Physical health is a major part of overall health. In fact, your mental and immune health can directly benefit from improving or maintaining your physical health.
As a clinician, your schedule of balancing your personal life with caring for patients is likely very busy. We understand you may not have much extra time in the day for self-care, exercise, or relaxation. That’s why we’ve created a list of simple ways you can improve or maintain your physical health so that you can stay healthy, happy, and improve your body’s defenses against illness and disease.
Read on to learn more!
As we’ve mentioned in other blogs, being well-rested is one of the key ingredients to great physical (and mental) health.
An optimal amount of sleep for most adults is seven to eight hours every night.
According to the US Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP),adequate sleep is necessary for:
- Fight off infection
- Support the metabolism of sugar to prevent diabetes
- Work effectively and safely
In addition, ODPHP maintains that “sleep timing and duration affect a number of endocrine, metabolic, and neurological functions that are critical to the maintenance of individual health,” including:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
Studies show that sleep and immune function are intimately linked. According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep habits affect your body’s ability to fight off infection and how fast it recovers if you do get sick.
While it can be difficult at times, maintaining a consistent sleeping schedule will greatly benefit your physical health, so try to be as consistent as possible. This will make falling asleep and waking up much easier and reduce your chance of crashing while you’re awake.
Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet
Your diet plays a major role in your physical health and helping your body fight off illness.
According to a San Francisco Chronicle article on diet and physical health, most nourishing and healthy diets include nutritious whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and fish. The SF Chronicle report also goes on to say that increasing your fruit and vegetable intake may help protect you from cancer, while supporting your immune system.
Yufang Lin, M.D., of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, recommends a Mediterranean diet, which is a great example of this balanced and varied diety – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats like fish, nuts and olive oil.
These foods have been shown to improve blood pressure levels, insulin sensitivity, inflammation and other markers of heart disease. These foods also contain high quantities of zinc, vitamin C and antioxidants, also linked to reduced inflammation.
Eating a healthy diet also improves your immune system. “Eighty percent of your immune system is in the gut, so when it’s healthy, we tend to be able to fight off infections faster and better,” says Lin.
According to a 2018 study in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, people who ate foods similar to those found in the Mediterranean diet and took daily vitamin D supplements showed small increases in disease-fighting cells.
A change in diet should not replace medical treatment. If you have a health condition, talk to your doctor before making major changes to your nutrition plan.
Stay Active & Exercise
Moderate physical activity and exercise is another great way to improve your physical health, increasing blood flow and improving your body’s circulation of antibodies and white blood cells.
Exercise also causes your body to release endorphins, which relieve stress.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) offers a great Physical Wellness Toolkit. According to NIH, “any time you get up and move, you’re improving your chances for good health.” They list the following tips for keeping your body healthier:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Too much weight can make your knees and hips ache.
- Engage in muscle-strengthening (resistance) activities that involve all your major muscle groups two or more times a week.
- Stay active all week long. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week, such as brisk walking.
- Wear comfortable, properly fitting shoes.
- Eat a well-balanced diet. Get enough calcium and vitamin D daily to protect your bones.
- Try to avoid lifting heavy objects. If you need to lift something heavy, bend your knees and keep your back straight.
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