We’ve all heard how diet and exercise can change our lives. It’s practically a cliché at this point: if you want to lose weight, workout and eat healthy. If you want greater mobility, workout and eat well. If you want to live longer, be mentally happier, and overall improve your quality of life, workout and eat healthier. It seems no matter which way we turn, the advice is always the same. So is it true? Are there real benefits to an active, healthy lifestyle?
It’s true that there are distinct medical and health benefits to dieting and exercising. In addition to improving your heart rate, decreasing your chances of disease, helping blood flow, and maintain a healthy bodyweight, working out can indeed boost your mental health. We’ve seen it all the time and heard stories from so many people we know. They were anxious or depressed, and they started working out regularly. The positive hormone release, and the accompanying decrease of the stress hormone cortisol, boosted them. Soon they were happier and more active, with less depression or anxiety.
A key ingredient in all this is nutrition. It’s hard to maintain a healthy weight eating the wrong kinds of foods. No amount of exercise, no matter the perfection of the form or the intensity, can compensate for a poor diet that doesn’t include enough macro and micronutrients. As sad as it makes us to admit, processed foods and sugar-rich concoctions eaten in abundance are the death of any clean diet, though they are often far more delicious.
Protein, carbohydrate, and dietary fat levels are all important macros, whereas micronutrients are composed of things like vitamins and minerals. Eating enough in optimal balance each day is crucial for the best physical functionality. If we don’t get enough protein from foods in our daily diet, there are plenty of dietary supplements available, such as shakes, powders, and bars. Many of these, however, have extra added ingredients. It’s always preferable to get nutrients from whole food sources, if possible. Some high-quality lean protein sources include:
We require protein synthesis for adequate muscle maintenance and growth, and clean, complex carbs can help us with energy and maintaining tone. They also often have fiber, which promotes a positive feeling of fullness and keeps us from snacking on fast-digesting, no-nutritional-value snacks or candy. Some good complex carb sources include:
- Sweet potatoes (also rich in Vitamin A)
- Oats and oatmeal
- Brown rice
- Vegetables, especially dark, leafy green ones (broccoli, spinach, etc.)
When we exercise, it’s best to do movements that are compound, or using several muscles in conjunction in the body. Large muscle usage can stimulate testosterone production in men, and release growth hormone that promotes muscle and decreases fat. Cardiovascular exercises, or cardio, are movements that increase our heart rate and boost our stamina. These movements help with blood flow, and can decrease common conditions like high blood pressure. Some of the best cardio exercises include:
- Jumping rope
- Swings, such as with kettlebells
All these movements used in proper balance can not only strengthen the body, but bulletproof it against several conditions, such as sprains or degeneration. They also help you accomplish tasks around the house or work with a decreased chance of pain or injury, which can affect your mental health as well. It’s always easier to prehab a muscle than to rehab it, and since we only have one body throughout our lives, it pays to take care of it.
The key to all of this is, of course, moderation. While we enjoy salty or sugary foods from time to time, eating them in large quantities is where we run into trouble. Having sweets and treats every now and then isn’t much of a problem; having them every day is. A diet rich in a proper macronutrient balance, and full of plant-based foods, is a wonderful way to ensure a good outlook on our health for the long-term. We may not be able to avoid eating unhealthy things from time to time, but we can certainly time them correctly to treat ourselves.
As a chiropractic provider, we’re big believers in a balanced, wholesome, healthy life with a full outlook. There are often so many lifestyle and dietary factors we can adjust or change as needed, and our wellness and nutritional counseling services helps give people good options for ensuring their health long into life. Chiropractic treats the whole person, and a whole-person approach means we work on every avenue of life to build the complete picture.