Greetings, dear reader, and welcome to the Integral Fitness blog series on health and wellbeing! This article is the first in a series of “Cliff Notes” or “SparkNotes” style study guides. It is a distillation of those elements which are most integral to creating a lifestyle which is Healthy, Happy, and Helpful! Enjoy!
Regular sunlight exposure
Through a combination of vitamin D production and the stimulation of a variety of other hormones regular sun exposure is linked with improving sleep, reducing stress/improving mood, maintaining strong bones, regulating body weight, strengthening the immune system, and overall longevity.
The beneficial radiation of the sun filters through no matter the season or the weather, so get outside as much as you can. In northern latitudes, sunscreen is almost never necessary except for very small, specific populations. Also in northern latitudes, Vitamin D supplementation is a must as, even in the summer months, optimal Vitamin D production is impossible via the sunlight alone.
Eat nutrient-dense whole foods (fruits, veggies, meats, healthy fats, etc)
Eat natural, whole foods often while minimizing highly processed foods (especially refined simple carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, cereal, snack foods etc).
Minimize intake of liquid calories
Juice, soda, milk, alcohol, sports drinks, added creamers, sweeteners, etc.
Sufficient hydration with filtered water
Use a water bottle (preferably glass or stainless steel) of known volume (such as 32 oz.). Calculate 40-50% of your ideal body weight and try to drink that many ounces of water daily.
Regular physical activity (combing cardiovascular, strength training, and mobility)
For most people, the sweet spot to shoot for is 3.5 to 4 hours of moderate to intense physical activity per week. Achieve this goal in a way that best works for you. For some, 30 minutes per day 6-7 days per week is ideal. For others, 1 hour per day four days per week works. Create a plan that’s realistic for you and that you can consistently sustain.
Sleep 7-9 hours
Minimize daytime naps, avoid stimulants at least 6 hours before sleeping, consider glasses that filter blue light for use with digital devices before bed, minimize alcohol consumption, ensure that you have optimal Vitamin D levels. If you snore or have sleep apnea take these very seriously and do your best to remedy it seek treatment. Both severely impact sleep quality which can disrupt hormonal balance leading to weight gain, poor health, and premature mortality.
Engage in meaningful socialization and recreation
Practice some form of prayer/meditation/conscious breathing
Strategic nutritional supplementation to fill in gaps and further optimize benefits of the above
Two of the largest yet least known threats to our health these days are:
1) nutrient depletion of soils and therefore our food supply and
2) poor gut health.
Because our soils are depleted we receive diminished nutrition from our foods. To further complicate matters, the nutrition that we do receive is further hampered by poor gut health which further reduces nutrient absorption. If you are on one or more of any number of common pharmaceuticals, nutrients are being depleted even further in your body making proper diet and supplementation even more important for you. Also if you have an autoimmune disease addressing gut health is even more crucial. In either of these cases, it would be prudent to add a Registered Dietician to your team of medical professionals.
If you are an adult consider intermittent fasting (or more specifically time-restricted eating)
Without going into a very lengthy explanation most people would benefit greatly from eating only 2-3 meals per day within an 6-10 hour window and fasting the other 14-18 hours. If you’re not already doing this expect that you will need to condition your body slowly over the course of 3-6 months to get used to this strategy.
Commit to at least 80% adherence to the above recommendations
Lastly, some words on stress. If you’re honestly putting in a good effort at the above and you’re not seeing results do not blame yourself!
The likely obstruction is some sort of stressor(s):
- Mental/emotional stress
- Chronic pain/poor posture
- Allergens/food sensitivities
- Undiagnosed infection (such as Lymes, systemic candida)
- Environmental toxins (such as heavy metals)
- Hormonal imbalances
The solution is to find a skilled professional(s) (doctor, psychologist, registered dietitian, etc) and get them on your support team!