This column devotes a fair amount of space exhorting folks to engage in daily, common sense, health-enhancing practices: Get plenty of sleep, stay hydrated, eat whole foods, destress, be social and stay physically active.
Ensuring that you check off all six of these items every day is another matter. If we looked at the past week, how did you fare? Today I’m asking you to recount (as best as you can) to what extent you incorporated these foundational health practices over the preceding seven days. It’s my hope that this exercise will remind you to take care of yourself.
Did you get enough sleep this week? Summer can see us pushing ourselves a little harder physically; longer daylight hours is a contributing factor. I’m generally an early riser but more so in summer. On the other hand, I tend to stay up later in summer. As a result, I need to be more mindful of getting enough sleep. Seven to nine hours per night is generally recommended. Give yourself five points for each day you had seven to nine hours of sleep. Zero points for less.
How about hydration? This can be especially important if you’re being physically active in higher temps. I’m very deliberate about drinking water when it is hot as I sweat profusely. No joke, my nickname was “Puddles” when I trained at a kickboxing camp in the tropics a few years ago. Hydration guidelines suggest two liters per day. However, given the wide variability of individual attributes, I will leave it up to your discretion as to whether you stayed hydrated over the past week. Give yourself three points for each day you were hydrated.
On the other hand, I’m allowing no wiggle room on whole foods. Give yourself three points for each day you consumed whole foods only. In case you were wondering, corn dogs are not whole food. Soft drinks and adult beverages are not whole foods. Vegetables, unprocessed grains, unprocessed meats and dairy are whole foods. Condiments get a pass. They don’t disqualify for ketchup, steak sauce and salad dressing.
Stress management needs to be a conscious, deliberate process in our lives. There are numerous ways to accomplish this. I’ll leave it to you as to whether/when you deliberately managed your stress this past week. And, as was the case with whole foods, the consumption of alcohol (or other medications) does not constitute stress management. Give yourself two points for each day you engaged in deliberate stress management.
Being social does not require anything more than pleasant interaction with others. While it’s believed that benefits increase with the depth of the interaction(s), for our purposes, it is sufficient that you greeted others in a cordial fashion. Give yourself one point for each day that you were social.
The physically active category is similarly undemanding. Give yourself four points for each day you (cumulatively) physically moved (at any intensity) for at least an hour or engaged in higher intensity deliberate exercise (or labor) for at least 15 minutes.
Out of a possible 126 points, how’d you do? If you’re below a perfect score, why is that? Is there a way for you to improve? If you can, why wouldn’t you?
And if you have a perfect score, congratulations! You’re doing a minimum of self-care. To reiterate, these are the basic, foundational health practices: Get plenty of sleep, stay hydrated, eat whole foods, destress, be social and stay physically active.
However, don’t get too excited just yet. This is just a baseline starting point. There’s a lot more to do. I’ll delve into those next time. In the meantime, get out there and play!
Consult with your healthcare professional before starting any weight loss or exercise program.
Tom Duffy is the owner of Good Sports Fitness, a wellness, fitness & athletic conditioning business based in Babbitt, MN. Email: email@example.com