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Defining Physical Health

Physical health is critical for overall well-being and is the most visible of the various dimensions of health, which also include social, intellectual, emotional, spiritual and environmental health. Some of the most obvious and serious signs that we are unhealthy to appear physically. Addressing this dimension is crucial for anyone attempting to sustain overall health and wellness.

Defining Physical Health

Traditional definitions of physical health prior to the onset of modern medicine would have considered someone physically healthy if he or she was not stricken with a serious illness. With modern medical innovations came longer life spans, which changed the way we define physical health. Today’s definition can consider everything ranging from the absence of disease to fitness level.

While physical health consists of many components, here is a brief list of the key areas that should be addressed:

Physical activity

Includes strength, flexibility, and endurance

Nutrition and diet

Includes nutrient intake, fluid intake, and healthy digestion

Alcohol and drugs

Includes the abstinence from or reduced consumption of these substances

Medical self-care

Includes addressing minor ailments or injuries and seeking emergency care as necessary

Rest and sleep

Includes periodic rest and relaxation, along with high-quality sleep

Components of Physical Health

Below are ways that each key area of physical health can be addressed through lifestyle choices:

Physical activity

Most healthy children and adults should be active on a daily basis. This should be a mix of both leisurely physical activity and structured exercise. Leisurely physical activity includes hiking, biking, and walking. Structured exercise includes strength training, running, and sports.

Nutrition and diet

A well-balanced diet should contain carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Restricting specific nutrients should only be done under the supervision of a health professional. Fluid, ideally in the form of clean water, should be regularly consumed. Meals and snacks should be consumed throughout the day, and portion sizes should be sensible.

Alcohol and drugs

Substances that alter mood or other bodily processes should be limited or avoided. Those with addictive tendencies or other health risks should consider complete abstinence from these substances.

Medical self-care

Basic items, such as bandages, lozenges, and over-the-counter pain-relieving medications, should be easily accessible from home. Long-term coughing, fevers, or other ailments should be addressed through primary care. Emergency treatment should be sought when signs and symptoms are significant or life-threatening.

Rest and sleep

While regular activity is essential for physical health, allowing the body to rest is just as important. Spending time relaxing or taking short naps can help rejuvenate the body. Sleep should take place in a quiet, dark environment and should last approximately 7-9 hours.

Physical Health and Mental Health

Mental and physical health both are dependent on each other. Poor physical health can lead to an increased risk of developing mental health problems. Similarly, poor mental health can negatively impact on physical health, leading to an increased risk of some conditions.

How mental health affects physical health

There are various ways in which poor mental health has been shown to be detrimental to physical health.

  • double the risk of death from heart disease
  • three times the risk of death from respiratory disease.

This is because people with mental health conditions are less likely to receive the physical healthcare they’re entitled to. Mental health service users are statistically less likely to receive the routine checks (like blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol) that might detect symptoms of these physical health conditions earlier. They are also not as likely to be offered help to give up smoking, reduce alcohol consumption and make positive adjustments to their diet.

Physical health is the state of being free from illness or injury. It can cover a wide range of areas including a healthy diet, healthy weight, dental health, personal hygiene, and sleep.

Physical health is vital for overall well-being

Chronic physical illness is a long-term health problem that will not go away – for example, diabetes, asthma, arthritis or cancer. Chronic physical illnesses can be managed, but they cannot be cured.

What can I do to be healthy?

There are many things that you can do to be healthy. These include eating a healthy diet, getting enough exercise, bathing or showering regularly. You should also attend the optician and dentist as well as brushing your teeth twice per day. Always attend any hospital appointments or see the doctor if you feel unwell.

Exercise

Physical activity in any form is a great way to keep you physically healthy as well as improving your mental well-being. Research shows that doing exercise influences the release and uptake of feel-good chemicals called endorphins in the brain. Even a short burst of 10 minutes brisk walking increases our mental alertness, energy and positive mood. Physical activity means any movement of your body that uses your muscles and expends energy. From tending your garden to running a marathon, even gentle forms of exercise can significantly improve your quality of life.

Eat Well

As a teenager, your body is going through many physical changes – changes that need to be supported by a healthy, balanced diet.
The range of nutrients and balanced food groups you receive will provide many benefits in terms of your growth and development, some important nutrients/vitamins the body requires to include:

  • Iron
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium

Eating healthily doesn’t have to mean giving up your favorite foods. It simply means eating a variety of foods and cutting down on food and drinks high in fat and sugar, such as sugary fizzy drinks, crisps, cakes, and chocolate. These foods should be eaten less often and in smaller amounts.

Here are some tips to help you eat more healthily:

Don’t skip breakfast

Skipping meals, especially breakfast means you miss out important vitamins and minerals needed for energy and burning fats/calories during the day. Having breakfast will help you to remain alert and focused for the day ahead, and some breakfast recipes are simple to follow and take little time.

Drink plenty of fluids

Drink at least 2 liters of fluid a day (ideally water) which is equivalent to around six to eight glasses. Water and skimmed milk are the most desirable choices as unsweetened fruit juice or “sugar-free” juice can still contain artificial sweeteners. Your combined total of drinks from fruit juice, vegetable juice, and smoothies should not be more than a small glass each day, this is around 150 ml.

“Quick fix” diets

Diets that promise quick weight loss are often not nutritionally balanced, means you could miss out on important food that is beneficial for growth and organ function, such as diets that recommend a non-dairy diet or a no-carbohydrate diet.