The world of fitness is inspirational, challenging, life-changing, and full of fascinating discoveries about the human body. However, for those who are just starting out, fitness may seem complicated, incredibly organized, and in some cases, expensive. As is the case with all aspects of life, people take certain things more seriously and strictly than others. But when it comes to a health and fitness lifestyle, you can achieve so much for your body with a lot less effort than you can imagine.
The True Purpose of Fitness
Although everyone’s fitness goals are different, the essence of this lifestyle is similar for all:
An active, sustainable, long-term style of living, which focuses on whole foods, nutrition and training through natural movements.
Fitness needn’t be complicated. You will set your own goals, get to know your own body, and gradually guide it towards a form that will suit you and your way of life best. There is no single body shape to aspire to, for the logical reason that each body is different and so needs to be nourished and trained in slightly different ways.
Because most of our lives follow a repetitive pattern of travelling back and forth between our home and our office, it is difficult to change a routine that has years of repetition behind it. And yet, it is absolutely possible with some inspiration, knowledge, determination, and effort.
Our team at 34 North will show you just how basic the changes in your current routine need to be in order to see big changes on your body. Living a healthy life does not need to be complicated.
It only takes 4 steps to turn your life around.
1. You Need to Move
Because the majority of jobs in the 21st century are based on long office hours, many spend long hours of their day sedentary. What looks like the simplest thing to do - not move - quickly develops into the biggest cause of serious health issues. You need to be aware of how serious long periods of sitting are for your body in order to motivate you to make a change:
Your metabolism slows down
Your posture deteriorates
There is an increased risk of back, spine and joint injuries
An increase in the risk of Thrombosis
The onset of loneliness and depression
A serious risk of Diabetes
Very likely symptoms of heart disease
… to name a few.
We are fully aware that people have bills to pay, families to take care of, and uncertain futures in a worldwide uncertain economy, which do not allow them to simply quit their current job and look for something more active to do.
However, we have worked with many people in similar positions, and we know that there is always a way to add exercise into your current daily routine.
Walking - Just an hour of walking every day improves your blood circulation, reduces blood pressure, improves balance and mobility, and increases levels of serotonin enough for better moods and emotional stability.
Cycling - A somewhat more challenging form of exercise, it is easily available and a great option for cardio, especially for beginners. Although cycling mostly focuses on leg muscles, it also incorporates the upper body. Moderate cycling as a form of exercise is low impact and therefore unlikely to cause major strain or injuries.
Running - A great exercise for cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and strong bones. If you’ve never done it before, start with short distances and short intervals.
Stretching - A proper stretching routine increases flexibility, reduces the risk of injuries, fortifies your posture, promotes blood circulation, and increases energy levels. A daily stretch routine will do wonders for your overall physical and mental health.
Dancing, playtime with children, hiking, etc. - Any activity that moves your body and brings you joy is a great start to a fitness lifestyle. As you grow to love exercise, your body will strengthen and you will naturally have a curiosity to try harder workouts.
If you can start by incorporating an exercise of your choice 1 hour per day, you will already notice a difference in your strength, stamina, energy levels and sleeping pattern. You don’t need any special clothing, apparatus or skills to move.
2. Chew, slowly
Before we even mention food, we need to mention the way you eat your food.
Food digestion starts from the moment you take the first bite.
Your saliva contains digestive enzymes, which break down your food while you are chewing. If you are just swallowing large bites of food without much thought, your saliva has no time to work, which puts additional pressure on both the large and small intestine.
Properly chewing your food allows your digestive system to work with ease, and nutrients are properly absorbed by your intestines. On the contrary, food that hasn’t been broken down properly can enter your blood and cause a number of unpleasant side effects. So the next time you take a bite, slow down, and allow your body to use it’s natural abilities to make the most out of your meal.
This simple step costs nothing, has huge benefits for your overall health, and yet so many people disregard it.
3. Turn to Whole Foods
“Today, malnutrition in the United States and other First World countries is less about the availability of food and much more about navigating and avoiding the hordes of packaged and processed foods that are easy, convenient, and cheap to consume 24/7.”
- Taz Bhatia, M.D.
Whole foods - “food that has been processed or refined as little as possible and is free from additives or other artificial substances.”
If it’s easier, think of it as food that is still in its “original” form. Roasted pumpkin, fresh cucumber salad, vegetable broth, etc.
Food is, literally, the fuel for your body. If you take in the right fuel, the body is satisfied, stable, and unlikely to break down into sudden cravings or painful scenarios. Take the wrong fuel, such as processed food and refined sugar, and your body will struggle to find a source of nutrition to keep it going, and its dissatisfaction will be followed by headaches, fatigue, mood swings, and “hanger”.
Your first fitness meal doesn’t need to instantly be the perfect balance of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. However, by simply eating sensible portions of whole foods for each meal, you are already on the right track for positive change.
4. Hydrate Your Body
There’s a reason why you’ve often heard people telling you to drink to more water. Approximately 60% of your body is made up of water. When you keep your hydration levels at a healthy high, your body has plenty of water to use and to dispose of. Dehydrating your body on the other hand doesn’t simply stop it from using water. Your system still needs water to work properly, and if it isn’t getting it from you it will restrict water supply to your cells, making every normal process much harder to accomplish. This results in headaches, cravings, constipation, muscle cramps, and a whole list of side effects that follow the “panic mode” of dehydration.
A simple way of staying hydrated is to keep a bottle of water close by and to take small sips throughout the day. Do not wait for the feeling of thirst to arrive, because by then you are already dehydrated.
These 4 simple steps are the core of a healthy lifestyle. You need to master the foundation before you can move to higher and more complicated fitness levels. And remember, this isn’t a lifestyle that you will lead for a single month. Instead, it should become a natural way to live your life that you can maintain forever. Your chances of success are higher if you do not rush into fitness. Take your own journey slowly, one step at a time.
Before we wrap up this introduction, we’d like to share a quick opinion on the idea of “treating yourself”.
You will often find “cheat days” or “cheat meals” among mass diet advice. No one is saying that eating clean 100% of the time is easy, but a cheat day where you go back to food with zero nutrition will do nothing more than feed your mind into thinking that it deserves a “reward”. Processed food is neither a reward for your body, nor for your cognitive abilities. The only thing it does is ruin the respect towards clean foods, because it encourages the notion that cake is still superior to fresh fruit.
Every healthy meal is a reward for your body.