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Talking Wellness – 5 Tips Besides Gym for a Healthier, Happier Life

Move over, fitness! There’s a new kid on the block.  And that kid’s name is wellness

So we’re all pretty clued up on fitness, right? We all know that to keep fit, we have to get our butts up off the chair, drag ourselves away from the computer screens, and hit the gym a few times a week to get the blood pumping round the tubes and the sweat flowing from every conceivable corner of our listless, uncooperative bodies. But just how fit is fit?  How can you be sure that you’re doing everything you can to improve your chances of living a longer, healthier life?

But what exactly is wellness, and why does it matter?

The WHO defines wellness as “…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Everything we do and every emotion we feel relates to our well-being. In turn, our well-being directly affects our actions and emotions. Sounds pretty complicated, huh?  Just ask the boffins at the University of California who have identified eight dimensions of wellness.

Exercise plays a vital role in our physical and mental wellbeing. But there are other aspects that are equally important, yet regrettably overlooked. That’s why we’ve  listed five things that will compliment your fitness routine and lead to a healthier, happier life. 

Keep in touch with your friendly family doctor

Not just because he’s known you since you were in nappies or your nanna thinks your sniffle might indicate the onset of dengue fever.  Regular medical checks are an essential part of making the move to wellness – especially for the over 40s. And if it’s been awhile since you’ve exercised and you have some health issues, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. 

According to the CDC, regular health exams and tests can help find problems before they start. They also can help find problems early, when your chances for treatment and cure are better. By getting the right health services, screenings, and treatments, you are taking steps that help your chances for living a longer, healthier life. 

Consult a nutritionist

We get it, eating healthy is confusing. Complex carbs, glycemic index, polyunsaturated fats… fad diets, self-help books, talk shows, your mum’s low fat, low carb pudina. You’ve probably tried them all, but you might be still struggling with health problems or weight management. Whether you don’t know where to start or how to keep going, seeking help from a nutritionist for your health and food goals could be the answer.  

A properly qualified nutritionist will gather as much information about you as possible, with the aim of identifying nutritional, diet and lifestyle factors that could be contributing to the health conditions that you are experiencing.  As Cosmopolitan magazine discusses, you’ll leave the consultation with a personalised and safe nutrition and lifestyle programme that is evidence based, and tailored towards your very individual requirements.

Focus on your mental and emotional well being

In this fast-paced, multi-channel world, it’s easy to overlook your mental and emotional wellbeing.  But in reality, maintaining a strong, healthy emotional and mental state is key to providing a stable foundation for your physical health and wellbeing. How many times do we hear a top athlete talk about losing the match because their “head just wasn’t in it”?  How many times have you aimed for a goal you thought was unreachable, only to find that it actually was?  High stress levels, depression, or loneliness can all have a much bigger impact on your overall wellness than many physical ailments, yet we tend to devote too little time to tackling them.

Too often, people feel afraid to admit that they are struggling with their mental health – from simply feeling a little low or run-down, right the way through to more serious, clinical depression. This fear of judgement stops people from getting help and can ultimately destroy families and even end lives.  

In the UK, HRH Prince Harry recently opened up about his difficulties in dealing with the loss of his mother Princess Diana at such a young age. Together with The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge they recently launched the Heads Together charity to help people feel much more comfortable with their everyday mental wellbeing and have the practical tools to support their friends and family.

The UK mental health charity, MIND, have some great tips for everyday living, and in Malta the Richmond Foundation provide another great resource locally.

Give yourself a break

Sometimes less is definitely more!  Overtraining can be just as bad as not training at all.  It’s important to give your body the chance to repair itself, so whether you need to rehabilitate an old injury, loosen a tight muscle, or just relax and wind down after a hardcore workout, time spent in the spa, steam room or sauna is time well spent.  In fact, as Medical News Today explain, when a person sits in a sauna, their heart rate increases and blood vessels widen, increasing circulation.

The effects on the body from sauna use may have some potential health benefits. Increased circulation may help reduce muscle soreness, improve joint movement, and ease arthritis pain.  The heat in a sauna may also promote relaxation, which can improve feelings of well-being.

And of course, there’s sleep!  Never underestimate the importance of getting a good night’s sleep.  In fact, David Lloyd health clubs in the UK have recently introduced their new ’40 winks workout’, ‘Napercise’ – replacing traditional gym equipment with single beds (yeah, for real!).  

While the concept may seem silly, the motivation for the class is no joke. The idea came about after a David Lloyd survey found that 86% of parents struggle with fatigue, and 26% generally get less than five hours of sleep a night. ‘Napercise’ was born to help exhausted mums and dads boost their mental and physical wellbeing. Over and above the relaxation benefits of sleep, while you’re busily working your way through your dreams, your body is repairing itself, muscles are healing after that weight lifting session, so you see it’s just as important as the workout itself.

Invest in your relationships

Did you know that Harvard Medical School have been running the longest ever study into health and wellness?  Well, they have.  In fact, the Harvard Study of Adult Development has been running since – gasp – the Great Depression of 1938 (must be tired by now)!

And the surprise finding? Our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health!  According to Robert Waldinger, director of the study, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation.”

Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives, the study revealed.  You can check out the full article here, but we’ve already spent far too long together today.  

Maybe it’s time to get away from this screen (yeah, we’re not even joking this time), and go work on your wellness!  Hug, anyone?

Jim Harvey is the general manager of Cynergi… if you have any questions or feel free to contact him…