Article by Christine Zellers, Assistant Professor/Educator Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County, Department of Family and Community Health Sciences that ran in newspapers on March 29, 2023.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) identifies the 8 dimensions of wellness as physical, emotional, social, professional, intellectual, spiritual, environment and financial. Recognizing happiness in all these areas might not always be possible but striving to balance and seek mindful habits in these parts could greatly contribute to overall wellness. Physical wellness includes good nutrition, exercise, sleep, medication safety, preventive medicine and avoidance of alcohol, tobacco, and drug misuse. Finding ways to handle all areas of physical wellness could be challenging but being mindful of each area will assist in achieving physical wellness.
It’s no surprise that the first area of physical wellness is eating nutritious foods. A nutrient dense diet can support physical wellness, including chronic disease prevention. A diet that includes fruits and vegetables at each meal provides a good dose of vitamins and minerals and keeps the body healthy and free of infection. Produce is also high in fiber keeping the body moving internally and encouraging movement because it prevents bloating. Eating a nutrient dense diet also means less room for foods that add empty calories therefore making it easier to maintain a healthy weight. To balance wellness, eat a healthy nutrient dense diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meat and dairy. Being active is the second area of physical wellness and it is never too late to start exercising but be sure to check with a doctor before starting a new exercise regimen. Participating in regular physical activity can make everyday activities easier according to Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. More movement as we age makes life tasks like eating, bathing toileting, dressing, and getting in and out of bed easier. Physical activity prevents falls because it can increase strength, flexibility, and balance. People also tend to sleep better when they exercise regularly and experience less anxiety and depression. Physical activity should be a combination of aerobic, strength training and stretching. Even though exercise expends energy it supports a feeling of being more energized and focused. Regular physical activity has also been associated with better cognitive function and has been correlated with delaying degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. A good night’s sleep can improve mood and increase awareness and memory functions to support physical wellness. There is a proposed link between chronic disease and sleep habits, however scientists are not yet sure if the chronic disease caused the sleep disturbance or vice versa. Lack of sleep can interfere with good physical productiveness while a good night’s sleep can help to balance sugar levels. Better sleep can mean better heart health too, while we sleep our heart rate and breathing slows and gives the heart a little break. As a child we have regular well visits to the doctor but unfortunately, we aren’t always as diligent about going to the doctor for preventive care as adults. Physical wellness means seeing a doctor for an annual checkup and regular screenings such as colonoscopies, mammograms and prostate exams and having a general practitioner you can see when not feeling well. See a dentist regularly and get eye exams regularly too because preventive medicine is critical to staying well physically and can help you maintain your health long term. Medication safety is critical to physical wellness too, over the counter or prescribed. Keep a list of regular medications taken and carry it with you in the event of an emergency and wear medic alert jewelry. Store medication in a safe place away from those who could misuse or overdose on the medication and dispose of unused medicine at a medical disposal location like the police station or a pharmacy. Always follow dosage, even over the counter medications like pain relievers can cause an unwanted side effect when used in excess or improperly. To be physically well, be mindful of substances such as tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. These substance, even legal ones, can contribute to unhealthy behaviors if not kept in check. For legal adults 21 and over intake of alcohol should be limited to 2 drinks or less for men per day and 1 drink or less a day for women according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. There are no recommendations for tobacco and drugs. These substances may not support our physical wellness and if you have a problem with a substance then seek help from a professional.
Some insurance companies will now cover benefits for services to maintain wellness like movement incentives or assistance from a registered dietician, seek supports like this to help maintain physical wellness if needed. Taking small steps to physical wellness can support overall wellness.