let someone cross the street.
You could argue that the more thankless and anonymous the task the better… no virtue signalling or false modesty, please.
Part 2 is now available here.
The Encore approach to non-stop progress
At Encore, you will find a results-focused fitness environment, designed to constantly move you towards your personal goals.
Our unique blend of intelligently intense small-group sessions, evidence-based exercises and ever-changing programmes trains you as an elite athlete, keeping workouts challenging and exciting.
Our strength and conditioning training programme includes classes that focus on lifting weights, in a closely monitored environment, while other build aerobic capacity.
The Encore team also provides nutritional guidance, sharing a range of information sources and expert advice to complement your fitness programme, and help you reach your goals.
Join us and get fitter, leaner and stronger.