Here we are, finishing up this wellness series! This week we’re chatting about the physical dimension of wellness. As physical therapists, we help our patients with physical health on the daily; but this cannot happen without taking the other wellness dimensions into account. This is why we’ve chosen to cover the physical dimension last. The other dimensions of wellness – social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, intellectual, occupational, and financial – have a large effect on physical wellness; and physical wellness has a large effect on these dimensions as well. While the other dimensions of wellness are typically more challenging to wrap our heads around, the physical dimension is relatively straight forward. It involves balancing our physical activity, nutrition, and mental well-being; and is crucial to our everyday health and wellness.
You all know how important it is to be physically active, and I’m sure you know how inactivity can be dire for health and wellness. ‘Sitting is the new smoking’ isn’t just a catchy slogan. But even with all this knowledge, less than 5% of Americans meet the daily exercise guidelines of 30min, and only 33% meet the weekly guideline of 150min. Physical inactivity is thought to be one of the 21st century’s largest public health concerns, and is linked to increased risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers. It is also thought to be responsible for 9% of premature mortality. So, if it is so important for health and longevity, why is it so hard for Americans to meet the guidelines?
Let’s think about our other wellness dimensions. If you’re surrounded by inactive people, you likely won’t be motivated to exercise yourself. If you tend to bottle up your emotions, or have poor habits related to coping (stress eating, drinking), you likely won’t feel motivated to exercise (although, exercise is a great stress relief if you haven’t tried!). For many, with work and the pressures of today’s productivity, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day for exercise. We’ve all spent time in the vicious cycle of “I don’t feel like exercising today” turning into days without activity and further feelings of ‘sluggishness’, decreased energy, and poor habits. Often when we are experiencing stress stemming from one of the other dimensions, our physical health is usually the first sign that something might be up; whether that’s an illness, fatigue, pain, or countless others.
Our nutrition also plays a large role in our abilities to exercise, energy levels, and of course, health. We won’t be getting into the details of nutrition this time ‘round but being mindful of how you are fueling your body is crucial to feeling your best and finding that motivation for your daily activity. Balancing your wellness dimensions, prioritizing physical activity, and providing your body with proper fuel are all ways to care for this physical dimension.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends moderate aerobic activity for a total of 150min per week, or vigorous aerobic activity for a total of 75min per week; essentially 30min 5 days per week. Moderate vs. vigorous is determined by your heart rate and perceived level of exertion – moderate being 60-70% of your max heart rate (220 – your age) and vigorous being 80-90% of your max heart rate. You can also think of intensity this way: at a moderate level, you can carry on a conversation, but can’t sing. At a vigorous level, you can’t say more than a couple of words without pausing to catch your breath. It is also recommended that resistance training of major muscle groups occurs two days per week.
That last paragraph may seem a bit overwhelming and technical; and in reality, it’s best to keep it simple! Exercise is often over-complicated, and people are unsure how or what they should be doing – so they just don’t. Physical activity doesn’t have to equal gym membership, CrossFit, road running, or anything formal really. Physical activity can be gardening, going for walks, playing with your kids, doing home projects – anything that gets your heart rate up and makes your muscles work a bit. Formal exercise and training are often needed if you have a specific goal in mind, and for weight loss it is usually helpful to have a program. For the average Joe, find things that you enjoy doing! You are more likely to be consistent if you have fun while being active, and this is a great way to boost your other dimensions as well! (socializing, effective coping, getting outside.)
Along those lines, consistency is key. If you jump in headfirst only to burnout in the first week, it will be hard to start again. Instead, gradually increase your intensity and develop healthy exercise habits over time. In terms of the 30min per day discussed above, this doesn’t have to be in one bout. It’s actually been found to be more beneficial to your body to break this time up throughout your day – taking a walk on your lunch break, walking the dog after work, or a pick-up game in the park – it is often more attainable for people to disperse their exercise throughout their day.
As PT’s we often address physical impairments or limitations after injury, but prevention is key! This is something we can’t stress enough and hope to develop over time through Mobility Innovated. As members of the healthcare community, we hope to see a shift toward preventive medicine, and are eager to be a part of this.
Although we ended with diet and exercise, we hope this QuickRead series has shed some light on our complex wellness dimensions, how they interact, and how prevention and health is much more than just diet and exercise. Every wellness dimension deserves a little TLC for a healthy and fulfilled life, and this starts with you!
Cheers to finishing up our QuickRead series on the Eight Dimensions of Wellness! We are thankful to those of you who have followed along, and grateful to those that have shared our QuickReads and videos to others. We have some ideas for what’s coming next, but in the meantime have some big items on our plates.
We will see you in Oregon!
Elle and Taylor
Elle Morgan, PT, DPT