The 3 Pillars of Health: Sleep, Movement, Nourishment
Last month, we discussed a strategy to assess your health and wellness. And we suggested ways of setting goals to either improve wellness or maintain the great state of health you’re already in. That is, we talked about the what and the how of great health.
Now we’re here to discuss the why—to provide you with the important reasons these efforts matter in your life.
So, yes, we’re returning this month to the same foundation we identified in March, what we are calling the 3 pillars of health: sleep, movement, and nutrition. Here we go!
We’ll always start here because sleep is arguably the strongest lever to pull on for health. It’s your daily body "house cleaning," mentally and physically. As a reminder of how much sleep you need: the CDC recommends that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. We emphasize “each night” because consistency is important. There is no such thing as “making up for lost sleep.” It’s just not a thing.
Regarding the importance of sleep, the National Institute of Health says it like this: “Sleep affects almost every type of tissue and system in the body – from the brain, heart, and lungs to metabolism, immune function, mood, and disease resistance. Research shows that a chronic lack of sleep, or getting poor quality sleep, increases the risk of disorders including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity.”
Let’s break this down a little more by highlight three "whys" we feel are particularly inspiring.
Brain Cleaning and Organizing
Studies show sleep is the time when toxins are cleared out of your brain. It’s also when we process what we’ve learned and solidify what we remember. Johns Hopkins refers to this as maintaining proper “brain plasticity.” Whatever you call it, good sleep allows us to think clearly and keep our brains functioning well, day to day and for the long-term.
Getting fitter and strong does not happen during workouts. The benefits of workouts are only ever achieved through rest and recuperation. Workouts provide the stress, rest provides the actual growth and adaptation. Sleep is the time when your body does most of this rejuvenating work. So think of sleep as a critical part of your whole strength and fitness routine.
The CDC says it succinctly: “Scientific evidence is building that sleep has powerful effects on immune functioning.” Speaking to concerns of our times, this statement from the Mayo Clinic feels particularly powerful: “Studies show that people who don't get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus.” Put plainly, sleep has an impact on your ability fight off and recover from illness and infection.
When you give your body the deep, complete rest it needs, you set yourself up for better health on just about every front.
We always hear that exercise is good for us, but it often just sounds like medicine. So let’s get to some reasons we should all long to move in abundance!
Feel Better Now and Over the Long Haul
Movement helps boost your energy and your mood in the short term and in the long term. So that’s fantastic. And, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, exercise is also linked to lowering the risk of heart disease, reducing your risk of some cancers, and helping to manage blood sugar. For women, fitness has been linked to experiencing less menopausal symptoms.
Boost Your Confidence
Feeling strong and fit boosts self-esteem. Feeling capable in your body leads to feeling capable in other areas of life. And, by maintaining your body’s health, you gain a sense of accomplishment. You can boost this feeling by setting a fitness goal, like running a 5km or hiking a challenging trail. Having confidence in your body’s abilities opens the door to trying new and fun activities.
Maybe it’s time to check out pilates, or learn how to use that TRX rig. Maybe paddle boarding looks interesting or you’d like to be able to play a rigorous game of tag with your kids or grandkids. You’ll feel so much more able if you have some regular movement in your life. Even if you’ve never been athletic or it’s been a long time, it’s never, ever too late to start or reboot. Every single body is made to move.
Strength and Fitness Leads to Other Healthy Habits
Many people report that when they begin following a fitness program and feeling better in their bodies, it leads them to wanting to make other healthy choices.
When you recognize, through experience, that you actually are in control of your own well-being and that you have the power to feel better and be healthier, it helps inspire you to continue down that path. Wellness often begets wellness.
We like to call what you eat and drink “nourishment” to drive home the point that food is what fuels your body. That is food’s number one function. And the great thing about foods that are healthy is that they also taste great.
Here are three reasons why making healthy nutrition choices is worth the effort.
You'll Feel Better, Now and Over Time
Like with the other two pillars, this reality holds true here, too. Eating well has an immediate impact on how you feel, and it has a long-term impact on your health. As with exercise, healthy eating is linked to heart health and can help lower risks of cancer; it also helps with lowering risks of diabetes. The simple truth is: when you nourish your body with what it needs, it functions better, now and in your tomorrows.
Weight Management and Maintenance
This is always a very tricky subject because so many people associate weight loss or maintenance and food with “dieting.” Even the fact that people focus on the metric of weight is problematic.
We advocate using the metrics of body composition combined with how you feel. People come in all shapes and sizes, and the ideal for you is where you feel best: strongest, most energetic, healthiest.
What’s important is to eat the amount and types of food and liquids that best serve your body. That’s going to be a little bit different for everyone, but the goal is to establish a way of nourishing your body that works for the long term. It is never about deprivation or quick “fixes.” Ditch dieting; embrace nourishing.
We said this at the start of this section: healthy food tastes good! And developing a positive relationship with this great tasting fuel helps us see food in a whole new way.
When we see food as something that helps us as opposed to something we have to fight, it becomes, well, enjoyable. Food is not the enemy; it’s not something to be conquered or will-powered against. Food is a primary lever that can help us feel great. Choose well, be well.
It’s As Easy As One, Two, Three
We always like to come back to keeping things as simple as possible. Of course, we understand that life and health can get very complicated: we’re complex beings living in a complex world.
But perhaps that’s all the more reason to start with these three pillars of wellness, wherever you are on your health journey. Come back to basics and establish a great foundation.