3 Misperceptions About Health and 3 Traits of Healthy People

What does ‘health’ mean to you? Is it the absence of sickness or disease? Is it being able to run a marathon, or eating well and weighing the same at forty as you did at 17? Is it being able to keep up with your kids, or to sleep for more than 4 hours a night? How about completing a full week of CrossFit or hot yoga?
I’m sure everyone has their own opinions on what it means to be healthy, and the concept of good health is probably relative to each of us depending on our age, current physical status and physical ability. Yet, there are some common misperceptions fed by marketing propaganda as well as some common traits healthy people tend to share.

Misperception #1

You have to do some kind of weight or strength training to be healthy.
You have to do some kind of weight or strength training to be healthy.
Not true. That’s what the gyms and the health magazines want you to believe as they promote their next sequence to blast your biceps like Arnold or highlight their latest and greatest five-minute ab routine to shred your gut. You can do those things if you like and they might be fun for you, but they have nothing to do with health. Nor does squatting, bench pressing, burpees, or any and every core exercise you can think of. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of those exercises, but going to the gym and working out aren’t prerequisites to good health. If they were, we would have the healthiest population in the world based on the number of gyms in America per capita. Instead, we have the most clinically obese population with heart disease as one of the leading causes of death.
You do need to be strong enough to do the things you want to do whether that’s picking up your kids, shoveling the drive after an overnight snowfall, or sitting up straight for hours while you’re painting. How do you do make sure you do that? That brings us to…

 

Healthy Trait #1

Healthy People Move Often!
Our bodies thrive on motion. It literally maintains our muscles, joints and bones, but it also promotes blood flow, the elimination of waste, and sustains our life. Walking, hiking, working in the garden, tilling the fields, dancing, playing with the kids, or anything that gets you off your tush and engaging in something fun will do the trick as long as you do it often and mix it up. Fifteen minutes a day works for some people. Really. For others it’s three hours a day or more. You have to act like a scientist and experiment with what works best for you.
How will you know how much motion is enough? There are two major indicators: Energy and mobility. Do you have tons of energy or are you wiped out for the next four hours after your “workout?” You should feel alive, energized and ready to tackle the tasks of your life. Too much movement or too little will have the opposite effect. The same is true for mobility. You should feel like you’re more mobile after exercising or moving rather than less. If you’re feeling overly stiff or losing mobility and flexibility in your muscles or joints then it’s probably too much unless the effect is temporary. By temporary I mean 1-2 days before things return to normal.

Misperception #2:

I Have to Eat like a Vegan to Be Healthy.
Not all vegans are healthy, just like not all meat-eaters are healthy. It has been scientifically noted that cultures following a mediterranean diet of predominantly fish and veggies tend to have lower incidences of cancer and disease and live longer lives. Of course, they also eat much less processed foods. My advice is to tinker around with what works for you. What do you eat that makes you feel the best and gives you the most energy over your day? It’s up to you to pay attention to your body and respond to it, and that includes paying attention to how food affects you for better or for worse. With that being said, while it is important you pin down your ideal diet, how much you eat is likely much more important.

 

Healthy Trait #2

Healthy people tend to eat less overall.
Your portion size is directly proportional to your waist size. The more we shovel into our mouths the more our bodies have to digest and process which takes energy. As we use energy to digest and process our food we have less energy to move. The less we move the more our bodies store the energy we eat in the form of fat. It’s a vicious cycle: eat more, move less, store more energy. My advice is to do the opposite – eat less, move more, and use up as much energy as you can. Being thin is not the goal nor does thinness have anything to do with health. Having boundless energy to do everything you want to do does though!

Misperception #3

People who move all the time, eat well, and look fit are healthy.
Also not true. There’s the concept of emotional health as well. Doing everything “right” still doesn’t necessarily make you healthy. Especially if exercising or eating has become an obsession, obligation, or addiction (I’ve seen all three traits in many people we’d label “fit”). When you do anything arising out of those conditions you’re no longer free to experience life in the present nor are you free to enjoy that experience. Call me crazy, but if you’re not enjoying what you do then what’s the point?

Healthy Trait #3

All truly healthy people are HAPPY.
Healthy people enjoy their lives, the people around them, and themselves. Feeling happiness, joy, gratitude, being present, and accepting who you are overrides any diet or exercise program on the planet. What else contributes to happiness? A sense of community, surrounding yourself with friends, loving someone and accepting love, and contributing to something bigger than yourself can all move the needle in the right direction.
My advice? Let happiness be your guide when it comes to health. How you feel about your life – and yourself – matters more than what you do. Feeling wins over doing every time. In the end though, you have to decide what health means to YOU whether you’re training for your fifth Ironman or enjoying your fifth scoop of ice cream. I know one thing for sure though: you’ll find good health when you truly seek it.

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