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Balanced Fitness

By Amanda Rode

More and more health and wellness is being recognized as a balance between mind and body. If you focus on only one aspect of health, such as diet or exercise, you will lack balance and eventually experience negative consequences.

So if you put all your energy into a healthy diet but forgo working out, you will miss out on the benefits of exercise such as muscle building, cardiovascular health, stress reduction, bone building, flexibility, etc. If you just cut calories, you may initially lose “weight” but eventually your metabolism will slow down because you lose muscle as well as fat. You may become smaller, but you will not have strength or endurance. Aim to eat healthy, whole foods as much as possible without cutting calories and combine with a balanced exercise routine.

Now, if you only start an exercise program but you eat an unbalanced diet filled with junk food, you may build muscle but you will never see it because it will be covered in a layer of fat. You will also not feel as energized and strong as you would with a healthy, balanced diet. If you go on a trendy diet that severely restricts a macronutrient (like low carb or low fat) you may end up dealing with other problems down the road like hormonal imbalances and thyroid/adrenal issues. Stick with balanced meals with a balance of carbs, fat and protein.

Furthermore, if your exercise program only includes cardio (aerobic) you will miss out on the muscle building and metabolism boosting effects of strength training. As discussed before, only engaging in cardio will cause your body to eventually adapt and you have to do more and more to keep your weight down. Engage in too much endurance cardio and you will lose muscle, depress your thyroid and increase stress hormones, which will actually cause weight gain! Not good right?

If you only work out with weights, you will most likely be lean and have muscle mass but you would be missing out on the stress reduction and cardiovascular benefits of aerobic exercise. Research has shown that a fitness program of strength training plus cardio is more effective in long term weight loss and overall health benefits than either alone! [1][2] Aim to do a 2-4 strength training sessions a week and a few short sessions of moderate cardio (like walking), 1-2 short interval cardio and a few flexibility sessions or yoga.

If you only work out your lower body, then your upper body will lack muscle development and your body will not be balanced. This would be true with the opposite as well. Having imbalanced muscle development can lead to injury and/ or an unappealing physique. Try to get a balance of sets between your upper and lower body. A good weekly routine for this would be 2 days upper body training and 2 days lower. Or 3 days a week full body sessions.

So far we have only discussed health in physical terms. But we should all think of health and wellness as a holistic practice that includes a balance between the mind and the body. Research has proven again and again the power the mind has over physical health and well being. Our society is experiencing an increase in mental/ emotional stress, which has a direct impact on our health. All sorts of conditions and diseases have been linked to stress such as depression/anxiety, cancer, diabetes, insomnia, digestive disturbances (ie. Ulcers, Irritable Bowel), obesity, colds and flues, chronic fatigue and more. You can work out like clockwork and watch your diet meticulously, but if you ignore your mental/ emotional health, you still will be more susceptible to health issues. This is why incorporating stress reducing practices like meditation, deep breathing, visualization, tai chi and yoga can greatly increase overall well being and prevent disease. Research has shown that incorporating practices such as mindful meditation will have positive affects on physical and mental health.[3] [4]  Furthermore, research has even proven the mind/ muscle connection in that merely visualizing a muscle getting stronger as you work out will actually increase muscle size!   So remember that optimal health is a combination of a good diet, sufficient (not excessive) exercise and a positive, relaxed state of mind. Balance is key!

Conclusion

So, if you find you are lacking in one area, try to incorporate aspects of this area in small ways everyday. For example, if you have been neglecting your mental health, set aside 5 min a day to just sit quietly and breathe deeply. You will be amazed at how helpful this can be in reducing stress and anxiety! Or, if you have been good with diet but have neglected exercise, schedule at least 3 days a week for some type of physical activity. Remember that true health/ fitness is not achieving perfection in any one or all aspects of health, but rather striving for a balance between mind and body.

Amanda Rode
Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor at Robin Mungall Fitness and Divine Health Studio.
ariyahealthandfitness@gmail.com/a>

 

[1]Andrew Maiorana, Gerard O'Driscoll, Craig Cheetham, Julie Collis, Carmel Goodman, Sarah Rankin, Roger Taylor, and Daniel Green, Combined aerobic and resistance exercise training improves functional capacity and strength in CHF J Appl Physiol, May 2000; 88: 1565 - 1570.

[2] Takanobu Okamoto, Mitsuhiko Masuhara, and Komei Ikuta Combined aerobic and resistance training and vascular function: effect of aerobic exercise before and after resistance training J Appl Physiol, Nov 2007; 103: 1655 - 1661.

[3] Davidson, Richard, et. al. Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 2003

[4] Kabat-Zinn J. et al. (1985). The clinical use of mindfulness meditation for the self-regulation of chronic pain. J Behav. Med., Jun;8(2):163-90.

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