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Wellness: A Personal Choice!!!
by Joel A. Bloom, Ph.D., MSE, Biomechanist - Sport Therapist

"Use it or lose it; just do it; just say no; if you have your health, you have everything." Sound familiar? Statements like these have become part of our American vocabulary. Not a day goes by that we don't hear or talk or read about the latest way to lose weight, reduce stress, and improve ourselves in some way. We are exhorted to be strong, exercise our willpower and our bodies, avoid harmful substances, fling ourselves into the social arena, and be all we can be. Our society seems to have turned itself onto the idea that we can and should make a difference in our personal health and well-being. Hype aside, there are some very good reasons why Americans need to be concerned about the lives they lead. In th United States, the leading causes of death and disability are due to the lifestyle practices. Although the extent to which illness or death could be prevented by altering our lifestyle is debatable, it is clear that the choices we make every day influence not only how we live, but also how long we live.

While many Americans have begun to take action to improve their own health, the majority remain on the sidelines; and it is easy to understand why. The slogans sound good, but putting them into practice is another matter. Many people view problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes as things which happen only to someone else or to older people. "What's it got to do with me?" and "what could I do about it anyway?" they may ask. Some people are overwhelmed by the barrage of conflicting messages about what is good for us and what is bad. How can we know the experts to believe and where can we obtain accurate and reliable information? Often people would like to develop healthier habits, but just do not know where to start.

Chances are you've had similar thoughts or concerns yourself. How healthy are you? What are the greatest threats to your health? What difference might it make if today you began to change your lifestyle in certain ways? These questions are common, but you are a unique individual and you must find the answers which are right for you. Rather than telling you "just do it" or because everyone else is doing it, I want to share with you the scientific reasons for asserting a certain lifestyle now referred to as wellness.

Wellness is the active process of becoming aware of and making choices to create a healthier life in all of life's dimensions. Wellness describes a lifestyle in which the physical, social, intellectual, psychological, spiritual, and environmental components of health are integrated. The person committed to wellness is continuously striving to achieve the optimum level of health within the framework of his or her own limitations and potential.

The well person takes an honest look at his or her own capabilities and limitations and attempts to change those negative factors in life that are within the individual's power to change. Wellness behaviors include:

  • Exercising aerobically at least three times per week and engaging in other forms of exercise daily
  • Not smoking
  • Limiting the consumption of alcohol to no more than two drinks per day and seven drinks per week
  • Taking actions to preserve the environment
  • Eating wholesome, nutritional foods
  • Reducing caffeine intake
  • Practicing safe sex
  • Engaging in practices of meditation or reflection which enable you to reduce stress
  • Consciously avoiding inappropriately hostile or aggressive behaviors
  • Avoiding inappropriately passive behaviors
  • Balancing work, social, and fitness behaviors

Our outlook on life, our relationships with others, our general appreciation of the world around us, and our respect for the well-being of others are all major elements of the wellness lifestyle. Thus, wellness is not dependent upon age, sex, or intelligence but a mindset which will help you attain a sense of well-being.

Just as certain influences predispose us toward various behaviors or make it more difficult to change a given behavior; reinforcing factors serve to help us to maintain our motivation to change. Without them we slide backward toward negative wellness behaviors. Having a strong social support group to give you positive feedback, having a friend to call when you're craving that cigarette or rich dessert and knowing others really and actually care about you may actually help you to continue your diet and exercise efforts. The extent to which you perceive yourself as feeling better and the feedback you receive from others following an adoption to a given behavior may encourage or discourage your continuation of the behavior. While some people participate in a 10K run for the T-shirt they get for entering the race, others participate because they feel good about the value they place on the exercise and finishing the race is their true reward. Ask yourself, "What did I do for myself today, yesterday, and what about tomorrow?" Begin a wellness approach by:

  • setting realistic goals
  • adjust priorities
  • identify your resources
  • develop a plan and time frame
  • take action and give yourself time to make the behavioral change.

Dr. Joel Bloom is an Associate Professor for the Department of Health & Human Performance at The University of Houston. His teaching areas include Kinesiology, Sports Therapy, Athletic Injuries, Facilities Planning and Aquatics. He is also co-owner of Cyclistics, a company specializing in Indoor Cycling Certification Programs and continuing education for fitness professionals. Dr. Bloom can be reached in Houston at 713.743.9847 or e-mail him at jbloom@uh.edu.

View Dr. Bloom's Bio




Weight Training
Lat Pulldowns
Pulldowns are a great exercise for the back muscles but avoid pulling the bar behind the head. Pull the bar down in front of the body toward the collar bone and with the bar just below your chin. Pulling the bar behind the head puts undue stress on the shoulders and rotator cuff.
Running
Avoiding Shin Splints
Do you have lower leg pain or shin splints from running? Running on hard surfaces, worn out running shoes and weak calf muscles could be the culprit. Try running on soft trails, buying a new pair of running shoes or adding calf exercises to your weight training routine.
Walking
The Talk Test
A great way to make sure you are staying in your aerobic fat-burning range is the talk test. If you cannot comfortably carry on a conversation with your walking partner you probably need to bring down the intensity to assure yourself that you are burning fat.
Fat Burning
Your Anaerobic Threshold
A great way to make sure you are burning fat during cardio sessions is knowing your anaerobic threshold or where your heart rate zone needs to be to burn fat stores. Find a gym or fitness center that offers anaerobic/VO2 testing. Merlino Fitness offers anaerobic threshold testing every month. Check out the link below for more details.
Merlino Fitness Metabolic Testing
Nutrition
Keys to Weight Loss
If you are trying to drop weight make sure you incorporate the following to get you on your way. Drink lots of water, don't skip meals (especially breakfast), do not eat late night meals or snacks after 7 or 8 pm and build as much activity into your everyday life as you can. Michael also recommends joining weight watchers to anyone trying to lose weight and keep it off long term.
Nutritional Supplements
Stay Away From Ephedra!
The weight loss/energy supplement is in the news again. Supplement companies that market this controversial supplement claim it is safe although many have died from this dangerous supplement. Make sure you check the labels of your nutritional supplements as many are laced with ephedra, also known as ephedrine or ma huang (the actual herbal).
Quick Tip Archives
Our archived collection of fitness and nutrition tips to help you stay focused and fit.
Tip Archives

Soy Dream
Ice Cream Sandwiches
Take the edge off those sweet cravings with this healthy soy alternative to an ice cream sandwich without the unwanted calories and guilt.
Product Website
Eggology Egg Whites
Take the edge off those sweet cravings with this healthy soy alternative to an ice cream sandwich without the unwanted calories and guilt.
Product Website
Grocery Store Archives
Our latest collection of on-line articles to help you stay focuses and fit.
Grocery Archives
 
Fitness
Pamela from Chihuahua, MexicoI work out 5 days a week and can't loose weight. I do spinning, tae bo and many types of cardio. Where am I going wrong?
Answer
Nutrition
Ross from Sidney, AustraliaI am currently trying to eat six small meals per day. Apart from breakfast and dinner, I always seem to forget or skip my meals during the day. I also need some simple, easy meals (snacks) that do not require refrigeration or preparation, apart from the obvious fruits.
Answer
Running
Amanda from Manitoba, CanadaWhat should I eat the morning of my track meet?
Answer
 


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