Health and wellness is a broad topic that relates to the choices that we make each and every day and how they translate to better outcomes in health. For most adults, wellness can be an ever-changing process depending on life events, situations, as well as career goals. While it is reasonable to expect that wellness just happens naturally, there are some life choices that need to occur in a way to nourish your health, vitality, longevity, life expectancy, and much more. Consider the information below a guideline into wellness along with some current data to boost your knowledge on what proper wellness can do for your health.
What is the Hype About Proper Wellness?
You hear quite a bit about wellness in the news on a regular basis, at your yearly doctor’s visit, and virtually anywhere that is encouraging you to be healthy. However, when it comes to wellness, what does it mean to be truly well? Some could argue that proper wellness is defined as being healthy, or without disease, but truthfully, most adults have some degree of illness in one way or another. With that said, can you truly have proper wellness even though you are ill?
Wellness is best defined with eight pillars describing the overall goal to good health, longevity, and happiness. While it is not a written rule that you must follow the eight pillars of wellness, they do allow for guidance towards a life balance. The eight pillars of wellness can be described in short as having the balance of emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual wellness.1 With a balance between these main elements within your life, good stability should exist, bringing physical, mental, and spiritual wellness together.
One of the biggest topics in health is life expectancy, or how long current adults of a given generation can expect to live. Life expectancy is a great reflection of modern technology, life choices, as well as genetics and it has been rising for the past many decades. One of the biggest players in life expectancy is physical activity. Studies have shown that regular physical activity can increase life expectancy up to seven years,2 which is significant. Physical activity throughout the lifespan is considered to be a great part of the physical pillar of wellness, which is a large player in your health. Let’s take a closer look into what physical activity can do for your overall health and wellness.
Physical Activity and All-Cause Mortality
One major element in assessing physical activity arguably is what it can do for your longevity and life expectancy. Often, life expectancy is assessed into what is called all-cause mortality, or the factors that cause death from any cause. Generally speaking, all-cause mortality is a set of risk factors, lifestyle choices, as well as family history that generate an overall depiction of how death can occur. When it comes to being active, many studies have shown the benefit of ample physical activity for lowering all-cause mortality, which means better life expectancy. A recent study demonstrated that increasing physical activity is associated with lower all-cause mortality, and it is dose-dependent, meaning the more activity you get equals lower death from all-causes.3 How exactly can physical activity boost your life expectancy and improve your all-cause mortality? Listed below are some of the most common elements that play a factor in your overall health and wellness.
Hypertension is one of the most common health conditions that adults are faced with in the United States. Currently one in every three American adults has high blood pressure, which equates to about 75 million adults.4 In addition, another one in three adults has pre-hypertension, which is a slightly elevated blood pressure measurement. While hypertension itself is not commonly something that can cause death immediately, it can lead to an increase in stroke, heart disease, as well as sudden death from aneurysms. Fortunately, regular physical activity each day can help to improve your blood pressure readings so that you can lower your health risk of death. Commonly, moderate physical activity that contains a blend of cardiovascular and resistance training is sufficient to induce health benefits to lower blood pressure readings.
Blood Sugar Levels
Another common condition that many adults face, and now younger adults, is diabetes. Type II diabetes mellitus is a condition of improper metabolism in the body, which can lead to abnormal physiology and energy levels. What was once considered to be an older adult condition is now starting to appear in younger adults and diabetes can lead to a myriad of health issues. Uncontrolled type II diabetes can commonly lead to kidney and liver issues as well as heart disease. The biggest factor in your blood sugar levels is your activity levels throughout the day. A sedentary lifestyle is largely to blame for type II diabetes, but also diet plays a big role as well. One of the best ways to improve your blood sugar levels so that you can avoid this health condition is to add more activity in your life, even if it is not organized exercise. In addition, muscular contractions are largely responsible for adding glucose transporter proteins on your cells, which help to regulate your sugar levels.
The past few decades has shown great changes among adults in the United States, as well as some other industrialized countries. One change that has been transparent in the public eye is obesity. Once considered to be a disease of aesthetics is now actually a diagnosable condition. Obesity is generally not harmful in that it can kill you; however, secondarily it has major potential for consequences. Most major diseases including hypertension, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, as well as other organ dysfunction are associated with obesity in one way or another. In addition, there appears to be an association with the degree of obesity with secondary diseases, suggesting that the more fat your body contains the higher your risk of disease. Without any surprise, by far the most common way to prevent obesity and to reduce the level of body fat on the body is to be more active. When combined with a diet that is moderate in caloric intake as well as with ample physical activity, obesity can be prevented and reduced. Consider consulting with a physician if you are looking to lose weight in a healthy way, so as to avoid gimmicks and marketing ploys that have the potential to be unsafe.
One of the most common conditions worldwide is cancer. There currently is no cure for cancer and often it can be a devastating condition that leads to death. While there are some treatment options available and prevention can play a role, cancer tends to be a tricky topic. Ample physical activity can play a role in a few ways when it comes to preventing cancer and lowering risk. For starters, adequate physical activity each day can lead to a healthier body fat balance, which can decrease the level of obesity and thus a lower cancer risk. In addition, ample physical activity can help to regulate the amount of glucose circulating in your blood at any given time, which can also have an effect on lower your overall cancer risk. Most adults at risk of or who have cancer are generally advised to exercise each day as long as the body allows for such activity. Consider this an option if your personal cancer risk is elevated and consult with a doctor for more information on structured exercise routines aimed at cancer.
Mental health is a growing area in the health and wellness world. Spanning a wide range of conditions that affect the mind, mental health is important for overall wellness. Some common conditions that are affected by mental health include self-esteem (self-efficacy), sleep, as well as depression. All of these conditions are affected in some way by physical activity, and conversely, they too affect your levels of physical activity. Ample levels of physical activity are associated with better sleep patterns, which is your body’s natural way to heal and rejuvenate each and every day. Similarly, physical activity, specifically exercise, can play a major role in the symptoms of depression. A recent study showed that exercise can improve the signs and symptoms of depression, as well as other psychiatric conditions.5 Lastly, self-esteem is closely tied into physical activity levels and the more exercise you get each day; you have the potential to have a boosted self-worth. Considering the ease at which exercise can occur, lower your mental health disease can be accomplished virtually by moving the body a little more every day. If structured exercise is something that you can add to your daily life then the benefits could be more pronounced.
This next area that is affected by physical activity levels actually falls into the mental health category and it affects a good majority of your wellness pillar categories. Stress is a common part of being human and some stress is considered good for optimal health. However, in the day and age of fast communication, instant messaging, fast services, as well as immediate deadlines, it is no wonder that stress is a major aspect to most all working adults’ lives. Fortunately, physical activity can benefit this condition. One way to lower overall stress is to purposefully partake in exercise each day, whether in the form of exercise classes or with rhythmic exercise, but more will be on this topic ahead.
Improved Energy Levels
The last piece of what physical activity can do for your wellness is with your energy levels. You may have heard it before that exercise can boost your daily energy levels. Yes, this is true and it happens in a few ways. For starters, every time you are active, your body circulates blood more efficiently. In comparison, sitting throughout your day and being sedentary creates slower circulation. Second, more physical activity stimulates the body to fight lethargy, which is a direct way to fight low energy levels. Lastly, the more active you are on a regular basis means your body is physiologically more efficient. What this means is that the enzymes in your body and cells that create energy are more pronounced and efficient. Whenever these certain enzymes are active and more effective, you are likely to notice more energy. Consider regular physical activity to gain these important benefits and enjoy the added perk of having more energy throughout the day.
How Much Physical Activity is Enough?
One common question when it comes to physical activity is, “How much should I work out?” The answer to this is multi-factorial, but fortunately, there is a general guideline to which each and every adult should abide. For general health and to boost certain elements in the wellness pillar, adults should aim to be physically active every day for at least 30 minutes. When that is considered, 30 minutes every day is not very much, which suggests that optimal health is within reason. For weight loss, adults should aim for at least 60 minutes every day of physical activity and if possible, consider a formal exercise routine. So how can adults add more activity into everyday life, in order to boost overall wellness? Consider the quick tips below:
Park Far Away from your Destination
This is not always feasible due to weather conditions, physical limitations, or for safety. However, parking far away from your destination is an easy way to add physical activity in your daily life. Consider this, if you complete three errands during your day and you park far enough away that it is a three-minute walk each way, this will total 18 minutes of physical activity just from walking from the parking lot alone.
Change your Workstation
If you are like the majority of adults and you work with a computer, chances are you are sitting while you work. Consider changing your workstation to a standing station to boost your calorie burn throughout the day. Standing prevents the body from going into fat storage mode and it can be a simple way to boost your physical wellness.
Get an Exercise Tracker
Sometimes all you need to be more physically active is a little encouragement. Exercise trackers allow for measuring fitness, steps, and activity, thus making this a great way to follow along to ensure you are active at least 30 minutes each day.
Is Physical Activity Enough to Support Wellness?
Adding more physical activity to your daily life is one of the simplest ways to boost physical wellness, which plays a role in the remaining seven pillars. However, adding physical activity to your daily life may not be the only way to boost wellness. One element in health and wellness that is inevitable is your diet. Your diet can support your overall wellness, add nutrients to aid body function, as well as boost happiness. Let’s take a closer look at what role diet, mostly your food habits, plays in wellness.
Nutrition is the Key to Wellness
We live in a world that is geared towards taking a pill for something to solve an issue. One common way that adults get nutrients is with a multivitamin pill. While there is some benefit of taking a vitamin to aid in nutrient intake, the idea of gaining valuable nutrients is to eat in a healthful way. Your daily diet includes nutrients to support cellular growth, repair, and maintenance so that you can continue to be healthy. There are three main nutrients on which you should have further knowledge, which is discussed in more detail below:
The first macronutrient that is essential in your diet is fat. Fats play a vital role in physiologic functions such as hormone balance and generation as well as with cellular structure. However, this nutrient is one that can cause many problems with health and wellness. The body is able to store unlimited amounts of fat in the body, which contributes to obesity. Each gram of fat that you consume from your diet contains roughly nine calories, thus making this a highly calorically dense nutrient. Many health models suggest consuming a low-fat diet as a way to lose weight and cut back on fat generation. In contrast, fat diets such as the keto diet encourage high amounts of fat and very little carbohydrates, but there are mixed results with this lifestyle choice. As a way to lose weight, maintain body weight, as well as cut back on heart disease risk, it is best to consume fat with moderation and limit the bad sources as much as possible.
The next primary macronutrient that you need to consume each day is carbohydrates or carbs. Carbs are the main driver for immediate bursts of energy and they are the fuel source for your brain (your brain can only metabolize glucose for energy). Without carbohydrates in your body, your metabolic system would have difficulty maintaining adequate energy levels; to which ketosis could occur (ketosis is a dangerous condition that is associated with certain organ failure). With that said, you need to consume some carbs throughout the day to maintain proper nutrition and most adults should aim to have about 150-250 grams each day, depending on your specific needs. Carbs have commonly been implicated in weight gain and many health authorities who promote weight loss suggest drastically lowering your overall consumption of carbs, but this is not the best outcome for most adults in a wellness standpoint.
The third primary macronutrient that you need in your diet every day as part of complete and healthy nutrition is protein. Proteins are the building blocks of all cells in the body and having adequate amounts in your diet helps to ensure that your body is getting what it needs to rebuild and grow. In order to be able to have adequate health and to nurture the physical aspect of your wellness pillar, it is essential that you consume adequate protein sources and if necessary, supplement as needed.
What Does Food Offer to Your Wellness?
Food is something that every human needs to survive. It provides the nutrients to support energy and growth, but it also provides vitamins and minerals that are essential for protecting your body. While multivitamins are able to provide these vitamins and minerals, oftentimes those nutrients are lost in urine as a result. However, when you eat foods that naturally contain vitamins and minerals, your body is able to store and metabolize the proper amounts needed. Every individual has different needs for vitamins and minerals and sometimes it is wise to have tests to see if you are deficient in a particular nutrient.
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In addition to offering adequate nutrients, your nutrition is the primary source for keeping you well and free of illness or reducing your risk at least. For example, diets that lack adequate vitamins and minerals, fiber, as well as protein may cause your body to lack a certain nutrient to protect health, which could lead to disease. The most common nutritional component in health that could cause illness is a diet that is high in fat and calories, which leads to diabetes and hypertension, which could lead to cancer and heart disease, and potentially death. This is just one instance where diet is important for your health and wellness, but there are many other examples where your diet could be vital in your longevity.
How Can Work be a Source of Wellness?
Now that you have been given a plethora of information on physical activity and proper nutrition (in a nutshell that is), it is time to put a few pieces together so that you can journey on a proper wellness path. Many people do very well with organized exercise and regimented dieting plans; however, a great majority of the public struggle with finding the time to exercise and the money and time to cook properly. Given that time is an issue, it is only reasonable to expect that finding a time of the day that works best for you to be active is necessary.
Decades ago, workplace environments were active and required hands-on skills. In the age of technology today, it is obvious that machines and computers have become common in the workforce. While this new technology has improved efficiency and has reduced costs in the workplace, it also means that many adults have lost occupational activity as a result. Due to the lack of activity in the workforce, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of obese adults, which can be no coincidence.
Is Exercise at Work Actually Worth the Effort?
The concept of exercise at work is slowly gaining interest in the workforce. What was once considered to be unproductive, or goofing off, exercising at work may have some promise when it comes to productivity. It appears that working out while on the clock at work, or simply getting more activity at work, may be the ticket to a happy workforce and team.6 Some authorities have found that increasing and promoting workplace exercise is a good way to boost morale, healthy environments, productivity, prevent employees from calling in sick, as well as boosting overall confidence in the job itself. So how would it be possible to get more people at work active and is it something that can really boost overall wellness as a whole?
Worksite Wellness and Physical Activity Programs
Worksite wellness programs are not new in the corporate area. In fact, worksite physical activity has been around for quite some time, but it seems that until only recent years has this become something that companies have paid close attention to. The rationale for a worksite wellness program is to encourage employees to be healthier, make healthy choices at work, and to boost wellness overall. Most adults in the workforce spend 40 hours per week at the office, which is about 25 percent of the entire week. In addition, roughly 150 million American adults work in some aspect which means that a large majority of adults could benefit from some increased activity.
What would it take to get 100% of all workforce labor active each day? In order to qualify to be active each day, employees need 30 minutes of activity, which can be spread out throughout the workday. For this reason, it is very possible to reach this goal each day with a few tips to success. Check out the tips below to boost your physical activity while at work:
Use the Bathroom Clear Down the Hall
If activity is what you need then consider walking as far as you can to the bathroom every time you need to void. If it is a five-minute walk just to get to this bathroom, then this will equate to a walk round trip. If you use the bathroom three times during the work day then you will achieve 30 minutes with ease.
Park Far Away
As stated above with physical activity, this is a way to boost the number of steps and active time it takes you to walk each way. The few extra minutes spent walking to and from your car are just enough to increase your heart rate and calorie burn.
Walk the Stairs
If your worksite has multiple floors then you can make use of this by walking the stairs (up) a few times a day. It does not take much to get the heart rate amped up when walking up a flight of stairs so consider this a couple times per day if you can spare a few minutes.
Some companies encourage employees to take physical activity classes as well as yoga as a way to boost activity. This is a great way to build team morale and to encourage healthy behaviors.
Encourage Stress Relief
It should be no surprise that your biggest source of stress in your life is most likely work. For this companies could offer ways to reduce stress in the worksite and to encourage healthy behaviors.
Finding your right fit while trying to be active at work may take some give and take on your part, but consider discussing any worksite wellness options with your boss to see if it is something you can incorporate to your daily work schedule. Most companies should welcome the idea of a wellness program and may actually encourage employees to work on one of the most important pillars to overall wellness.
The Components of Mental Wellness
Mental wellness spans a wide range of elements that affect cognition, happiness, as well as emotional components. When it comes down to it all, mental wellness needs to work symbiotically with the physical component in order for you to be in balance in your program. Let’s dive in the topic a bit further.
What is Mental Wellness?
Mental wellness, most commonly associated with mental health, is the ability of the individual to cope with life stressors, understand one’s own capabilities, as well as being a productive and efficient human.7 In short, it involves the overall health of your mind and memory and how it affects your everyday life. In order to have great mental health, certain aspects in your life, behaviors as well as stressors can play major roles in your overall mental wellness. Consider some of the aspects below.
Your cognitive ability is something you build throughout your life. It pertains to how your brain thinks, learns, reasons builds memories, plans, organizes, and generates your creativity.8 One common way to maintain proper cognition and cognitive ability is to challenge your mind on a regular basis. In addition to challenging the brain, some look toward aromatherapy as a way to boost overall memory. Recent studies have demonstrated that lavender can have a positive effect on your memory, which is due partly to the intensity of the aroma as well as how pleasant it is to the individual.9 In short, the use of aromatherapy could be a pleasant option to help in boosting overall mental wellness.
Social wellness is the regular socialization with peers, friends, and family and it can play a role in overall happiness and life balance. If overall wellness is something that you want a good balance with then social wellness can be the avenue to which you can succeed. Many adults look to social groups, spiritual gatherings including religion, as well as host events as a way to maintain social wellness. In addition to being socially healthy, some individuals may benefit from the use of aromatherapy for certain social situations. For example, individuals who experience anxiety and depression may benefit from the use of certain essential oils to decrease these conditions.10
There are two forms of stress that the body should be exposed to on any given basis: the good and bad stress (eustress and distress respectively). Human nature dictates that we should have some degree of good stress as a way to keep the body protected at all times. In the cavemen days, this good stress was referred to as the fight or flight concept and it served a valuable purpose. One common side effect to stress is elevated blood pressure. Fortunately, recent studies have shown that the use of aromatherapy among stressed adults can elicit a significant decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, lasting hours after the treatment initiation.11 Similar findings have been demonstrated by high school students. A recent study on high school students found that the use of aromatherapy (inhaling the scent) can be effective in the management of stress among this age group.12
Simple Methods to Aid in Stress Relief
There are a number of things that you can do to combat stress in your life. While it would be too easy to flip a switch and tell your mind to stop stressing, sometimes you need the tools to make it possible. Consider the following quick tips for eliminating stress in your life to aid in your overall wellness.
Deep Breathing Techniques
One of the simplest ways to take the immediate stress away is to take yourself in a place where you can sit and allow your body and mind to forget what is stressing you in the first place. If you have an office or cubicle, this is perfect. If this does not pertain to you then you may need to find somewhere or wait until you get home. Deep breathing involves slow deep breaths over a span of about seven seconds. Once you reach your breath in, you pause for two seconds and slowly release your breath over another seven seconds. Repeat this process over the course of about five minutes and if possible, close your eyes and sit in a tall posture while performing. Consider adding essential oils to the mix as a way to boost relaxation and to promote overall stress reduction.
Progressive Muscular Relaxation
This technique to release stress is geared towards taking the stress away when you are heading to bed (sometimes you can perform this in meditation or yoga Savasana). Progressive muscular relaxation is the process in which you contract your muscles and relax them, but in a sequential order usually starting from your toes and ending with your head. It is best to have this technique be a guided process, so consider finding a recording of this somewhere or even consider an app. Consider the use of essential oils during your progressive muscular relaxation technique as a way to help reduce anxiety as well as promote optimal relaxation.
Yoga and Meditation
Yoga and meditation are two forms of activity that allow the mind and body to work with each other. Through extreme focus between both techniques, stress does not stand a chance when performed properly. While yoga is generally not considered to be a spiritual activity, many use this form of exercise as a way to take the mind off stress. Adding essential oils during your yoga or meditation session could have a positive effect on your overall wellness as well.
A growing field in wellness is massage therapy. Massage therapy is a common practice in the community and involving this type of activity to your weekly regimen should be enough to suit most stress needs. It does come at a high cost, but if you can afford regular trips to the spa then do so. The act of massaging muscles allows for not only physical stress to melt away, but the mind experiences a great invigoration throughout that allows you to forget any stress.
Aromatherapy for Combatting Stress
Particularly aimed at stress, essential oils can have a beneficial and substantial effect on the human body. Let’s get specific and take a look at what the research shows:
Reduce Cortisol Levels
One major marker of stress in the body is cortisol. This compound is a glucocorticoid and it is responsible for increasing the amount of glucose into your blood for fast energy. Under chronic stress, your body could have high amounts of cortisol, which could lead to high blood sugar levels, obesity, among other ailments.13 Studies have looked into the use of aromatherapy among stressed individuals. Recently, it appears that orange essential oil used in aromatherapy significantly reduced overall cortisol levels,14 thus suggesting this as a viable option to help lower stress.
Reduced Heart Rate
When your body is relaxed and carefree, your heart rate should be reflected as well. Under chronic stress, the heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels all rise in response to stressors. However, a lowered heart rate could occur with the use of essential oils. Recent studies have shown that aromatherapy can reduce your heart rate following a stressful event, provided that the aromatherapy treatment lasts no longer than one hour.15 It seems that prompt use of aromatherapy following a stressful situation may lead to a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure, but treatments lasting longer than one hour may be too much.
Can Essential Oils Aid in Wellness?
For a general sense, there is much to be learned in research about essential oils from the medical aspect; however, studies involving hospital patients suggest that essential oils used in aromatherapy helped to boost the healing process.16 In order to gain healing benefits from aromatherapy, it is important to select the correct essential oil to promote your wellness.
Use this essential oil if you want some relief from headaches, fatigue, restlessness, and for better sleep. In addition, studies have demonstrated that lemon essential oils can be a viable option for reducing nausea and vomiting symptoms among pregnant women.17
This is a commonly used essential oil that you will find in massage therapy clinics, with meditation, and anywhere you are looking for stress-relieving environments. Lavender is most notorious for its relaxing effect. A recent study found that anxiety levels were significantly different before and after chemotherapy among cancer patients, thus suggesting an anxiety-reducing effect.18
The tea version is highly touted for being an anti-inflammatory agent in addition to aiding in restful sleep and relaxation. Also, the scent of chamomile may improve anxiety and stress levels which may be beneficial for optimal sleep.19 You can also try out our Sleepy blend that contains chamomile, kava, and lavender essential oils.
This oil is commonly found in Earl Grey tea and it is a great resource for anyone looking to fight stress, anxiety, eating disorders, as well as depression. This oil comes from citrus and can help to boost your positivity. A recent study found that just 15 minutes of aromatherapy with bergamot created increased positive feelings when compared to a control group.21
How to Use Essential Oils for Aromatherapy
Simply purchasing essential oils is just one of the things you will need to do to promote overall wellness in your life. However, most adults make use of a diffuser as a way to safely use the oils. Some oils can be harmful to the skin and body when used in high doses so a diffuser allows for proper dilution to maintain adequate safety. Consider finding a diffuser that fits your household lifestyle and consider using it near your bed at night, when you are performing yoga or meditation, or when you need a stress relieving effect at the end of your day. If you’re just dipping your toes into the world of aromatherapy, try out one of our blends, such as Zen, that is ready to use without mixing or matching oils.
Wrapping Up Your Wellness Journey
Finding your proper balance in your wellness involves nurturing all eight pillars of wellness. While each pillar plays a role in every other element, the physical wellness tends to be the most oft-spoken and researched of all. Physical wellness includes adequate physical activity and proper nutrition to boost overall health. Proper diet and adequate physical activity can help to prevent many conditions, most prominently heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Making it a priority to care for this element of your wellness should give you the tools to boost your health and wellness.
In addition to physical wellness in general, adding more activity at work can be a productive way to boost your workplace’s environment in a positive direction. By adding a little activity while at work, employees can experience what it is like to take priority on the physical dimension of wellness. When employees are active, productivity can skyrocket, thus making this an appealing benefit in the corporate world.
The last part to your overall wellness is mental health. Your mental wellness involves everything from your emotions, nurturing your cognitive ability, and regulating your stress levels. Stress is common in human nature and while having some can be healthy, it is important to keep it low in any way possible. Consider the tips above with the use of aromatherapy and essential oils as a way to regulate stress in your daily life for best results.
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