When you think of physical wellness, what comes to mind ? Do you think you have to be in perfect physical shape? Maybe you think of it as someone who is healthy in every way. When we talk about physical wellness, it’s not about being perfect — it’s about making choices that will help improve it.
Just as a refresher — as we talked about in What Is Wellness, where our health, at times, just “is what it is” due to illness or injury, our wellness is something that’s more dynamic. Wellness is active; it’s actually the efforts and choices we make toward improving our health.
When it comes to our physical wellness, that’s good news, isn’t it? After all, many of us wouldn’t necessarily consider ourselves in good physical shape, but knowing we’re doing things to improve it can help us feel good about our efforts.
So let’s take a look at what physical wellness actually encompasses.
What Is Physical Wellness?
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (1) defines physical wellness as “recognizing the need for physical activity, healthy foods and sleep.” UC Davis (2) adds, “Physical wellness promotes proper care of our bodies for optimal health and functioning.”
The National Institutes of Health (3) says that, “Watching what you put into your body, how much activity you get, and your weight are important for keeping your body working properly.”
So anything we do that helps us move toward the optimal functioning of our bodies could be included, couldn’t it?
Let’s take a look at some of the things we can do to move toward physical wellness.
How Can We Improve Our Physical Wellness?
When we talk about physical activity, we’re not talking just about exercise. Physical activity is all the activity we participate in, whether it’s our activities of daily living, doing a little gardening, or just getting outside and playing with our children or pets. Exercise is purposeful movement designed to get our bodies moving and increase our heart rate, build muscle, or improve function.
Although it’s fine to have some of that ‘comfort’ or ‘junk’ food from time to time, we want to be moving toward feeding our bodies foods that are good for them and help them operate as well as possible. Concentrating on real, whole foods that include plenty of vegetables, fruit, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats can help us feel our best.
Proper amounts of sleep.
Sleep is necessary for proper brain function — it can help us stay healthy physically, and it contributes to good mental health as well.
Working toward a healthy weight.
Overweight and obesity has been shown to contribute to issues that negatively affect many of our body’s systems. A ‘healthy weight’ will not be the same for everyone. Body composition is the more accurate measure of weight-related health risks. Our society seems to equate ‘thin’ with ‘healthy’, but I can tell you from personal experience that’s not always the case. When I was at my sickest, I was extremely thin. I was what most people considered ‘healthy-looking’ but I could barely get out of bed each day.
What I mean here is not only the usual hygiene measures we take, but doing things that keep us from catching the bugs people may be walking around with.
This might not seem – at first glance – to fall under the physical dimension of wellness, but studies continue to show how much chronic stress can affect our bodies. Learning to manage our stress can help us stay healthy not just mentally, but physically also.
Being proactive with our health.
Being proactive with our health can include things like getting preventive screenings, having regular dental visits, and “knowing our numbers”: cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose levels, etc.
For more tips for taking care of our physical dimension of wellness, check out the National Institutes of Health’s Physical Wellness Toolkit. They have lots of suggestions for taking care of our physical health.
Our physical dimension of wellness encompasses anything that helps us move toward helping our bodies operate optimally. Of course, we may not get to that optimal point, but we can certainly do things to move us in that direction.
What are some of the things you do for your physical wellness? Please share!