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How Do You Define Healthy?

by Jeff Cordeiro

Healthy Balanced BodyIt sounds like a simple question until you try to put it into specific terms. For some, being healthy means being in great shape but that can also take on many forms. Do you want to be in great shape for a marathon, for tackle football or for the beach?

For others, being healthy means being functionally fit but what functions? Does that mean lifting heavy boxes at work everyday, making love or just walking to the kitchen for a midnight snack?

Others still want to be well but does that mean having fewer colds and recovering from flu viruses faster or never succumbing to diseases like diabetes or cancer?

My definition is balance; all of the above and more. A healthy body should be the right weight, body-fat and muscle-mass. A healthy body should contain the right amounts of water, vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and friendly bacteria. A healthy body should have the right combination of strength, flexibility, balance and endurance. And a healthy body should be as toxin-free as possible with a pH near neutral.

Here are some of the things to balance for optimal health:

  • Diet (foods, amount, order, reason, frequency & time of day) for:

      Amino Acids
      Antioxidants
      Minerals
      Vitamins 
      Omega 3 with Omega 6 
      Good Bacteria
      Proper pH

  • Exercise for:

      Body Fat 
      Muscle Mass and Distribution
      Bone Density
      Cardiovascular Conditioning/BP
      Hormones 
      Toxin Removal

  • Water (6-8 cups of filtered per day)

  • Sunshine (enough for vitamin D but not too much to cause damage)

  • Hygiene (clean but not enough to weaken the immune system)

  • Sleep / Relaxation (reduce cellular inflammation / promote healing)

Everything should be done in moderation; nothing should be taken to extremes. It’s even possible to drink too much water. However, balance will strengthen the body and the body’s immune response.

For instance, it has been shown that eating every other day lowers the risk of disease and adds years to a person’s life. Body parts only have so many hours of use. Less use equals less wear and tear. Eating requires the body to break food into useful components. This process (metabolism) also causes free radicals, which cause aging. So, eating less often slows the aging process. Of course, eating too little weakens the body physically and can diminish hormone levels and certain desires – desires that most feel are a requisite for a good quality of life. Therefore, eating less often is good but eating too seldom is not.

Eating healthy food is an obvious choice but the right foods for one person are not necessarily the right foods for another. No single diet fits everyone. A person must eat the right foods for their type at the right time for the right reasons in the right amounts and in the right order. Unfortunately, most of us were never taught how to eat. Food was just put in front of us and we ate it. 

Also, the food today (especially in America) isn’t as healthy as it once was. Commercial profits take precedence over our health, which results in greatly depleted nutritional values. Pesticides are sprayed on most of our fruits and vegetables. Then they are nearly sterilized. Yeasts that used to keep our immune systems on guard are now missing from the food supply. Soy and corn is genetically modified. Only high-gluten strains of wheat are used. Animals are fed things they wouldn’t naturally eat, kept in pens, and shot with hormones and antibiotics. Commercial dairy products are also a far cry from their natural cousins as a result. Finally, most of our food travels, on average, 1500 miles before it gets to us for purchase. So, it’s no wonder the health of our nation suffers.

Eating locally grown, organic fruits and vegetables that are in season is a good first step. Of course, there’s much more to eating correctly but proper nutrition alone isn’t enough for overall good health either. Exercise is equally as important but, it too, must be balanced.

Too much or improper strength training can lead to too much muscle. Muscle requires fuel. The more muscle one has the more food one must eat to maintain the muscle. This brings us back to using up the body quicker and creating more free-radical damage. A healthy BMI (Body Mass Index) is between 19 and 25. Too much body, either fat or muscle, for your frame is not healthy.

Too much or improper strength training can also lead to muscular balances. A healthy body is balanced left and right, front and back, as well as top and bottom. Muscular balance improves posture, spinal alignment and prevents unnecessary joint stress. 

One should work the weak side or body part to the point of failure and then only work the strong side the same amount. This obviously applies to opposite arms and legs but it also pertains to the opposite sides of arms, legs and core muscles. For instance, the biceps need to be in balance with the triceps, the quads in balance with the hamstrings, the back muscles with the abdominal muscles, the right oblique with the left oblique and the upper body with the lower body. Imbalances in any area can cause joint problems, pinched nerves and more.

Flexibility is also important. Big strong muscles aren’t much good if there is no flexibility. The right amount of stretching and a diet with a healthy dose of antioxidants will lead to better functionality and fewer injuries. Yoga and Pilates are excellent ways to improve strength and flexibility.

Some may think that doing a great deal of cardio is healthy. I see people everyday that can do endless amounts of cardiovascular exercise but have far too much fat on their bodies. Many are even the correct weight for their height; it’s called being “Skinny-fat”. High intensity cardiovascular exercise can burn muscle, while leaving fat alone. Too much cardiovascular activity can also thicken the heart muscles and, recent studies have shown, may even increase a person’s risk of certain cancers. So, again, while some is good, even vital, more is not necessarily better.

Functional Fitness is about being able to perform daily activities with ease. It doesn’t matter if a person can run for miles, bench 300 pounds, or leg-press 800 pounds if they sacrifice other aspects of health. I see examples of imbalanced training all the time; very strong upper bodies with very little leg strength; bodies with great endurance and very little physical overall strength; people who can walk for miles but can’t stand on one leg for more than a second or two; and so on. A functionally fit body allows us to go through life with ease and enjoyment.

You may think that athletes are in excellent health. They certainly have functional bodies. However, they train for their sport – not for long-term overall health. This type of training can lead to joint damage, excess inflammation, too many free radicals and, eventually, even diseases like Type II Diabetes. So, if you’re training for “life” and to be healthy, you need to train in balanced moderation.

Exercising three days a week for an hour each is plenty, if done properly. An investment of three hours a week leaves you in better shape to enjoy the other 165 hours of every week. The excuse of “I don’t have time” doesn’t hold water. If you have time to shower, you have time to exercise.

This leads us to hygiene. Many experts believe that the introduction of soap and running water is responsible for the drastic reduction of infectious disease cases – and not antibiotics. 

It is widely recognized that the overuse of antibiotics contributed to the development of superbugs like MRSA and KPC organisms. Of course, our obsession with antibacterial soaps and antiseptic mouthwashes has only added to the problem. 

In spite of (or more likely because of) our homes being as clean as operating rooms, our children are developing more allergies and immune disorders than ever before. Our bodies are so incapable of fending off invaders, in fact, that Americans can’t even go to Mexico and drink the water. It’s not the water that’s the problem. It’s us. So, again, while cleanliness can be a blessing, too much cleanliness can be a curse.

As you can see, I define "healthy" as balance. I hope this helps the next time you wonder how much of this or that is best for you.

To Health and Happiness.

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Related Articles:

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Build Your Fat-Burning Engine

Expose Yourself and Be Healthy

Spring Cleaning May Cause Allergies

Good books on nutrition for health:

The Genotype Diet by Dr. Peter J. D'Adamo (click here),
Dr. Perricone's Weight Loss Diet (click here) and 
Staying Healthy with Nutrition
by Dr. Elson M. Haas, MD (click here).

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